Wednesday, April 15, 2015

First Start Reading Review

It is always exciting when your child learns a new skill. Understanding the concept of fractions, memorizing the states and capitols, and learning how to bake a cake on your own are all great things, but my favorite thing to teach is reading. Why? Well, for one, most other subjects are dependent on the ability to read. You want to learn how to preform an experiment? You must read the instructions. You want to try a new recipe? You must read the directions. You want to find a cheat for that level of your game that you're stuck on {wink}? You must be able to read others' advice. Reading is a big deal in our home, and the foundation of our curriculum is based it. My 9-year-old is required to read a minimum of 1 1/2 hours every school day and then spend time reading on the weekends, as well. He will also spend time at night enjoying a book before he falls asleep. And while his love of reading didn't come naturally but had to be cultivated, it never would have happened had he not learned how to read in the first place. Yes, reading is highly regarded in our home.

I taught first graders before staying home to raise my family and I've since taught 3 of my own children to read, so I've seen many different reading curricula. I'm always interested in seeing other programs though. We had the opportunity to review First Start Reading and since I've heard wonderful things about Memoria Press I was excited to try it out.

The First Start Reading program includes 4 books (A-D) and a comprehensive Teacher Guide. Not only does this curriculum teach an age-appropriate approach to phonics and reading, but also instructs proper pencil grip and letter formation. It covers both short and long vowels, consonants, 45 common words, and manuscript printing. One thing that I appreciate about this curriculum is that it teaches the vowel-consonant approach, instead of the ladder approach. For instance, in a CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) word, the ladder approach teaches the student to read the first two letter together and then add the last letter (e.g. sa-t, sa-d, Sa-m). The vowel-consonant approach teaches the student through word families, or rhyming words (e.g. c-at, r-at, s-at). When I taught first grade in a private school, the curriculum was ladder-based. I, myself, have always used rhyming word families to teach my own children.

I used these books with my 5-year-old. You know, there's a joke about homeschool kids not knowing what grade they're in. It's funny because it's true. Technically, he's too young to officially be in kindergarten (according to the cut-off date for the beginning of the school year), but he's been doing its work for many months now. My other kids will ask if he's in kindergarten. Yes, but no. Make sense? Regardless, since he's been reading for a while now, I started him halfway through the program, Book C.

The book begins with learning the short E. The student colors pictures beginning with the sound, draws his own picture, and traces and writes both capital and lower case letters. From there, he practices blending that /e/ sound with other letters and then using those blends to write words. The student also learns common sight words, like have, are, of, put, and so on. Lesson 4 is where the real fun begins--reading a story! The short stories use those blends and sight words that the student has been practicing. They are broken down into chapters, or lessons, and give the student a place to draw and accompanying picture. At the end of the story, the student is tested on those words through dictation. The process repeats itself throughout the book. 

The Teacher Guide includes instruction for the teacher, a word-for-word script that can be used for the student, and questions to further discuss the stories. 

My son enjoys reading and was pleased to color the illustrations and draw his own pictures for the stories. He's not so crazy about the writing portions though, ha. I should clarify that his lack of excitement has nothing to do with the book and everything to do with the actual process. Generally, we complete 1 lesson a day. For the longer writing lessons, we might split them to 2 days, not because the lessons are too long, but because he's still strengthening and learning to control his writing. 

I am enjoying using this curriculum. The lessons are short which is good for kindergarteners; the book teaches the material, applies it, and then reinforces by testing; and it includes a bit of fun with coloring and drawing. My son is doing well and I'm excited to see how he does in Book D.

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Memoria Press offers many different products. You can  read more reviews of this reading program or their cursive curriculum on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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