Hatchling Discover: Reading, Writing, and Phonics is a multi-sensory, two-year course for kindergartners and first graders that covers all of their language arts. Courses for each level are sold as Volume 1 and Volume 2. However, rather than having one large volume, each course consists of a series of workbooks plus other resources that are used along with them.
Hatchling takes a unique approach with its methodology in a number of ways. It combines instruction in phonics and reading with simultaneous instruction in spelling, handwriting, and vocabulary. Sight words are taught along with the phonics. Miniature objects are used to teach phonemes, and these phoneme-object connections are reinforced with phonetic picture flashcards and cut-and-paste images of the objects. Students use a movable alphabet with blue vowels and red consonants to learn to form letters into words. Textured Touch and Trace cards and a sand tray are both used for initial practice in letter and word formation, and these activities are followed by handwriting using colored pencils. In Volume 1, students have tracing activities with different line designs to help develop fine motor skill and pencil control. In Volume 2, tracing shifts to maze exercises that help develop both dexterity and critical thinking. Students might also use the optional Toobaloo®, a phone-like device to hear their own pronunciation as they practice.
When Hatchling teaches the alphabet in the first few books, it teaches only short vowel sounds. It teaches both soft and hard sounds for the letters c and g but otherwise teaches only one sound for each consonant.
When it introduces keywords for these beginning lessons, it doesn’t stick to simple or expected words. Instead, it introduces interesting vocabulary, such as diamond for d, nautilus for n, and goblet and gingerbread for g. For each of these words, there are a miniature object and a picture flash card so that the meanings of the words are conveyed concretely. When it teaches long vowel phonograms in Volume 2, it teaches multiple ways to form each long vowel sound, such as when it teaches ay, ei, and eigh for forming the long a sound as in the words ray, reindeer, and eight. Again, miniature objects illustrate these words. I appreciate the inclusion of what might be considered advanced vocabulary because I think children enjoy learning and saying delightfully big words, such as doughnut and unicorn.
High-frequency words like as, at, be, with, they, and for are taught as sight words alongside the phonics instruction. Many of these sight words could be sounded out phonetically, but the goal is to help students quickly develop a working sight-word vocabulary and grasp the idea that they will be reading combinations of letters as whole words rather than independent phonemes.
Some readers are used for independent reading practice, and picture books are used to develop basic literacy skills as well as to encourage a love for books. The picture books will be read aloud to children. Workbook journaling activities provide space for children to draw a picture about each picture book and to write two lines about it. (Parents might help children by taking dictation for written journal entries until children are ready to write at least some of the words on their own.)
Two sets of Bob Books® Sight Words beginning readers are used with Volume 1 together with 13 picture books: The Story of Johnny Appleseed; The Apple Pie that Papa Baked; The Big Snow; A Tree is Nice; Nuts to You!; How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?; Leaf Man; Tell Me, Tree; Owl Moon; Slowly, Slowly, Slowly, said the Sloth; The Grouchy Ladybug; Rooster's Off to See the World; and The Year at Maple Tree Farm.
In Volume 2, children learn to identify, read, and write the four types of sentences with correct punctuation. Children practice independent reading with the Henry and Mudge Collectors' Set and The Frog and Toad Collection. In addition, parents will use 13 read-aloud books: Winter Bees; Snowflake Bentley; The Mitten Tree; Annie and the Wild Animals; Hedgie's Surprise; Armadillo Rodeo; Corduroy; Harry the Dirty Dog; Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile; The Little Scarecrow Boy; Look What I Did With a Leaf; Fletcher and the Falling Leaves; and 1000 Animals.
The eight workbooks for Volume 1 and seven workbooks for Volume 2 guide both teacher and student through each course. Each lesson page is labeled with the week and day that it is to be used, so it is clear what should be accomplished when. Most instructions are written directly in the workbooks, but parents need to also read the 20-page Teacher Helps book for a complete understanding of how Hatchling works. Teacher Helps explains how to use the miniature objects, phonetic picture cards, the Textured Touch and Trace cards, the sand tray, the movable alphabet, and the colored pencils. It also explains how to use the picture books and discuss them, and there are additional learning activities in the “How To” sections toward the end of the book.
Lesson prep time should be fairly low as long as your course materials and supplies (colored pencils, scissors, paste, etc.) are on hand. Once you’ve read through the Teacher Helps, you should be able to operate in an open-and-go fashion.
You can purchase resources for each volume of Hatchling as either a Core set or a Complete set. The Core sets include the workbooks, Teacher Helps, the set of miniature objects, phonetic picture flashcards, and a book of cut and paste object sheets. The Complete set for Volume 1 adds the Textured Touch and Trace cards for both lower- and upper-case letters, and both of the Complete sets include the readers and picture books for that volume.
The pacing of the program seems very comfortable, spreading out basic phonics instruction over two years. Hatchling seems perfect for teaching only one or two students because of the interaction required. You can cuddle up for reading time and have a great conversation about the book you’ve just read. Hands-on activities provide a gentle transition from play-type learning to a more academic approach. And the combination of a solid phonics foundation together with sight words is likely to give students a jump start on independent reading.