Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Learning Dynamics Review

One of my favorite things about homeschooling is seeing something "click" in the brains of my kids. That first realization of understanding is so exciting to witness! And being the one to help them to that point is extra special.

At the top of my list of favorite things to teach is reading. Knowing letters and their sounds, learning to blend, making words, and then reading full sentences--it's a thrilling experience for both student and teacher. The road to get there is not always an easy journey though. The path can be filled with frustrations--for everyone involved. That's why Learning Dynamics has created a kit to hinder those aggravations and make the learning process simple and enjoyable. The Learning Dynamics Reading Program is designed to help both student and teacher during this exciting milestone.

The Learning Dynamics program was written to help children develop language and comprehension skills in a way that is great for little ones. It is appropriate for all learning styles as it combines visual, auditory, and kinesthetic activities for a multi-sensory approach. This phonics-based program has been used in classrooms for over 15 years for preschool through second grade students. It has been thoroughly researched by the University of Oregon and was proven to improve literacy.

The full program comes with everything you need to teach your child to read. All the components come in a study, cardboard box which makes it perfect for storing and organizing.

  • Lesson Manual -- gives a brief synopsis of each lesson along with the step-by-step details; also lists optional activities and tips
  • Alphabet Music CD -- 34 original songs teaching letter sounds, vowels, and the alphabet; MP3 download is also included
  • Flashcards -- 3 sets of cards for teaching: letter cards with both capital and lowercase, lowercase letters with characters, and letter blends or "special sounds"
  • Student Activity Workbook -- a simple one-page activity is included with each lesson; coloring, drawing, and writing skills are covered  
  • Letter Rewards -- character punch-outs to reward the student for each letter learned
  • Books -- over 50 full-color, mini books; divided into 4 reading levels and color-coded  

The program is designed to be taught in 15 minutes a day 3 days a week. Each simple lesson follows the same format: introduction of the letter using a flashcard, short story highlighting the letter and introducing the character, letter song from the CD, worksheet in the student workbook, letter song again, final check using the flashcard, optional activity to reinforce the letter sound and have fun, and blending letters starting in lesson 5.

Most phonics programs teach letter sounds out of order, and this one is no different. Learning Dynamics starts with the letter M since that is one of the first sounds children make (think mama and variations of it in other languages). From there, you introduce vowels and consonants that work together. The goal is to get the child to blend the sounds and make words in the early stages of learning.

I'm in a bittersweet phase of homeschooling as I am teaching my last child to read. Part of me wants to keep him a baby forever, but the other part gets excited every time he masters a new skill. When I first opened the box, my boy was ecstatic. Books and cards and lots of fun! The lessons are short and keep his attention. His favorite part of lesson 1 was earning an M&M for every word beginning with the letter M that he found around the house (my older kids loved giving him hints!) Even though the curriculum suggests completing a lesson every other day, I was thrilled when he wanted to learn his letters every day for a week.

Then he hit a wall. He started getting confused by all the sounds and in turn frustrated when I wanted him to review instead of continuing with the next letter. (That shows you how much he loves the lessons though!) His stubborn streak shined through and he would not cooperate.

He is only 4-years-old and has over a year before he begins kindergarten, so I'm following his lead using this program. I've had an excited reader at 3 and a reluctant reader at 6 along with everything in between with my other kids. I've learned it's easiest to teach when the child is interested.

I decided to take some time off of lessons. I would gently review by pointing out letters we saw in books or signs and reiterate their sounds. After a week or so, he was eager to learn more. We are taking it slower now, but still having fun. His favorite part of the lessons is the songs. We listen to the alphabet song (different version which says the sounds along with the letters) at the beginning of each lesson and then a specific letter song twice during the lesson. The songs have sweet, children's melodies. I've heard other children's music use popular tunes to make it more appealing to the adults, but I much prefer this style. My little guy loves music and is often heard singing while playing. Now, I hear him singing phrases like "twist, and twirl, and tumble" and "d, d, d, d, Let's sing words that start with D." My favorite though is when he shouts out, "Go sweat!" because the end of the alphabet song is "No sweat!" and he doesn't realize he's singing it wrong. The handful of melodies are reused for multiple letters which makes it familiar and easier for the child to sing along. I even find myself humming the catchy tunes throughout the day!

The flashcards come in 2 sizes and can be used in a variety of ways. The letter cards have the capital on one side and the lowercase on the back. The blend cards or special sounds cards have the blend on the front and multiple words that contain it on the back. The larger cards have a lowercase letter with the character which match the smaller reward cards with the pronunciation and character name on the back. My boy loves to pull out the letter rewards that he's earned and play with the characters. He also likes to use them to help him look for that letter around the house. We keep his in a little plastic container so he can easily grab them to review and to make it special.

The books (along with the lesson manual and student workbook) are approximately 7x7 inches. The first few books have only 4 pages and only a word or two on each one. After that, there are a few more pages per book and complete sentences. Level one which covers short vowel sounds has 23 books; the other levels each have 10 books.

This curriculum is extremely easy to use. There is practically no set up work involved for the parent. The activities vary slightly as they suggest things like taking a walk with an umbrella for letter U, playing with a yo-yo for letter Y, slithering like a snake to S words, find D words with a dinosaur detector, and more.

There are a few typos throughout the lesson manual, but nothing that would hinder you from understanding the meaning. However, in lessons 34-38, the second time the letter song is played, it instructs to sing the M song (first lesson) instead of the current letter and point to the pictures on the back of the page instead of the opposing page. It's not a big deal, but something to note.

Learning Dynamics is a full reading program. By the end of the curriculum, a student will have learned not only letters and sounds and reading short vowel words, but also long vowels and many pesky special sounds that are found in the English language, like sh, ch, scr, soft c, and more. For now though, we're still trying not to get confused by p, b, and d.

One thing that I would love to see added to the kit is an alphabet sheet. We listen to the song with each lesson, but there is no visual to look at, which makes it difficult for someone just learning the letters to follow along. I printed off two sheets--one uppercase and one lowercase--and alternate which one we use. This way, my son can not only follow along, but also associate both versions of each letter with the sound. Pointing to the letters as we sing them helps to cement them in his mind.

My little guy is loving using the Learning Dynamics Reading Program. He's not quite reading yet, but he likes sounding out the words in his books with me and thoroughly enjoys completing his lessons.

I'm excited to see how his literacy skills improve as we continue through the program.

You can connect with Learning Dynamics on the following social media sites:

Be sure to read more reviews of this reading program on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

Learning Dynamics Reading Program  {Learning Dynamics Reviews}
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