Learning to read is a cohesive, multi-sensory experience with Abeka material. Each age/grade level (3-year-olds through 2nd grade) provides systematic, intensive phonics (as opposed to “whole word” or “sight reading”). Phonics instruction is a significant portion of the PK, K4, and K5 Early Learning Programs as well as the Grade 1 and Grade 2 Language Arts programs. In these last two grade levels, phonics is integrated with handwriting, reading, and spelling skills. In the Early Learning/Kindergarten years, number skills and other subjects are woven together. As you use the Curriculum/Lesson Plans for each level, there will be instructional sections on these other subjects along with references to many non-phonics Abeka materials. If pulled out from these, the phonics instructional materials can still stand alone and be used successfully, although isolation from general language arts will become increasingly difficult as the student moves into the 1st and 2nd grades.
Abeka phonics instruction is broken down into six basic steps.
- Learn to recognize the short vowels and their sounds.
- Learn to recognize the consonants and their sounds (particularly letters at the beginning of words).
- Learn to blend the vowels and consonants – following the left-to-right pattern of reading, Abeka starts with front-end blending (beginning consonant blended into short vowel sound).
- Learn to sound one-vowel words (adding ending consonants to the consonant-vowel blends that have been learned).
- Learn the sounds of the long vowels/Learn to sound two-vowel words (begins with K Lesson 93)
- Learn and apply special sounds (132 common letter combinations – these include beginning/ending blends, digraphs, a few sight words, r-controlled vowels, etc.)
Letter and sound awareness – including letter formation – (Step 1) mark the PK years. Repetition is noticeable in the Abeka lessons plans from the very beginning. Daily reading and interactive conversations provide a literacy rich environment and help develop listening and communication skills.
In K4, there is concentration on the first four steps. The pace is about three days per letter, starting with vowels and moving into consonants. Once mastered, blending is introduced followed by three letter, one-vowel words.
In K5, students initially focus on steps 1-5, reviewing what was learned in K4 and adding long vowel sounds. About half-way through the year, Step 6 is introduced. Typically, letters/sounds are covered over two days. The first day, sounds are introduced; on the second day, blending. Truly multi-sensory, instruction is a combination of teacher-student interaction, flashcard word-picture associations, chants (with accompanying hand-motions), blend ladders, phonics rules, phonetic marking, and reading practice.
In Grades 1 and 2, there is a shift toward reading skills but phonics instruction is continued and reviewed. The remainder of Step 6 sounds are introduced, students review all previously learned sounds and continue to add to vocabulary by using the Reading Handbook, Letters and Sounds/Phonics and Language workbooks and readers. Students move toward reading independently and phonics is considered one aspect of the grade level language arts materials.
Abeka’s phonics instruction sequence is unique in several ways. First is the front-end blending. Most other programs initially teach blending that starts with the short vowel and moving to the ending consonant. Abeka moves from the beginning consonant to the short vowel later adding the ending consonants. Their reason for this is to follow the left-to-right motion of reading. Another difference is how long vowels are taught. Instead of covering silent-e words and then moving to vowel pairs, Abeka teaches one long-vowel rule that covers both (when there are two vowels, the first says its long sound and the second is silent) applying this to silent e words as well as the more typical application to vowel pairs. The last distinction is when blends/digraphs are covered. With Abeka, these all fall into the last step – after long vowels. Many other programs will cover at least some of the blends and digraphs immediately after blending into CVC words – before the long vowels.
Abeka phonics/reading instruction produces strong and early readers. Perhaps it’s the integrated approach, coupled with the daily review and repetition. Perhaps it is the continual sound, word, and rule chanting. Perhaps it’s the written reinforcement and reading practice. Whatever. Abeka has found a winning combination and the results speak for themselves.
There are a lot of moving parts in the Abeka Phonics materials – some are required, some highly recommended, and some optional. All are referenced in the Curriculum/Lesson Plans. At the K4 or K5 level, you can choose to cover all material in these plans for a complete grade-level, early learning curriculum, or you can choose some selections as a complete language arts program or choose solely the phonics. If you choose to use it only for the phonics and/or language arts, keep in mind that you will be seeing daily references to material that you are not using. Starting with Grade 1, the Curriculum/Lesson Plans each focus on individual subject areas (Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies) with the phonics instruction being part of Language Arts. ~ Janice