Note that this is the latest edition of Alpha-Phonics. An earlier edition published by The Paradigm Company is still available. I repeat parts of the review that are identical.
Alpha-Phonics, Sam Blumenfeld’s classic phonics manual, provides comprehensive phonics instruction in a simple, straightforward manner. Rules are presented along with lists of words and syllables, and, eventually, sentences. A parent works through lessons with his or her child, working from the book. Student pages are the first part of the book. Instructional pages start at page 157.
The methodology is solid phonics. Alpha-Phonics teaches 44 different sounds for the letters of the alphabet. It teaches basic phonic rules, but not so many rules as we find in other programs like Writing Road to Reading and Saxon's Phonics. Blending is taught via the vowel-consonant method, with initial consonants added next: e.g., "am" taught first, followed by "Sam" and "ham." Words are taught in families (e.g., an, ban, can, Dan, fan, Jan). However, many nonsense syllables are included in the early stages to help students develop phonetic fluency. Some of the practice lists of such syllables get quite silly as students read through syllables and words like: "gab, gac, gack, gad, gaf, gag, gal, gam, gan, gap, gas, gat, gav, gax," and "gaz." Students practice with quite a few such lists, but they also move quickly into reading actual sentences.
This program does not use pictures for key words as do many other programs. The print is very large and clear with no illustrations or other distractions. The intent is that students concentrate on the letters themselves so that they immediately recognize the sounds associated with a letter rather than taking an extra mental step to recall a key word associated with a picture.
This edition of Alpha-Phonics has a plastic comb binding so it will lie flat while you’re working through lessons. Print is very large, suitable for young readers.
You will want to use other reading material for additional practice once students have actually begun to read sentences. Chalcedon has published Blumenfeld's Alpha-Phonics First Readers, a set of 11 readers. Teaching instructions in Chalcedon's edition of Alpha-Phonics tell you when to use each reader. These readers have text only—no illustrations. Readers progress from three-letter short-vowel words in the first reader through classic poetry in the eleventh.
Also note that Alpha-Phonics recommends (but does not require) teaching cursive in the early grades before manuscript printing. Cursive instruction is on pages 154-155 and 168-169.
Parents must work with children through this book, but it requires no preparation time and is a very efficient, even if unexciting, way for children to learn phonics.
While the basic program would seem tailored for Perfect Paulas or Competent Carls, the simplicity of it actually makes it a good foundational program for other learners since it is very easy to supplement with appropriate learning style activities for all students.
This newest edition of Alpha-Phonics has minor updates and improvements throughout the book, but I think the most significant one is guidance as to how and when to use the readers.