The American Language Series is a comprehensive beginning language arts program with two strands. Phonics and reading are covered in one strand while spelling, writing, and vocabulary are taught in the other. The two strands complement each other and are intended to be used together.
The American Language Series is intended to be a kindergarten program, but the scope and sequence covers kindergarten and much of what would be considered first-grade level. There are no grade level indications on the program, so you can use it at whatever level is best for your child. While the program teaches the alphabet and the sounds of the letters, it does so at a rapid pace, assuming some prior familiarity.
This is an intensive phonics program that strives to build a solid foundation for reading as well as the other language arts. The program begins with the introduction of letters and sounds, with parallel lessons introducing spelling and handwriting. It moves quickly into blending with children reading short words within the first few lessons.
It follows the consonant-vowel approach in teaching blending—e.g., “la, lo, le, li, lu.” The program limits itself to single-syllable words, although toward the end of the program students are learning words like choice, gouge, and thought. It does a thorough job of introducing phonetic rules and reinforces phonics with corresponding spelling rules. Words are taught in terms of those rules, then reviewed with reminders about which rules they represent. The Phonics and Reading Teacher Handbook says, “Every phonetic concept in our language is covered in the program” (p.2).
The complete package includes four student workbooks (two for each strand), six readers, a brief Phonics and Reading Guide, and a thumb drive. The thumb drive has extensive teacher manuals for both strands along with audio files for the songs.
Each workbook has about 170 pages. This might be a lot of workbook activity for some kindergartners, but it is an appropriate amount for first graders. The two Phonics & Reading workbooks require very little actual writing. They contain a minimal amount of instructional information, serving more as adjuncts for lessons presented by the teacher. Workbook activities include having students read, draw lines to match up items, mark the correct answer with an “x,” and circle words or phonograms. Phonics and reading lessons should take about 20 to 30 minutes a day.
Most writing is done in the two Spelling, Writing, & Vocabulary workbooks, and the amount per page is reasonable if a child is ready to begin writing. Daily lessons should take about 10 to 15 minutes per day. Spelling, writing, and vocabulary lessons coordinate with phonics and reading lessons, and they also include beginning grammar, sentence writing, word usage in context, alphabetizing, oral communication, and rhyming. The handwriting style taught is a standard ball-and-stick form.
All workbooks are heavily illustrated in full color, and pages are not overly crowded with text. Pages are perforated so that you can easily remove them from the books to make it easier for children to write.
The program includes six vocabulary-controlled readers. Reading material is wholesome, and Bible stories included beginning with the third book. Godly character, obedience, and practical life experiences are common themes. (See my review of the readers here.)
The program accommodates auditory learners to some extent with six phonics songs on the thumb drive, all with child-friendly musical styles. Other learning styles might be engaged by some of the games suggested in the teacher handbooks.
All of these components are incorporated into the lesson plans in the teacher handbooks described below.
The three books for the teacher are included only on the thumb drive. They are not available in printed format. While it might be a nuisance to pull these up on a computer every time you want to look something up, these are huge books that would be cumbersome to handle in printed form.
Most useful is the Phonics & Reading Teacher Handbook (the file labeled PhonKTHB07 on the thumb drive). This 424-page file explains the program and presents lessons plans for using all components. Recommended songs, poems, stories, games, and reproducible pages are in their own section of this handbook, and lesson plans generally link to those pages so you don't need to search for them.
Lesson plans include reduced student pages with overprinted answers. In the margins are step-by-step plans for teaching. Lessons assume a classroom setting, and while they can be adapted easily for teaching one child, the lesson plans frequently direct the teacher to write quite a bit of information on a chalkboard. Personally, I would probably put this handbook on a tablet and enlarge the pages so that children can read from the tablet rather than writing everything on a board. This would make it handy for teaching purposes as well.
The second teacher file is the Spelling, Writing, & Vocabulary K Teacher Handbook (file name SpellKTHB07 on the thumb drive). This file includes introductory information and lesson plans. It duplicates the section of songs, games, etc. found in the Phonics and Reading Teacher Handbook since they are hyperlinked in the lesson plans in this book as well. The layout is similar to the first teacher file with reduced student pages surrounded by step-by-step lesson plans.
The third teacher book is the Phonics/Spelling Manual Part 1 (file name PSMan1 on the thumb drive). This manual explains the methodology in great detail, so much so that you could actually teach from this file without the student workbooks if you wanted to invest the time and effort. You will use this book for reference since it explains the course philosophy, content (including all of the phonics rules), and methodology. As this book explains, the methodology is rooted in the Principle Approach®. (The course’s methodology also resembles that of The Writing Road to Reading in both its rule orientation and the simultaneous teaching of reading, writing, and spelling.) The Phonics/Spelling Manual Part 1 is where you can learn about all of the rules taught in the program.
Both strands of the course require time for preparation and presentation. One of the best features of this program is that it has been very carefully designed for the inexperienced teacher. Everything is explained, and nothing is assumed.
Since Mile-Hi Math K was written for use in conjunction with the American Language Series, you might also want to read that review.
(The American Language Series has a long history. It was first published as the Little Patriots program, then it became the first version of Alpha Omega’s Horizons kindergarten language arts. This is important to mention since the Phonics/Spelling Manual Part 1 includes scanned pages from the original Little Patriots program that occasionally make reference to that program rather than the American Language Series.)