Thursday, April 16, 2015

Learning to Read with Memoria Press {A TOS Review}

Memoria Press Review
I am a big believer in teaching children to read by using a phonics approach. This comes from my background of working in a Montessori, and seeing my older children struggle with reading after being taught with the whole-language method in public school.  With Tabitha and Amelia, I was able to successfully teach them to read using some of the techniques I learned while working. Unfortunately, nothing seemed to be clicking for Hannah. As she only just turned 5, I haven't been too concerned, but I was beginning to wonder what curriculum or approach I needed to use with her. Once again, the Schoolhouse Review Crew has come to my rescue. This time with First Start Reading from Memoria Press.  

Memoria Press is a family owned company that is dedicated to providing Classical Christian Education products to homeschool families and private schools. When I was checking out the Memoria Press website to gauge my interest in the program, I loved what I was reading. I was intrigued by the thought of a traditional approach to learning phonics, especially because using the vowel-consonant blending approach with word families was what I have done in the past. I have seen other programs that use the ladder approach emphasizing consonant-vowel blending, and they just haven't been for us. Also emphasized with First Start Reading are correct pencil grip and letter formation. I have to tell you, it sure sounded like a well-rounded program.

The First Start Reading program is a set of 5 books. I received a Teacher Guide along with 4 Student Books (A-D). As a child works through the program they will learn the sounds of the letters plus learn how to write them correctly. By the third lesson the child will have learned their first simple word, "am" along with their first sentence, "I am Hannah." The program adds letters one by one, having the child build onto the word family as they learn new letters. As they get further into the program, children learn to add new letters to the beginning of the ending-blend/word family and they also begin to learn a new word family if applicable. After mastering words with short a in the first book, the child goes on to learn  words with short i and short o in Book B. Short e and short u are focused on in Book C. Finally, in Book D, the child learns words with long vowels, digraphs, final consonant blends and s, r, and l blends. A child begins the program by learning a letter sounds one at a time, and by the time they finish all 4 books, they  are reading stories which contain 5 and 6 letter words!

I have found the Teacher Guide to be invaluable with this curriculum. There is a 10-page introduction that includes:
  • Alphabet chart illustrating proper letter formation
  • A run down of the contents for each Student Book. Each chart lists the lesson number plus what is learned in each lesson (letters/sounds, words learned, reading skills taught, and sentences learned, along with the page number).
  • Phonics Overview
  • Phonics Approach
  • Getting Started
  • General Teaching Guidelines
  • Information about the workbook
  • Phonics Recitation suggestion
  • Pencil Grip information
  • Printing Lessons
  • Game Suggestions for adding variety and interest
The Teacher Guide then moves into the Lesson Plans for each of the Student Books (A-D).  The information in the introduction (sections on General Teaching Guidelines and Workbook) explain specifics about using the lesson plan pages. These lesson pages contain a copy of the student page with instructions for the teacher, specifying what to do and say for each page. The scripted parts that the teacher is supposed to say are in italic font, while the instructions for the teacher are in regular font. When there is an answer expected from the child it will be shown in smaller font in parentheses. 

Additionally, in the back of the Teacher Guide, you will find an appendix with a selection of posters. These include:
  • b-d hand poster
  • b-d bed poster
  • left and right mitten posters
  • left and right pencil grip posters
  • short vowel posters
Now, let's look at the Student Books. 

Each book begins with the content chart which is also found in the Teacher Guide. Each lesson spans a two-page spread.  Let's look at some of the lessons in Book A.

The child will find pictures that begin with the letter/sound they are learning. These are hand-drawn by the author and appropriate for coloring, which is usually done at the conclusion of the day's lesson. The majority of the lessons have a space for the child to illustrate a word, or later on a sentence of their choosing. The printing practice section of the lesson is either a half a page or a full page of age-appropriate lines. When learning letters, the printed letter with correct formation is shown, which the child can trace with their finger.  Then there is a line of dotted letters to trace, and another line for the child to practice writing alone. 

As the child moves into blending, starting with lesson 3, there will be a couple of lines for practicing blending the sounds together before the word is shown as a whole. First the child blends the sounds by tracing the dashed blend lines, then the word is written by tracing over the dotted lines. Finally, a sentence is learned using the sounds already known.

As the child works through the book and learns new sounds, new words are taught at a faster pace.  They are able to see how they can add a new letter to the beginning of the ending blend and make new words thanks to using Word Families, so several new words can be learned at once.

At the back of Books A-C there are cumulative Word Mastery Reviews.  They are organized by Word Families, and each book adds the new words learned to the lists. There is also a section for reviewing the "Common Words" that were learned. Assessments are then given and the results are recorded on the Assessment Records pages of each book. In Book D there are assessments throughout the book, after each lesson.

We have been working our way through Book A, at the pace of a few lessons a week.  The first thing we worked on was proper pencil grip, as recommended in the book. I was pleased to see that Hannah can hold the pencil well.

We have used the chalk board to work on proper letter formation.

And with each new sound introduced, we are to do an ear training activity for phonemic awareness.  I am to say several words to Hannah, some of which start with the new sound and some of which do not. She is to tell me whether she hears the sound or not. This is also done using ending sounds, to really get the child to listen and distinguish the sound from the other sounds.  To make this activity a bit more hands on, I made simple letter/sound cards. If she hears the sound she is to lift the letter up. If she doesn't hear the sound she doesn't pick it up. She usually will shake her head no, or say no if she doesn't hear it.

 We then move on to tracing and writing in the workbook.

This program is exactly what I was looking for. Hannah is so excited to be learning to read. I have even caught her trying her hand at writing her own sentences. They aren't quite understandable yet, but things are starting to click for her. . The pages are simple and not flashy, which would be a distraction for Hannah. However, there is enough variety in each lesson that she is not bored. She gets to listen, write, blend/read, color, and draw. Additionally, I have found this program to be very well organized. I love that it begins by teaching letters that have continuous sounds which are easier to blend. Definitely, a well-rounded program and one I highly recommend!

You can find Memoria Press on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and Instagram.

My fellow Crew Mates have been using either First Start Reading or New American Cursive from Memoria Press. Don't forget to stop by and check out their reviews. Just click on the banner below.

Memoria Press Review

Crew Disclaimer


  1. This looks like great learning and reading material. I'm going to share with my sister as she homeschools and I think she'd really love to learn about this company.

  2. What a great way to teach the little ones such an important skill!

  3. This sounds great! I will have to check it out. We homeschool so I'm always looking for new things like this!

  4. This is great! It's awesome to learn of new ideas to help teach kids!

  5. I don't know much about home schooling but this looks like an effective approach.

  6. I am with you on the phonics approach! They use this method at my child's school and he is doing very well. I also started with my oldest with sight words when he was three and I think it's helped quite a bit with his reading level in kindergarten now. I will have to check this out and see if I can't start a few things with my three year old now,

  7. My little ones would enjoy these workbooks. They love to read and I like the approach.

  8. It looks like a great program. I have to admit I've never heard about it... until now ;-)

  9. I love all the reinforcement the workbooks provide. What a great way to encourage reading.


Thank you for visiting my blog today. I love to read your comments, so please leave me one if you have the time.

Related Posts with Thumbnails