Simply Reading is an inexpensive phonics program that uses the Orton-Gillingham approach that is also the foundation of some other popular phonics programs such as All About Reading and Logic of English. All of these programs break phonics instruction down into phonograms—the numerous letter combinations that are used to make phonetic sounds. Simply Reading is less expansive than All About Reading and the Logic of English since it is focused only upon teaching reading and does not teach other language arts skills as do the other programs. Also, it condenses the phonics instruction. For example, Unit 31 in Simply Reading teaches the phonograms aw, au, and augh. Children learn different sounds made by those phonograms such as in draw, launch, and laugh. Other programs might teach one or two such phonograms at a time rather than all three.
The Orton-Gillingham methodology was first developed for children with learning difficulties who benefited from multi-sensory, detailed instruction. Many parents and teachers of other children found that the methods also work well with children without learning difficulties. The condensation of the methodology in Simply Reading makes it more suitable for the average child rather than those with learning difficulties.
Simply Reading is purchased as a set of PDF files that includes:
- 90-page teacher’s manual
- set of 26 alphabet picture cards
- set of 52 letter cards (both lowercase and uppercase individual letters)
- 41 Reading Fluency Practice pages
- 66 phonogram cards (phonograms with sample words showing all of their pronunciations)
- pages for creating more than 100 magnetic letter tiles (You’ll need to supply the magnets, but there’s a link to a source on Amazon.)
- 44 Roll & Read game boards
Bonus items that came with my set were pages for creating phonogram blocks (that can be rolled like dice) and pages for creating a “Sight Word Monkey” poster.
The teacher’s manual presents general activities for building phonemic awareness before starting the actual lessons. The phonemic awareness activities are designed to help children start recognizing individual sounds and associate them with letters. The activities are done orally or with hands-on items rather than as formal lessons. Children should be able to do these activities easily before moving on to the lessons.
There are 40 units in the teacher’s guide, and each should take about a week to complete. However, some lessons, such as the lesson on ou and ough, will probably take more than a week because they introduce a number of different sounds for the phonograms.
Bobi Lytle, the creator of Simply Reading, urges parents to adjust their schedule to suit the child rather than trying to stick to one week per unit. Even if a child does well on the phonemic awareness activities and doesn’t need to spend more than a week or two on them, the rest of the program will probably take a little more than one school year to complete. At the end of the program, children will have learned all of the phonograms.
Simply Reading is multisensory, using discussion, letter tiles, flashcards, games, and body motions. In the teacher's manual, pages 3 and 9 through 12 have instructions that explain how to use flashcards, games, and other activities, as well as how to teach the sight words. These instructions are not included in the individual lessons where you will use the activities, so it is important that you read these pages.
The teaching instructions for each unit have only one or two pages each. The teacher’s manual is brief because it does not provide scripted, detailed lesson plans. Each unit teaches two to four new phonograms and two sight words. Once past the first unit, lessons begin by reviewing previously taught phonograms and sight words using the flashcards.
A four-step process is used for teaching each new phonogram, then a five-step process is used for teaching new sight words. These two processes are essentially the same for every lesson. After introducing new words, you will use letter tiles to review the names and sounds of those letters with children. Next, you create words with the letter tiles, and students practice sounding out those words. Then, using the letter tiles, you are to make a word chain with your child. The chain starts with a word they know such as fix. Your child can change one letter each time to make a new word, such as in the suggested progression on page 24: fix, fox, box, bop, hop, hip, sip, sap, and sax.
You will add other activities (described in the introductory pages) and reading practice from beginning readers (not supplied with the program). The suggested weekly schedule in the teacher’s manual says to read from phonics readers on the third day, to use the unit’s Reading Fluency Practice page on the fourth day, and to play Roll & Read on the fifth day. As I mentioned previously, these activities are not mentioned within the individual units, but they need to be done regularly in addition to other lesson activities, such as reviewing letters or phonograms.
The teacher’s manual has links to free readers (created by another publisher) that you can download. These short readers are printed in black and white and have nice artwork. There are 15 short-vowel readers and 15 long-vowel readers. They use unusual names for people such as Id, Oz, and Ut and even more unusual names for creatures such as If for a bird and Um for a butterfly. You can use these readers or almost any other set of phonetic beginning readers.
I mentioned the Reading Fluency Practice pages and the Roll & Read games above as activities for each unit. Reading Fluency Practice pages build in essential practice for reading individual words, sentences, and short paragraphs. The sentence and paragraph practice is very similar to what students would get in beginning readers, and it is directly aligned with the units of Simply Reading. Each unit also has a different Roll & Read game board to provide reading practice; when students land on a space they will read the word printed there.
In addition to the above, you might use other optional activities described in the instructions, such as playing a sight-word memory game or having your child perform body movements as they say each sound in a word.
Work is required to get everything ready to go. You’ll need to print out double-sided cards. The pages are designed to fit Avery™ preformatted, perforated sheets of business cards. (You can print on other card stock, but these come apart easily.) The letter-tile magnets are probably the most work to create since you’ll need to print the pages, laminate them (recommended), attach them to the self-adhesive side of magnets, and cut them apart. While not an essential part of the program, you will probably want to construct the phonogram blocks since this is a fun way to practice blending. The eight different blocks each have six different phonograms on their sides, and children will roll these and try to make words with them. (You are supposed to make these from cardstock, but if you want something sturdier or that rolls more easily, consider affixing the phonograms onto old children’s blocks.)
You can view free samples pages before buying if you want to see what the various pages look like.
Once you are familiar with the flow of the lessons and have the components ready to go, Simply Reading should be easy to use.