This multi-sensory, phonics-based language arts program, appropriate for children ages 5 through 8, is especially good for active learners such as Wiggly Willys as well as for Sociable Sues. It covers phonics, reading, comprehension, spelling, beginning grammar, and manuscript printing. The Kindergarten/Level 1 Home Kit includes 23 full-color, phonetic, storybook readers; a CD presentation of simple, catchy songs that teach the phonograms; six cassette tapes with the songs —use either the tapes or the CD; five phonics games (bingo and card deck type games); phonogram “strips” for blending; a cardboard treasure chest with prizes (very inexpensive items); a phonics placemat; raceway chart and raceway car for tracking progress; teacher’s manual; four consumable student workbooks; an assessment book; and a teacher training video. Everything is very colorful and professionally put together. All of this comes packaged in an attractive sturdy box. The back cover of each student book is a wipe-off writing “slate” as is the back of the placemat; a wipe-off marker and eraser for these are included.
Sing, Spell, Read, and Write uses the “consonant-vowel” approach (ba, be, bi, bo, bu) to teach reading. It’s a fun program that is fairly easy to use. Instruction is provided by the parent with assistance from the CD or cassettes, a two-page folder for kindergarten level or the detailed Instructor’s Manual that you use once you start Level 1. Lesson plans in the manual coordinate program elements plus lessons in grammar, reading, comprehension, and writing that are presented from the manual.
The program is truly multi-sensory as children listen to and sing the songs; practice saying and writing letters, phonograms, and words; manipulate letter cards; play the games; and complete workbook activities. There are 36 “steps” in the program, and progress is tracked on the Raceway Chart as children master each step.
The first workbook for Level 1, Off We Go, provides readiness activities plus an introduction to letters, their sounds, and their formation. The second workbook, the Raceway Book, is far more intensive, beginning with blends and continuing through all phonics instruction, while also working on manuscript handwriting, comprehension, and some grammar and spelling. If your child struggles with the written exercises, save them for later and focus on the oral work and games instead.
The songs are pleasant, child-oriented tunes to which children will sing along. If your children do not like singing, this is not the program for you! The games, raceway chart, and prizes add extra fun and incentive to both levels of the program. The Assessment Book is used after each reader to check on word recognition and comprehension. It also has three achievement tests to be used at different points in the program.
Seventeen of the phonetic readers used with Level 1 save us the trouble of looking elsewhere for practice material. There are more than 1000 pages in these readers. The last few readers in the set are often unnecessary since by that point many children have mastered phonics well enough to read many real books on their own. Still, the last few books cover the “oddities” of the English language such as “ph” making the sound /f/, and these do need to be covered at some time.
Some parents found that the Level 1 kit moved too quickly for their kindergartners, particularly on short vowels, or that there was too much writing for younger children. So the publisher created a kindergarten level that covers the first 15 of the program’s 36 steps in a slower fashion with a separate set of two workbooks and six more readers. The two workbooks, All Aboard and On Track, spend more time on readiness activities and have larger print, more white space, and move at a slower pace than the presentation in Level 1. If you use the kindergarten materials, you can probably skip a good part of the lessons covering these same steps in the Level 1 program. The Kindergarten books only cover a portion of what is in Level 1, so you will still need both levels if you start with the kindergarten materials.
Although kindergarten student books and readers are sold separately, you only get the rest of the components when you purchase either the Level 1 Kit or the Combo Kit. You would be missing the music, charts, games, and prizes without Level 1. So, for most families the Combo Kit makes the most sense.
There is also a separate Pre-kindergarten Kit with reading readiness activities for preschool level. The Pre-kindergarten Kit teaches colors, shapes, categorizing, sequencing, audio discrimination, and sound and letter recognition.
Additional materials for reading and grammar study are available for what are designated Levels 2 and 3. But, since Level 1 is the heart of the phonics instruction, I do not include reviews of the higher levels here.
Note: Sing, Spell, Read, and Write made my Top 100 list in 2005.