Phonics Pathways is a complete phonics program, self-contained within one large book so you do not need a separate teacher’s manual.
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 soon reading three-letter words.
One problem that crops up in this and other programs that begin with consonant-vowel combinations is that children guess 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 has tried to address this problem by adding diacritical markings to vowels when children might run into problems determining the vowel sound.
Multi-sensory learning methods (hearing, saying, tracing, writing) are used with each letter. Uppercase and lowercase letters are shown from the beginning, although children work primarily with lowercase letters. You might need to take some extra time to work specifically on recognition and writing of uppercase 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. 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, and it is brief enough that no significant preparation time is needed.
One oddity worth noting pops up frequently in the instructions. Sometimes they are written directly to students even though students of this program cannot yet read sentences this complex. But this is no big deal. Parents or 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 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 strategy within its lessons. Reading exercises expand in a 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 create and then expand a sentence.
Phonics Pathways is among my Top Picks because it does a great job of teaching phonics, it's very reasonably priced for such a comprehensive program, it's easy for parents to use, and it has options that can make it more multi-sensory.