Thursday, November 12, 2015

Fun-Time Phonics! from The Critical Thinking Co. {A TOS Review}

We had the opportunity to try out another product from The Critical Thinking Co. thanks to the Schoolhouse Review Crew. This time around, the product was Fun-Time Phonics!, and it was best suited for Hannah as she falls in the target age group of preschool through 2nd grade. I had also hoped Harold would get some use out of it, as we do consider him "preschool" age. However, he wasn't quite ready for it as he is only a young preschooler 
Fun-Time Phonics! by Presidential award-winning educator Robert Femiano is a 320 page book that helps develop a young child's prereading skills using activities that focus on phonemic and alphabetic skills. There are 4 different sections:
  • Phonemic Awareness
  • Alphabetics
  • Beginning to Read
  • Words I Can Read
The Phonemic Awareness section is divided into 4 sub-sections. In this section a child is taught to distinguish the sounds they hear in a word. There is a big emphasis on the vowel sounds as it has been shown how important it is for a child to be able to distinguish them from the very beginning for successful reading.  The first 14 activities are phonemic awareness focused. The child will focus on beginning and ending sounds, rhyming, putting sounds together, and short vowel sounds. Each activity is 4-6 pages long. A child will be asked to listen to the words and point to the picture that meets the criteria for that particular lesson. 

The bulk of the book is devoted to the Alphabetics section, where a child is to connect sounds to letters. The same technique of looking at a group of pictures and pointing to the correct answer is used. This time, instead of just hearing the sound, the child will see the letter that is being emphasized. The letter/letter combination  is shown at the beginning of each row of pictures. 

Alphabetics begins with activities focused on the short vowel sounds in the middle of the words. It then goes through the remainder of the letters in alphabetical order. Each activity focuses on the specific beginning letter with one of the vowels. For instance the child will have two to three pages of finding words that start with "ba," then "be," then "bi," then "bo," and finally "bu." The word used always contain the regular short vowel sound connected to the first letter of the word, in preparation to reading short vowel C-V-C words. The exception are the letters Q, X, Y, and Z. These each just have one page introducing the letter and some words that are started with the letter. 

We then move into the Beginning to Read section which contains 6 activities. The child(ren) just spent the last 75 activities focusing on listening to words and picking the picture that began with the specific letter pairs. For the next, longer activity, "Identifying Beginning Letter Pairs" the child is given one picture and is asked to point to the letter pair that begins the word.  The next activity is called "Co-Articulating Initial Sounds." These pages are almost identical to the Alphabetics section, except the child is asked to say the sounds of the two letters at the beginning of the row themselves. Each row focuses on a different letter pair and reminds me of a review of the previous Alphabetics section. In the next lesson, Identifying Ending Sounds, there is a picture at the beginning of the row and the first two letters of the word are given. The child has to pick the correct letter to end the word. The following activity is similar, however they are Identifying Middle Letters

The child is now ready to read actual words. The entire book, from learning to listen for the sounds in words, to connecting the sounds to the letters, and  reading the beginning sounds to finding the correct letter to complete a word, has enabled the child to read the simple C-V-C words. This activity is called Reading First Words.  The child is taught to look at the middle letter first and combine it with the beginning letter and then say them together before ending with the final letter. They are to read the word and find the matching picture. The final activity in the Beginning to Read section is Reading for Meaning. The child is to read two simple C-V-C words for each row. This time, one of the words is an adjective and the child has to make sure to read the words correctly, again mastering the middle vowel, to make sure they choose the right picture. For instance, being able to distinguish "hot pot" from "hot pet" and "red cap" from "red cup."

The final section is only 2 pages long. There are 194 words in the Words I Can Read list, separated into groups by vowel sound.

I like the way the book builds on what is learned in previous activities. From my days at working at the Montessori, I learned the importance of phonemic awareness. When the older girls were younger I made sure to emphasize the sounds of the letters and the letters themselves. The progression of activities in Fun-Time Phonics! makes perfect sense to me. Unfortunately, Hannah has been struggling through the lessons. It has been slow going as she gets tired after just one or two pages of the activity. Instead of a full activity at a time, we have gotten through one or two pages each day we have a lesson. And I have tried making this as relaxed as possible. We have sat together on the couch, and I tell her what the pictures are, then she repeats them and points to her answer. 

I have also noted that she is still having trouble distinguishing between the vowel sounds. She has had trouble with her hearing in the past, so I am wondering if that is part of it. I also think she is finding the lessons too repetitive. The entire book is the same thing, listen to the words, look at the pictures, pick the correct answer. It is suggested that the child could write the answers below the pictures, either with pencil or by "writing" with their fingers. However, this might work for another child, but I think the added work would turn Hannah off even more. 

We will continue to work our way through the book, a page or so at a time as it gives her practice with hearing and saying the sounds. Plus it is some one-on-one time for mommy and daughter. I am hoping to see something click for her soon. 

As long as your child enjoys workbooks and is okay with repetition, this is really a well organized book. I just wish there was some way to add something to the lessons to make it less repetitive. I want reading to be a fun time, not something my daughter dreads coming to do. 

You can purchase Fun-Time Phonics! from The Critical Thinking Co. for $39.99. It is also available for Windows download for up to 2 computers for $19.99. 

Don't forget to click on the banner below to stop by and check out my fellow Crew Mates' thoughts on this and other Critical Thinking Co. products. The other products reviewed are: Surfing the Net: Science, The Basics of Critical Thinking, U. S. History Detective Book 1, and Practical Critical Thinking

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