McRuffy Phonics and Reading Program

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Has phonics gone to the dogs? McRuffy would hope so! Ruff McRuffy is the endearing mascot of this friendly, professionally written phonics program. This program seems written with the homeschooler in mind; you won't find any classroom orientation in the lessons, but you will find everything you need all right here, with very minimal preparation or planning time required. The author clearly has an organized and creative mind! Within each tidy, colorful box you'll find: Teacher manual complete with detailed, daily lesson plans; cardstock charts and flash cards; oodles of reproducibles; ready-to-make-and-play games and lots of additional game ideas; two ample student workbooks; weekly assessments; leveled readers; spelling and word lists; phonics manipulatives; AND plenty of worthwhile advice. You'll especially appreciate the Lesson Plans - they are quite easy to follow, giving you objectives for the day, what you need to prepare and how to present the lesson, including actual scripting. Daily handwriting is incorporated into the lesson plans and you can prepare sheets (master included) for the lesson OR purchase the optional handwriting books available (your choice of style - see below). Spelling is also a daily strand incorporated right into the plans. Reading and reading comprehension? Also included. Yup, it's all here in a tidy little box. This program is not as intense as some of the others we carry (like Sing, Spell, Read and Write). This will appeal to those who like a more relaxed approach or have less time per day to invest - or with children who don't want to sit still as long! Instruction is more bite-sized, making it ideal for children with shorter attention spans as well. The K level starts out gently, teaching letter recognition (more at a review pace) while slowly introducing letter sounds. There are 171 daily lessons after which students have learned all of their letter sounds, can discriminate between vowels and consonants, and have learned long vowels (with silent 'e') plus the 'ee', 'oa' and 'ay' vowel digraphs. Some consonant blends are also introduced as are the 'sh' digraph and the soft sounds of c and g. Frequently-used sight words are also introduced early so children can read in a less contrived manner (it's hard to read sentences without 'the', 'is' 'in', etc.). These include color words. Blending begins immediately - which I see as one of the biggest strengths of the program. After learning short 'a' (Lesson 1) and the sound of 'b' (Lesson 2), children put them together in blends ('ab', 'ba') and "read" them in Lesson 3. Letters are introduced in a deliberate order so as to equip the child to read more words quickly. The pace is far from frenetic, however. To illustrate, in the first quarter of the K program, only 8 letters and 4 sight words are learned (in 41 lessons). There is not a lot of busywork, either. Besides handwriting practice (very short at first), there is usually only one reinforcing workbook page per lesson, including assessment pages. Workbook pages are attractive and exercises are varied and interesting - I must say, even the illustrations are markedly nicer than those found in some 'brand name' workbooks. Lessons tell you when each reader should be tackled, providing scripted comprehension questions as well. The author has also thoughtfully incorporated reduced pages of the reader right in the lesson, so you don't have to "share" the reader. Reduced pages of each workbook page are also here. What an eye for convenience! You can actually plan your day and lessons without flipping through every book in the package! My only real quibble in the K level is a personal one and concerns the introduction of long vowels. I prefer introducing open syllable long vowels first, then the two vowel together rule, then the 'magic e', which can go through a single consonant in a syllable to make the first vowel long. Most programs introduce the silent 'e' first, however, as does this one. When the long 'a' is introduced here, the rule should be stated more universally and emphatically than this lesson does. It needs to be clear to the child that this will apply with all vowels, not just the 'a'. Ten lessons later, when long 'i' is introduced, students are told that it works the same way as for 'a'. As I said, this is more my personal preference - I feel that once children are given the general rule, they will be able to read a lot more and more quickly than going through each digraph one by one. Three open syllable words are learned in Lesson 137, and here a general rule is given (yea!). Readers are constructed from folded, saddle-stitched paper (more like small booklets) with black line drawings (not unlike Bob Books) - but most phonetic readers are not going to get a lot of handling. Typically, as reading ability progresses, children don't revisit controlled readers! Illustrations are cute and story lines about as interesting as you can get with limited language constructs. Content steadily improves with reading ability, as the author is, in fact, a rather good writer (see his Book of Matt series in our Library Builders section).

In first grade, both a phonics and a language scope and sequence are included as now English instruction is incorporated into the program (I like that!), making this your total language arts curriculum. Each objective in a lesson is keyed as P (phonics), S (spelling), R (reading), L (language), CW (creative writing) or H (handwriting). There are 160 days of, again, totally detailed and scripted lessons. Phonics instruction reviews skills taught in Level K then includes: consonant blends (beginning and ending, two- and three-letter); r-controlled vowels; vowel digraphs 'ai' and 'ea' (along with, finally, the two-vowel 'rule'); word endings and rules ('-ing', '-er'); contractions; 'y' as long 'i' and 'y' as long 'e'; consonant digraphs 'ch' and 'th'; vowel digraphs 'oo' (short and long), 'ow' (both), 'ou', 'aw', 'oi', 'oy'; silent letters b, k, w; two-syllable words with 'le' endings; '-ind'; '-all'; and 'o' words having a short 'u' sound (love). Pretty comprehensive. Language lessons present a whole myriad of skills (too many to list here) - among them alphabetical order, parts of speech, capitalization and punctuation, correct use of tense, syllables, prefixes and suffixes, rhyming, proofreading, vocabulary development, etc. There are now ten spelling words per week. Weekly creative writing assignments have students writing stories, using ideas in the readers as springboards. Many ideas for implementing and presenting these assignments are given in The Writing Process section of the Teacher Manual.

The second-grade kit completes the program. Phonics instruction includes review; suffixes and rules; alternate spellings for phonemes (like 'eigh', 'ei', 'ey', 'ea' to say long 'a') - this includes most all vowel digraphs taught in any comprehensive program too many to list here); silent letters; 'wa' (short 'o' sound), 'ough', 'augh' and 'au'; prefixes, 'tion'; compound words; three-syllable words. After finishing this level, your phonics instruction should be complete; the emphasis from here on should switch to correct spelling. Language skills continue as in Grade 1, but deepen. Spelling lists are longer for each week. Again, weekly writing assignments are linked to the readers and consist primarily of writing stories. Please note that there is no flash card/chart pack at this level as drill should no longer be needed.

Very nicely done program and a great value as well, since it incorporates spelling, handwriting, English (usage, grammar, mechanics, and writing), and reading besides phonics instruction.

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