Sonlight K Phonics is a comprehensive phonics and language arts program for kindergarten that can also be used with Sonlight’s Exploring God’s World Pre-K Program if you have pre-kindergartners who are ready to start to learn to read. The K Phonics program includes the Language Arts K Instructor’s Guide, My First Picture Dictionary, Alphabet Sounds Bingo cards and markers, the Go A to Z! card deck, and a set of 27 Fun Tales readers.
If you want to add a handwriting program and a phonics workbook, Sonlight has scheduled in lessons from Handwriting Without Tears and the Ready…Set…Go for the Code phonics workbook. You can substitute another handwriting program if you wish. (Schedules for handwriting courses for A Reason for Handwriting, Getty-Dubay Handwriting, and other levels of Handwriting Without Tears are available for free on Sonlight’s website.)
Sonlight’s K Phonics program uses what is called a natural learning approach. That means that it takes a more relaxed approach to reading and writing than do many other programs, and it also encourages children to learn from the world around them rather than just from books.
The Language Arts K Instructor’s Guide comes as a large packet of loose-leaf pages for you to put into a binder. (You can choose a guide with schedules for either four or five days per week, although you will use the same resources with both.) Pages are loose-leaf since many of them will be given to students.
The instructor’s guide has charts for each week that show which pages to use for each day from the different resources and when to complete other activities. Following each chart are brief instructions for the individual activities when they are needed. After the instructions, there are two or more full-color activity pages for the student to complete over the course of the week. The lesson plans explain exactly when and how to use them.
The activity pages require children to do some handwriting (printing), even in the first week. You can teach your child how to form the letters yourself, but Handwriting Without Tears (or another program) can provide that instruction for you.
In this program, children learn to recognize both upper and lower case letters, the basic consonant sounds, and short vowel sounds. The Alphabet Sounds Bingo game and the Go A to Z! card deck are both used for practice in identifying letters and sounds.
Children will learn to read and write one-syllable words that contain only short vowels. The Fun Tale readers reinforce what is taught in the lessons. These small readers have a black-and-white illustration and a short sentence on each page. Phonics is further reinforced as students learn phonetic spelling patterns.
Copywork exercises on the activity pages provide practice with reading, spelling, and handwriting while also building a foundation for understanding sentence structure. The copywork lessons begin with only one letter, gradually advancing to either four or five words separated by commas or complete sentences.
Children will do other forms of writing besides copywork, although some of those activities might be dictated to parents who will do the actual writing. For example, in the fourth week, students are guided through the process of coming up with a story about a time when someone came to visit. A parent will “record” the story for the child, perhaps on a computer so changes can be made easily. At the end of that same week, another activity has children begin with the very simple story: “Luke swam. Luke won.” Using questions from the instructor’s guide, parents help their child expand this story to make it more interesting. Again, the parent records the finished product. This type of exercise helps students learn to appreciate the value of adding details to their writing, and it also teaches children to be creative.
Children learn about other things such as poetry, rhymes, limericks, listening skills, numbers, counting, how to use a telephone for an emergency, and manners.
As with other Sonlight courses, the K Phonics Program encourages parents to tailor the program to suit their needs. For example, while the overall program takes a relaxed approach, adding the Ready…Set…Go for the Code phonics workbook gives children more workbook activity if that’s what parents prefer, and parents can have children do more or less writing for narrations and storytelling.
The entire program is heavily based upon parent-child interaction. The intent is for those interactions to be playful and fun rather than heavily academic. While so many kindergarten programs have shifted towards more academic work with a goal of having children read long vowel words at the end of kindergarten, I think many parents and children will appreciate Sonlight’s less stressful approach.