Saturday, February 25, 2012

Review of All About Reading Pre-level 1

All About Reading is the newest line of products from All About Learning Press, the makers of All About Spelling. All About Reading level pre-1 and level 1 are currently available, with level 2 due out some time this year. At the time of this writing I have completed level pre-1 with one child, and am in the first few lessons of it with another one. I have also recently started level 1.

If I had to say what made All About Reading (AAR) so great in a single, short sentence, it would be, "All About Reading is research based." The author, Marie Rippel, is extremely well read in the research and studies behind what makes successful readers, and AAR focuses on the things that have the most impact on future reading success. Marie terms these "The Big Five Skills" and describes what they are better than I can.

Of these Big Five Skills, phonological awareness is the one most overlooked or underestimated by other learn-to-read programs out there. Phonological awareness is, "

I don't know if it is that they are ignorant of the importance of this skill, or if they assume children develop this skill naturally and don't need to be taught. Some children do develop phonemic awareness naturally; my oldest two children did.

AAR level pre-1 takes your child through the alphabet three times. The first time through focuses on capital letters, the second time on lower case letters, and the final time on the most common sound of each of the letters. This level is "pre-1", because it doesn't teach reading. Rather, it teaches the skills necessary for reading success, skills that most other learn-to-read programs overlook (more on this in a bit). Depending on your child's development and upon your feelings on the better late than early debate, AAR level pre-1 would be appropriate for 3 year olds on up to even 7 or 8 year olds. For me and mine, I find it best for 5 year olds, although I still put it to good use with a 6 year old last year because it wasn't published until just after his 6th birthday.

Like all All About Learning Press products, All About Reading is set up to be taught at the child's pace. Level pre-1 has 78 lessons, but an older child could do 2 lessons a day and a very young child could work at the pace of 1 lesson per week. I used it last year in the second half of Kindergarten doing 1 lesson a day, and I am starting it this year in the second half of preschool aiming for 2 days on each lesson.

In addition to introducing a letter and doing phonological awareness activities, each lesson of level pre-1 also has you sing the alphabet song while pointing out each letter on the chart, read a selection from one of two books (Zigzag Zebra or Lizard Lou), do an ABC Craft Sheet (a sampling of pages my son completed is to the right), do some additional letter activities (the teacher’s manual gives a list of suggestions), and finally 20 minutes of Read Aloud Time is scheduled. You are left to choose the books for reading aloud, but it is scheduled so that you remember the importance of doing it. I use Sonlight for our Read Aloud Time.

I don't use the zebra puppet. As popular as Ziggy seems to be, it's just not in me to talk to a child through a puppet. Too many bad Lamb Chop memories, I guess. My kids have done well with me just reading, "Ziggy says..." and then doing the activity without the puppet. Anyway, if you have similar puppet feelings, just rest assured the program works just fine without it.

Lastly, I thought I'd share an iPod app that I've been using with my youngest as another option for the additional letter activities. The iWriteWords app is a cute and fun way for your little one to practice writing capital and lower case letters, and then words. I like this app better than numerous other free and less expensive ones, because this app teaches letter form the same way that my chosen handwriting curriculum, Handwriting Without Tears, does. Too many of the other apps I found allowed the child to trace the letter any way they wanted too. I know from past experience how important it is to develop the habit of starting letters at the top from the very beginning, or they will never break the habit of starting at the bottom. Anyway, there is an iWriteWords lite. It only includes the letters A, B, and C, capitals and lower case, but it does give you a chance to see if you'll like it before you buy.

Flashcards with 4 Kids at One Time

Last week I did math flashcards with four kids, with four very different abilities, all at once. It was a great review for each of the kids on their own level, and was great fun to boot. I used multiplication flashcards, but it would work with addition flashcards as well. 

Here's how it worked:
I showed the card to my 7 yo and he had to tell me what the two numbers added together equaled. Then I showed the card to my 9 yo and he had to tell me what the numbers multiplied equaled. Then my 12 year old, whose back had been to the flashcard the entire time, had to tell me what the two numbers were after having only heard their sum and their product. Finally my preschooler read off the two numbers.

Did you get that? Let me try again. Using the top card pictured at the right here, my 7 yo old would say, "5", my 9 yo would say "6", and my 12 yo would have to think what two numbers add up to 5 and multiple up to 6. She would answer "2 and 3" and then my preschooler would look at the cards, read off the numbers "3 and 2" and tell the 12 yo that she was right.

All four kids enjoyed the activity so much that they begged to do it more and were disappointed when I told them we would save it to do again next week. 

Anyway, I got this idea for the book If I'm Diapering a Watermelon, Then Where'd I Leave the Baby?: Help for the Highly Distractible Mom by Carol Barnier, although I did modify it to include the preschooler as well. If you have never heard Carol Barnier speak, I highly recommend going out of your way to hear her. A few of her talks can be heard on her website, although it was the one with the same title as the above book and the one titled "Don't Miss the Gift in This Child" that touched me so deeply.