Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Logic of English - a Crew Review

When your child struggles with a particular school subject, do you struggle? Have you found yourself feeling at a loss on how to help them? Have you ever wondered if a curriculum is REALLY worth all that money...or if you'll be disappointed and right back where you began? My answers are yes, yes, and yes. There have been times that I have felt like a failure for not being able to teach Arlene how to spell. I have even wondered if she had dyslexia, or something else, that was causing her struggles, even though there appeared to be no other signs. Then, SOMETHING AMAZING HAPPENED! We were selected to be on the Schoolhouse Review Crew for the Logic of English Essentials review. I am so thankful for this curriculum that I could weep tears of joy.

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(Now I know some of you may be thinking, "but Carol almost always has good things to say about things she reviews." Let me assure you, there is a difference between seeing the good in a curriculum, and LOVING one. This one I LOVE.)

FYI- for the rest of this review, after the first official mention of an item, I'm going to shorten 'Logic of English' to 'LOE.'

For the review, we received a box full of goodies, and an app code for the Logic of English Phonograms app (for iPad $2.99 from iTunes.) I immediately downloaded the app to the iPad, and Arlene (age 13) worked through it while we waited for the box to arrive. This is probably one of the most helpful apps under $5 that I've ever encountered for education. The app helps students learn the 74 basic phonograms of the English Language. (A phonogram is a written character [like a letter] that represents a speech sound, or a combination of speech sounds.) By the time the box arrived & I had sorted through it, Arlene had been through the app twice, and set up a page for me as well. The app teaches not only the sound, but also the 'logic' rule that goes with it to help your child remember the differences. If your child struggles with reading, or spelling, you are going to want this app. The speaker is clear and distinct, so you can differentiate between the 'ch' and 'ck' or the 'n' or 'gn' sounds.

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The Logic of English Essentials course was designed to help beginning, struggling, and remedial readers or spellers, learn not only the sounds of the English language, but also the rules that govern them. It presents the phonograms' sounds from most common to least common. Here are two examples to help me explain. The letter 'i' can make 4 different sounds in English: i, ī, ē, and y. So the program teaches the student all 4, in order of frequency. The example on the back of the Basic Phonogram card shows: it   ivy   stadium   onion. (If you read those out loud, you'll see what I mean.) Another important part that this program teaches, is that more than one phonogram can make a similar sound. Some examples are the /er/ of her, the /er/ of search, and the /er/ of bird.

About that contained several things. The Logic of English Essentials Teacher's Manual ($95), the Essentials Manuscript Workbook ($25), the Phonogram and Spelling Game Book ($15), Red Manuscript Phonogram Game Cards ($10), Blue Bookface Phonogram Game Cards ($10), Spelling Rule Flash Cards ($15), and the Basic Phonogram Flash Cards ($18). This curriculum was put together by Denise Eide, if you would like to learn more about HOW the program began and grew, you can visit the about page on their website.

Before I tell you any more about this AMAZING curriculum, I need you to understand that it can be used with almost anyone, age 7 or above, in just about any learning setting. The LOE Essentials Teacher's Manual has a lengthy (about 60 page) Intro section that explains how to use the process with all different types of readers ( and spellers.) It also has sample schedules for each type of learner. Do you have a struggling speller aged nine to adult? An aged eight to adult struggling reader and speller? An emerging reader aged six or seven? Or maybe, you have an ESL (English as a Second Language) student? Maybe, just maybe, you're a teacher with a classroom full of students, with several different types of students you want to help. This program can be used with one student, or a roomful. Some of the games are more fun with a larger group!

(LOE has readiness programs for students aged 4-6, but you'll have to click the link at the bottom of this post to read the Crew reviews about it.)

If I could only pick ONE book to have for the rest of my days to use for English would be the LOE Essentials Teacher's Manual ($95). The subtitle of this book is "A Systematic Approach to Reading, Spelling, and Writing." Although Arlene already knows how to read, and write, I wanted to figure out what she had been missing that gave her such fits with spelling. So, instead of the abbreviated schedule for 'struggling spellers' we went step by step through each lesson, not just the spelling and vocabulary sections. I feel the need here to quote from Mrs. Eide's Intro, page 13, "The biggest hurdle for working with older struggling readers is shame and discouragement. It is often helpful to explain to them that it is not their fault that they have struggled. Rather, it is because they have not been taught in a way that makes sense to them." I would also encourage you to use these words with your struggling speller. This system makes sense.

Arlene was quite happy to spend part of two afternoons on the app, while I read through the Intro... but when it was time to break out the books, she hesitated. I used Mrs. Eide's words, and some encouragement of my own, to get her started. The first two lessons took some getting used to, but by lesson three we both better understood how the lesson would progress. During the lessons, the Teacher's Manual tells you where and when students should work in their Workbooks, when to use the Spelling Rule cards, and when to play w/ the game cards. Some of the games are fine with just 2 people (student and teacher) and some work better in a classroom or co-op setting.

The Essentials Student Workbook ($25) is available in 2 versions, Manuscript, or Cursive. Because Arlene's cursive is decent, but extremely slow, we chose the Manuscript version. If you decide to get the game cards, get the set that matches the workbook! The lessons vary in length, mostly depending on how many of the 'optional' extra reinforcement exercises you complete. There are 4 consistent areas in each lesson: Phonograms, Exploring Sounds, Spelling Rules, and Grammar.

The lessons have a spelling list of 15 words, but they are not your typical "frog, bog, log' lists. Each list has a variety of spelling words that incorporate the different phonograms your student is learning. Each 5th lesson (5, 10, 15, etc.) is an assessment & review lesson. Thus, you have spelling lists 1-4, 6-9, 11-14... I really appreciated the review after only five lessons. After the student finishes each spelling list, there are notes in the Teacher's manual to help you help them. Such as underlining the phonograms that are most important to the word. (The 'sh' in brush or the 'ch' and 'oo' in school.) These hints help you explain rules your student may have forgotten.

The best part? By lesson 4, Arlene's spelling was improving, by lesson 7, there were marked improvements. Earlier this week, she VOLUNTARILY wrote a letter to her Grandma! That's right, not an email w/ spell-check, a good, old-fashioned letter.

The Basic Phonogram Flashcards ($18) are the same information presented in the app, but in a printed format. It is quite alright to have both, but most people will want one or the other. If you're blessed by owning an iPad, I would recommend the app, because it lets you hear the phonograms spoken correctly (no accent or southern drawl or northern nasal.) If you are a classroom teacher, you're probably going to want the cards instead.

The Spelling Rule Flash Cards ($15) are helpful during the lesson, and for review later. They help your struggling speller remember what you're teaching. There are 9 cards that help explain 'silent e.' Rule 12.2 states "English words do not end in V or U." (Thus you need a silent e!) I think I'll have Emily (age 15) go through these cards as a refresher.

The Red Manuscrupt and Blue Bookface cards ($10 a set) we received are for use with the LOE Phonogram & Spelling Game Book ($15). You will want two sets for each 4 students (or less.) You'll want at least 2 sets, and the different colors make it so you can identify your own cards. There are the phonograms, and also cards for specific games, like the 'Dragon' and 'Rotten Egg' cards. Arlene and I played a few of the games, but since we were focusing on the spelling aspect the most, I didn't make her play all the suggested games.

If you're wanting to purchase more than one thing, LOE has packages, including the "Complete Printed Set" and a 'custom package' that you can see here that can save you some $. Also, for those of you that live overseas, you can purchase downloadable PDF's of the Teacher's & Students books. If you are a classroom teacher, there are Annual Classroom license PDF's of the student workbooks. (Much more economical than buying 25 printed copies!)

In the past, I have had friends recommend various spelling programs to us, from $5 to $100. Although we have tried several different means, LOE is the first one that is actually getting us to our end ... Arlene as a confident speller. I would give this program the highest recommendation. (If it's out of your price range--- save up for it! Or ask the Grandparents if it could be YOUR Christmas present.) 

Arlene's improvement in spelling is making her whole school day easier. Me, I'm smiling more, and rejoicing with her improvement. This is one book that we'll work on through the very last page.

You're sure to want to know about how the other Crew members felt about all the products they received from LOE, so go ahead, click the link below!


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