We have had a difficult time with AJ’s reading. She was reading at four years old and loving to learn. Then when she went to kindergarten we were told that the school was no longer teaching phonics. Instead they wanted the students to simply memorize words. And I am not talking about sight words, I mean she was expected to remember words that could be sounded out. She would even get in trouble for sounding out the words! It was a huge issue and it caused AJ to really hate reading. We have come a long way since then, but I still see her just guess at words she doesn’t know. She also struggles with spelling because she doesn’t know all of the phonetic rules.
I have been looking for something to help reinforce and improve AJ’s reading, but most of the programs I have come across seem too young for AJ. When we were given the chance to review the Ultimate Phonics Reading Program from Spencer Learning I was a little hesitant. I had AJ take their reading test and she missed seven words. The test stated if the child missed ten or more words they were missing advanced phonics decoding skills. I decided that using the Ultimate Phonics Reading Program could probably help AJ’s reading.
What is the Ultimate Phonics Reading Program?
This program is quite different from any other phonics program we have used. It is computer based, but it is downloaded to your computer so you don’t need internet to use the program on a daily basis. It is not gamed based and it doesn’t have animated characters or bright colors. Instead it focusses only on phonics. The program is simple to use and can be used for the entire family. It has 262 lessons that teach different sounds and blends to help your child become a better reader.
The first lesson covers the alphabet and the basic sounds of the consonants. After the initial lesson, the rest of the lessons follow a pattern. Since AJ knows a lot of the basics we jumped to level 150 to start. It is recommended that everyone start at the beginning to make sure they don’t miss a concept, but I felt comfortable skipping ahead. We may go over some of the beginning lessons in the future.
Each lesson begins with an Idea or Pattern. In this section of the lesson your child is introduced to a sound, a letter pattern (eigh, oll, ue, exc.), or a phonetic rule or idea. This is simply a page where the idea or pattern is explained. The child can read this information to their self or have the computer read it to them.
The next part of the lesson is the Word List. In this section words that follow the pattern are listed. The number of words varies depending on the lesson. Your child can hear each word read to them by hovering over the word with the mouse. The child should read each word at this time.
The third part of the lesson is the Words. There is a slide for each word on the word list. The child can hear the word, see it broken into syllables, and hear how each letter comes together to form the sound of the word.
The final part of the lesson is the Sentence. There are a few sentences that the child should be able to read. The sentences are made up of words that the child has learned up to that point.
Once the child has finished listening and reading each section they can move to the next lesson or repeat the lesson if needed.
How We Used the Ultimate Phonics Reading Program
When I started to show AJ the program she didn’t like it. She thought that going over phonics was boring and for younger kids. Then I showed her how easy it was and she willingly gave it a try. The first lessons I had her do took five or ten minutes each. She went through each word quickly and then hurried to read the sentences. I made her slow down and not only read but spell each word so that she would remember what she was learning. I haven’t noticed an improvement in AJ’s reading yet, but I have noticed her looking at the words and thinking about them before guessing. I think we will continue with this program because it is well done. I think AJ would have liked to read if she had used a program like this.
What We Thought About the Ultimate Phonics Reading Program
This program goes over so many different sound combinations. I think that anyone who goes through the program would become a strong reader. I like that it is easy to use. A child should easily be able to use the program with little assistance. I also appreciated the fact that the program is off line. When AJ was learning to read I would have been a lot more comfortable with her using an offline program than an online one. While the program is phonetically sound, there were a few things we didn’t care for.
- No Interaction – The student could hover over a word or sound, but they weren’t required to do anything. AJ could easily skip to the end of a lesson without doing anything, and I wouldn’t know. I think this also gives the child a chance to just zone out.
- Computerized Voice – AJ didn’t like the voice that read the words. She said it made her want to fall asleep. I didn’t think it was that bad, but I did think it was a little monotone.
- Didn’t Know Where to Start – After taking the test to see if AJ could benefit from the test, I expected to be told a place where she should start. She thought the first lessons were way below her level, and they were, but I didn’t want to skip too much. It would be great if there was a way to know where to start older children.
- Lack of Fun – With so many fun games and activities available, this program seems boring. I like that it focuses on learning, but if your child needs fun and excitement while they are learning, they may find this lacking.
Overall it is a great program. I learned a few things by clicking through the patterns. If you want a no nonsense way for your child to learn to read, this would be perfect. Even though it is computer based, parental involvement would be needed to make sure your child is staying on task and really reading the words correctly. The best part of this program is that there is a FREE trial. Try it out and see if it would be a good fit for your child.
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