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Phonics Pathways, tenth edition

Publisher: Jossey-Bass/Dorbooks, Inc.
Author: Dolores G. Hiskes
Review last updated: July 2012

This is one of my 101 Top Picks!

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Phonics Pathways

[Note: the complete review of Phonics Pathways is in 101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.]

Phonics Pathways is a complete phonics program, self-contained within one large book so you do not need a separate teacher's manual.

There are extras that you can use alongside Phonics Pathways, but they are not essential.

The program will work for all ages as well as for remedial readers. Sounds of the letters are taught, beginning with short vowels. As each consonant is taught, it is immediately used to begin making blends with the short vowels. Beginning blends are taught “consonant-vowel”, i.e., ba, bi, bo, etc. Because of the quick movement into blending practice, children are reading three-letter words very soon.

Multi-sensory learning methods (hearing, saying, tracing, writing) are used with each letter. Dorbooks’ supplemental card games add more hands-on activity for those who want it.

Upper and lower case letters are shown from the beginning, although children work primarily with lower case letters. You might need to take some extra time to work specifically on recognition and writing of upper case letters, although this could be done late in the program.

Each new concept taught is followed by words, phrases, or sentences for practice, so no extra reading material is necessary. Reading practice is designed to improve tracking skills from left to right, which is especially important for preventing dyslexic problems. Some of the phrases and sentences are purposely nonsensical or humorous to keep it entertaining. The “Dewey the Bookworm” character and positive-thinking type proverbs are also used throughout the book for the same reason.

The program covers all phonetic sounds, diacritical markings, suffixes and prefixes, plurals and possessives, contractions, and compound words. Teaching instruction is on each page. It is brief enough that no significant preparation time is needed.

One oddity pops up in the instructions. Sometimes they are written directly to students even though students of this program cannot yet read sentences as complex as those in the instructions. But this is no big deal. Parents/teachers just need to read through the instructions and present whatever is necessary to students.

An index to spelling rules, spelling and pronunciation charts, plural and suffix spelling charts, and two pages of “Vision and Motor Coordination Training Exercises” are found at the back of the book. Try some of these exercises if you have a child who seems to have minor learning disabilities.

Phonics Pathways introduces “pyramids” as another reading tool. There is an entirely separate book on the pyramid concept titled Reading Pathways. The subtitle, "Simple Exercises to Improve Reading Fluency," reflects the content. Reading exercises expand in pyramid fashion from a single word to complex sentences. Within each pyramid, the single word is repeated in each subsequent line, but each time one or more additional words are added to make and then expand a sentence.

This might also work well alongside other programs that use the same introductory approach (e.g., Sing, Spell, Read, and Write) to help students struggling with tracking and blending.

You might want to supplement with Phonics Pathways Boosters!: Fun Games & Teaching Aids to Jump-Start Reading. Boosters! Is a collection of five items: Sound-Spelling Flash Cards, Blendit!,The Train Game, WordWorks, and Speaking Pathways.

Sound-Spelling Flash Cards is a set of 46, double-sided, illustrated flash cards. These flash cards are unusual since they have all possible spelling variations for the letter or phonogram on the reverse side. The Train Game functions as a movable alphabet to be used as a learning activity rather than as a game. Blendit! has 2 Bingo type games, one that focuses on two-letter blends, and one that focuses on short-vowel words. WordWorks has three sets of cards (36 per set) that are used in games played like Old Maid or Go Fish to reinforce phonics. All pages are printed on heavy cardstock, and the cards for these first four resources need to be cut apart before use. You might consider laminating them. Speaking Pathways is a 35-minute audio CD packaged at the back of the book. Speaking Pathways features Dolores Hiskes explaining and pronouncing phonics sounds as taught in Phonics Pathways plus spelling rules and patterns. This might be very helpful for the parent without a phonics background or for the student who would benefit from the auditory presentation. Like Reading Pathways,Boosters! should also work well with other phonics programs that use the consonant-vowel approach. These supplements are useful but not essential.

One problem that crops up in this and other programs that begin with consonant-vowel combinations is that children are guessing at vowel sounds since actual vowel sounds are generally determined by what comes after the vowel—and in the early stages of the program, there’s nothing “coming after” to give them a clue. When children start reading long vowel words, they need to be taught to scan ahead for signals such as silent “e” that determine the vowel sound. Phonics Pathways, as well as Reading Pathways, have tried to address this problem in their newest editions by adding diacritical markings to vowels when children might run into problems determining the vowel sound.

Phonics Pathways is one of the top products because it does a great job teaching phonics, it is very reasonably priced for such a comprehensive program, it is easy for parents to use, and it has options that can make it more multi-sensory.


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  • Phonics Pathways: Clear Steps to Easy Reading and Perfect Spelling

    Phonics Pathways: Clear Steps to Easy Reading and Perfect Spelling

    Dolores G. Hiskes

    Reading Pathways: Simple Exercises to Improve Reading Fluency

    Reading Pathways: Simple Exercises to Improve Reading Fluency

    Dolores G. Hiskes

    Phonics Pathways Boosters!: Fun Games and Teaching Aids to Jump-Start Reading

    Phonics Pathways Boosters!: Fun Games and Teaching Aids to Jump-Start Reading

    Dolores G. Hiskes

    Instant Key

    • Learning Styles: all
      Suitable for: 
      beginning readers
      Need for parent/teacher instruction: 
      Prep time needed:
      Need for Teacher's Manual:  n/a
      Religious perspective:

    Publisher's Info

    • Dorbooks, Inc.

      1331 Red Cedar Circle
      Fort Collins, CO 80524

      (800) 852-4890

      Jossey-Bass/an imprint of John Wiley & Sons

      (800) 956-7739