The Logic of English Essentials course was written for students ages seven and up who need a structured, integrated program for learning reading, spelling, and grammar. It can be used following either the Foundations course by the same author, or another introductory phonics program. (Foundations is not a prerequisite.) Students who have not had prior instruction, can begin with Essentials as long as they work through the pre-lessons described below.
The second edition of Essentials has two large teacher's guides and two student workbooks. As of January 2016, only the first volume of each is available, with the second teacher's guide and student workbook slated for availability in January 2017. Both volumes are essential for the course, and each volume should take at least a semester to complete. (If you should complete the first volume before the second becomes available, you can easily switch to the first edition of Essentials to complete the course.)
The second edition of Essentials has been extensively rewritten from the first edition to include three levels of instruction. This allows teachers to address the needs of students working at different levels with a family or classroom, and it also creates an option of cycling through the entire program two or three times for students who need review on the basics but at increasing levels of difficulty. The majority of each lesson is addressed to "All," but some lesson segments are identified for use with levels A, B, or C. The teacher's guide includes a placement test. Level A targets second graders or older students who are struggling, Level B should be best for third or fourth graders, and Level C is appropriate for fifth grade and above. Essentials might be completed in as little as three to four months by older students.
The first ten lessons in Essentials are "pre-lessons" that review or teach (depending upon the student's skill level) phonemic awareness, phonograms, blending, and handwriting basics. These optional lessons should be used with students who need to start at the beginning before moving into the regular lessons that begin at what might be considered second grade level or above. You should take as much time as you need to work through the pre-lessons. Pedia Learning's Rhythm of Handwriting course is recommended for those who still need handwriting instruction. Lessons from that course are correlated with the pre-lessons in Essentials.
Essentials begins the first of its regular lessons with a brief review of the basic phonograms (including qu along with individual letters), and then it continues through activities in spelling, grammar, dictation, vocabulary, reading, and composition. Obviously, this requires some prior skill development from either the pre-lessons or other instruction since the pace would be too fast for those without any prior instruction.
Essentials integrates reading, spelling, composition, and grammar, using multi-sensory learning activities and games to make it a comprehensive language arts program. Based upon the Orton-Gillingham methodology, Essentials takes an intensive phonics approach, teaching rules that encompass about 98% of the words in the English language (according to Essentials). Essentials teaches each English phonogram and introduces all of its sounds together (e.g. O says /ŏ - ō - ö/ as in stop, go, do), rather than teaching the different sounds of a phonogram in isolation from one another. By the end of the program, students learn all of the possible spellings for each sound (e.g., o, oa, oe, and oo for the long o sound).
Essentials uses phonogram cards and other visual aids as an essential part of the teaching process. Inductive methods are sometimes used in Essentials so that students discover rules or patterns rather than being told what they are.
Lessons are taught from the teacher’s guides and require direct instruction. Teaching instruction—both in what is taught to students and in sidebars for the teacher—is more detailed and extensive than in many other programs. For example, in addition to the basic instruction, the program uses frequent dictation, teaches awareness of mouth and tongue movements required to produce sounds, and stresses the importance of learning the rules of syllabication.
While some other programs based on Orton-Gillingham methodology require students to create their own notebooks, writing down all of the rules, phonograms, spelling words, etc., Essentials provides student workbooks while still using separate notebooks in which students will write from dictation or compose their own phrases and sentences. The workbooks make the amount of writing more manageable, and this might be especially important for students who struggle with small motor skills or have other learning difficulties.
Essentials is very comprehensive. The teacher's guides are huge. Volume 1 has 632 pages and weighs about five pounds! Even thought teacher's guides are so large, the additional material in the second edition really does make the course easier to teach. While the first student workbook has over 300 pages, the print is large and uncrowded so that each page looks very manageable.
There are 15 lessons in each volume. Each lesson is divided into five sections, and each section should take about 30 to 45 minutes per day to complete. Lessons follow a typical flow throughout each week with instruction in phonograms, reading, spelling, vocabulary, grammar, and dictation. Spelling analysis is a key feature of Essentials.This is a sequential process that challenges students to apply what they know about sounds and phonograms to determine the spelling of each word. Students write the words in their workbooks, underlining particular phonograms, doing this first as directed by the teacher, then gradually doing it on their own.
Lesson material for levels A, B, and C includes spelling analysis lists for each level with subsequently more challenging words as well as more challenging instruction in grammar and vocabulary. Dictation material is also keyed to the different levels.
Throughout the course, the teacher needs to present lessons, primarily with a whiteboard and flashcards. Students will respond orally, complete written work in their workbooks and notebooks, and sometimes review with games. Lots of review and periodic assessment is built into the course.
The Essentials teacher’s guides include step-by-step lesson plans that are scripted so that the teacher knows exactly what to say and do. This makes it very easy for parents and teachers to prepare and present lessons.
There are a number of other items you will need along with the teacher's guides and student workbooks: Basic Phonogram Flash Cards, the Logic of English Spelling Journal, Spelling Rule Flash Cards, Grammar Flash Cards, Advanced Phonogram Flash Cards, Phonogram Game Cards, Morpheme Flash Cards, Phonogram Game Tiles, and Spelling Analysis Cards. These are included in the complete package.
Those using Essentials for remediation might want to also purchase the optional Essentials Reader with its companion teaching guide and student activity book. This provides phonics-controlled reading practice and skill development.
You might also want to read author Denise Eide’s book, Uncovering the Logic of English, in which she presents the background and philosophy of the program as well as the methodology and charts of rules and patterns.
Although training isn't required, some parents really want training and a deeper understanding of how the program works. To that end, author Denise Eide has created free video training. Videos can be accessed at https://www.logicofenglish.com/loe-training. This is extensive training that covers an introduction and overview of the methodology along with in-depth information on phonograms, spelling rules, spelling dictation, handwriting instruction, learning styles, morphology/vocabulary development, language development, reading research, phonemic awareness, and more. While the training is presented in segments that you can watch individually at your convenience, it adds up to full-day training course. An optional, downloadable manual to use alongside this course is available for $15.
Essentials offers integrated language arts instruction based on research and thorough methodology. It can readily be used with students across a broad age span. Essentials does require some advance reading and preparation by parents or teachers, but it does not require training classes or other extensive teacher preparation. Once past introductory information about the program, you can teach most lessons without significant lesson prep time. That factor makes Essentials an especially practical choice for many parents who want to use this type of methodology.