- Essentials Teacher's Manual (612 pages)
- Essentials Student Workbook(s) in Cursive or Manuscript (484 pages)
- Spelling Journal
- Basic Phonogram Flash Cards
- Spelling Rule Flash Cards
- Grammar Rule Flash Cards
- Advanced Phonogram Flash Cards
- Game Book
- Game Card decks
- Phonogram & Spelling Rule Quick Reference Chart
- Teacher's Manual
- Student Workbook - 1 per student
- Phonogram Cards
- Colored pencils
- Extra paper
How we used Essentials:
First I organized all the materials. I put the game cards in a 3x5 index case.
The flash cards were too big for an index card box, so I put them in a zippered money bag pouch. I put all the books in a canvas bag.
In order to use Essentials, it is necessary to read the Intro in the Teacher's Manual.
The 67 page Intro includes:
- Scope and Sequence
- Introduction to Essentials
- Key to Symbols/Materials Needed/Optional Supplements
- Sample Schedules
- Before You Begin (Phonemic Awareness, Teaching A-Z, and more)
- Teaching the Lessons (Part 1, 2, 3 of the lessons, Optional Activities, Assesment and Review, and Important Tips)
- Teacher Resources
I reviewed Essentials with Eliana, who places in the 6 to 7 year old Emerging Readers and Spellers sample schedule. Following this plan, we should spend 30-60 minutes a day doing one lesson per week and it would take us 40 weeks to complete the program. However, I switched to the Young Emerging Readers and Spellers schedule to do one lesson every two weeks.
Note: The Essentials program does not teach the process of blending or decoding - your student must first know how to "glue" and "unglue" words together. This is covered in the Intro.
Before beginning lesson 1, she also needed to know the sounds for A - Z and how to write the lower case letters.
Lessons are divided into three parts:
- Part 1: Phonograms, Exploring Sounds, and Spelling Rules.
- Part 2: Spelling Analysis using the phonograms and rules learned and includes a two-page chart that introduces the spelling of the 15 words included in each lesson.
- Part 3: Composition, Grammar, Dictation, and Vocabulary Development.
We completed three lessons.
This lesson teaches:
- Phonograms: A-Z
- Exploring Sounds: Consonants and Vowels
- Spelling Rules: 11, 21
- Grammar: Nouns, Plurals
1. We start by reviewing the sounds for A-Z using the Phonics with Phonograms App.
The Phonics with Phonograms App ($2.99 and designed for ages 4+) is a fun way to review and learn phonograms. The App plays a phonogram sound and gives you 4 phonograms to choose from. If you are correct, a bell sound rings, the phonogram turns green, and the next set of phonograms are presented. If you are incorrect, a shorter, dull ding sounds, the incorrect phonogram turns red, and then the button fades so it cannot be selected again, thus eliminating all the wrong answers until the correct answer is remaining. Once you complete a level, you can move on to the next level. There are 10 pre-made levels, but you can build your own custom level.
2. Next, I introduce a new phonogram. During this time, she writes the phonograms while saying the sounds, I drill the phonograms with flash cards, we play a game, and/or she writes the phonograms from dictation.
Our first new phonogram is /qu/.
The Teacher's Manual is scripted - it tells me what to say, as well as what my child's response should be.
Today, we play Dragon using the Game Cards A-Z.
It was too hard to play with so many cards, so after trying, I put it aside to play another time.
4. Phonogram Practice - I dictate the phonograms and she writes the correct phonogram in her workbook.
5. We review the /qu/ card and I ask which consonant always has two letters? (qu) And we learn our first spelling rule:
"Q always needs a U; therefore U is not a vowel here."
I give her several example of words that begin with QU, and then in her workbook, she writes three words that are spelled with QU.
She underlines the two letters that work together as one phonogram. This is to help her remember that the letters work together to say /kw/.
Optional spelling practice suggestions are available, but the lesson is getting long and she is squirming in her chair, so I stop there.
The next day, I present Exploring Sounds with the topic of consonants and vowels. She learns that vowels can be sung, but consonants cannot. We explore a few of the phonograms A-Z to determine which are vowels and which are consonants. (She already knows what vowels and consonants are so I don't feel a need to go through the entire alphabet).
So, we focus on identifying the vowels, and then I direct her to write the single-letter vowels in her workbook.
Spelling Dictation: using the list from the Teacher's Manual, I dictate 15 words for her to spell. (Looking back now, I should have divided the list into 2 days as suggested in the Young Emerging Readers sample schedule). I read the word, use it in a sentence, and then repeat the word exaggerating the pronunciation as suggested. I am instructed to have her repeat the word and count the syllables and even write the word leaving a space between syllables - except that counting syllables has not been taught yet! In fact, it is not taught until Lesson 3. And the words only have one syllable.
I am further instructed to guide her to analyze each word and "mark" them as shown in the Teacher's Manual, but again, this is not taught until Lesson 2 (we are still on Lesson 1).
I am also instructed to discuss the phonograms and rules used in each word. All the words use the "first sound," but this isn't taught until Lesson 2. Furthermore, one of the Spelling Hints is one that has not yet been taught. It is the word "cat" and the rule is "C softens to /s/ when followed by an E, I, or Y. Otherwise, C says /k/." But, this rule isn't taught until Lesson 16.
The spelling list includes a word with another phonogram that has not been taught yet - /nk/. Except that /nk/ is not formally taught as a phonogram. It is included in a "Tips for Spelling List 1" paragraph after the instructions for Spelling Dictation. It tells me that "some students misspell words ending in the sound /nk/ such as pink," and that they often use the phonogram /ng/ to spell it incorrectly. The explanation was confusing, but then it told me to model sounding out the word, prounouncing each sound carefully. /th-ĭ-n-k/. Except that I don't say think with a short i! I say it with a long e!
In our current program, we learn that "nk" only comes after a, i, o, and u, and it never comes after an e. So, when she is spelling "think" or "pink," she (now) knows it is not an e that makes the long e sound. Our current program also lets me know that some pronounce "think" with a short i - very helpful to know because I had NO idea! I thought it was crazy that Logic of English wanted me to pronounce it with a short i.
Today we have a lesson on Nouns and she learns:
"A noun is the name of a person, place, thing, or idea."
"A singular noun refers to only one person, place, thing, or idea."
"A plural noun refers to more than one person, place, thing, or idea."
I guide her to write a red N next to each word in her spelling list that is a noun.
Then I introduce plurals and she learns a new spelling rule:
"To make a noun plural, add the ending -S unless the word hisses or changes, then as -ES. Occasional nouns have no change or an irregular spelling."
I am instructed to say the rule three times saying it with a silly voice, a soft voice, and a loud voice. Then she makes each of her spelling words plural by adding s or es. There is also an optional plurals practice in her workbook.
That rule stuck with her and when we got to plurals in our regular program, she remembered the part about "unless the word hisses."
Dictation and Composition: I dictate six phrases for her to write. Then she makes up her own phrases using her spelling words and writes six phrases in her workbook.
This lesson introduces:
- Phonograms: ck, ee, ng, and th
- Exploring Sounds: Short and Long Vowels
- Spelling Rules: 26 (When to Use CK)
- Grammar: Adjectives
I'll be honest. My 3rd grader didn't learn the phonogram "ee" until the 3rd grade. Eliana is in 1st. And I'm used to introducing one phonogram at a time - not four. Logic of English is moving too fast for an emerging reader. But, I committed to this review understanding that I will only see results with this program if I use it diligently, so I press on despite my reservations.
In the lesson on short and long vowel sounds, we learn the dictionary markings. This is not something we do in our current program and I liked it.
I also like that the lesson on when to use "ck" has her underline the two-letter /k/.
This is a rule she has already learned, so I felt really good about this lesson. It was great reinforcement for a concept that has already been taught.
I really like the workbook!
I also like the Spelling Journal! I think it is great to have a student created resource to help improve visual memory.
As promised, we played another hand of Dragon, too. This game is like "Old Maid" where you match up the phonogram cards and try not to get stuck with the dragon.
I feel this lesson is moving too fast for Eliana, so I slow down and begin to follow the Young Emerging Reader plan (for ages 5-6), which spreads a lesson out over two weeks. This is very easy to do as there is plenty of optional practice suggestions.
The spelling words in this lesson follow the rules taught thus far. (My only pet peeve is that they teach the word "string" with a short i, and we say it with a long e - a note in the teacher's manual is needed here). We take several days to work through the spelling list, but there are a variety of ways to do this. First, I follow the guidelines in the Intro to dictate the spelling words. Then we go through the spelling list again using the Spelling Hints and do the markings.
In Part 3 of this lesson, we review what a noun is, review how to form plurals, and then I introduce adjectives. I like that Logic of English includes grammar and ties it into the spelling by having the student label whether the spelling word is a noun or adjective, and then using the words in phrases (and later sentences) for dictation and composition.
The spelling lists also include vocabulary development for each word. For example, the vocabulary words for "street" include: streets, backstreet, streetcar, streetlight, and streetwise.
In the vocabulary lesson this week, she forms compound words.
This lesson teaches:
- Phonograms: er, or, ea, sh
- Exploring Sounds: Syllables
- Spelling Rule: 4 (Long Vowel Sounds at the End of Syllables)
- Grammar: Irregular Plurals and Non-Count Nouns
She writes the phonograms while saying the sounds aloud (3.1).
We review with the phonogram cards and play a game called Phonogram Snatch.
Then I dictate the phonograms for her to write (3.2).
During the lesson on Exploring Sounds, we learn that as we speak, our mouth opens to say vowels and closes to say consonants. I tell her to place her hand under her chin and count how many times her mouth opens to count the beats (syllables) in a word.
Then we clap the syllables and do the Extra Practice for Long Vowel Sounds and Short Vowel Sounds (3.3 and 3.4).
Next, we move on to Spelling. List 3 reinforces the Spelling Rule for long vowel sounds at the end of words.
A E O U usually say their names at the end of the syllable.
I dictate the new words for her to spell. The lists are not really a test, but are her first time practicing the words. I am instructed to slow down and give her clues to the syllable breaks by pronouncing each syllable with a short pause between them. She is never tested on the words, but uses them in the context of dictation and composition.
I use the Spelling Hints and markings to review the rules. Then we do the Vocabulary Development.
Finally, we move to Part Three. The Teacher's Manual includes plenty of white space, text boxes, etc. to make it easy to read.
We apply the grammar lesson to the Spelling List and she marks the Part of Speech for each word (noun or adjective). We also learn about Irregular Plurals and Non-Count Nouns. Finally, she writes the plural form of each word on her Spelling List.
We move on to Dictation, Composition, she learns how to write "o'clock" and what it means, and then we review Compound Words.
Lesson 4 teaches:
- Phonograms: ai, ay, oi, oy
- Exploring Sounds: Multi-Letter Consonants and Vowels
- Spelling Rules: 3, 9, 10 and Spellings of Long /a/
- English words do not end in I, U, V, or J
- AY usually spells the sound /a/ (long a) at the end of a base word
- When a word ends with the phonogram A, it says /a/ (the schwa).
- Grammar: Article Adjectives
I decide to stop there.
On the cover of the Essentials Teacher's Manual it says, "A Systematic Approach to Reading, Spelling, and Writing" so I had high expectations. I'm disappointed that in the first couple lessons spelling words contain rules and concepts that have not been taught.
I like that grammar is included and that Essentials teaches the rules of the English language. But, I don't feel that it is very logical, or systematic, and I don't see how it teaches reading, except that it teaches the phonograms. It does not actually teach how to read, your child does not read stories, and comprehension strategies are not taught.
This is the only program that I have tried that comes close to comparing to our current program when it comes to teaching spelling and the rules of the English language. This is why I wanted to review it. However, it is not as logical or systematic as our current program, and it moves too fast. Our current program is more thorough, more systematic, and makes much more sense to me. It feels awkward to force all these rules and phonograms on my 1st grader so quickly when I am used to introducing one or two phonograms or rules at a time.
The books themselves are beautiful! The Teacher's Manual is a hard back book with a soft finish to it. I LOVE the student workbook and that the Teacher's Manual tells me there is an activity that she can complete in the workbook. The Spelling Journal is awesome! I love that it is a student created reference book. And I like the fun component of the Phonogram and Spelling Game Book.
I also like that it includes grammar, spelling, and phonogram cards, though wish the cards were smaller for easier handling.
However, I do not recommend this program for Young Emerging Readers (ages 5-6) or Emerging Readers (ages 6-7). I might recommend it for an 8 year old if they are not a struggling reader or speller.
I only recommend it if your child has a strong foundation already. Many times throughout my review, I wished that I had reviewed Essentials with Malachi my 9 year old. However, he is not a "struggling" speller, so he didn't fit any of the suggested plans. I think it would have been an excellent review for him. He could easily complete a lesson every one to two days and complete the Essentials program in 8-16 weeks this way (though I am not sure he would WANT to do it that quickly).
- teaches spelling, grammar, dictation and composition together
- teaches the phonograms and rules of the English language
- provides continual review
- multi-sensory and engaging
- the Teacher's Manual is clear when there is an activity in the workbook
- includes plenty of optional activities to reinforce concepts
- concepts are not taught in a logical, understandable order (in the first 3 lessons that we reviewed)
- the program does not contain all the necessary components to teach and learn reading
- the program moves too fast for a young reader - even though the pace can be tailored to your child
- the cards are a non standard size - bigger than a 4x6 card, which makes them harder to store and use
- there are 67 pages in the Intro that you have to read and refer back to when teaching
- the composition doesn't go beyond writing sentences (the program very briefly touches on paragraph writing, first through dictation by having your child write sentences from a short story as they are dictated, and one composition lesson in which you are required to write a 5 sentence short story in paragraph form, rather than a list form).
Check out the samples to see more.
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