Logic of English Essentials Curriculum
After reading Uncovering the Logic of English, I was expecting a very organized, thorough, easy to teach course. I was not disappointed. Gathered into a mere 40 lessons, the course imbues students with an almost comprehensive understanding of English as applied to reading, writing, and spelling. While the course was originally conceived for 8-year-old to adult students who are not reading at grade level, it may be used effectively with children as young as five or “young emerging readers”. To begin the lessons, students must have:
- Developed phonemic awareness (realize that letters and letter combinations make sounds and can distinguish sounds)
- Learned the A-Z letter sounds
- Learned to write the letters A-Z
Lest the prerequisites scare you away from beginning this program, the author has provided advice and direction for preparing your child for the lessons. A fourteen-page Before You Begin section provides a framework for teaching all three. She recommends spending 30 preliminary sessions doing so. While the basic instructions are here, you may want to incorporate some other supplementary materials for this preparatory segment. Many good products are available to make this part easier on you. As a side note, she also presents a compelling case for teaching your beginner cursive rather than manuscript writing.
Five different implementation schedules are provided to accommodate any age and level of proficiency from the youngest beginner to remedial adult. For the youngest student, the course will progress at the rate of one lesson every two weeks (80 weeks), whereas the older, remedial student will complete a lesson every one to two days.
A helpful section entitled Teaching the Lessons provides the rationale and some foundational explanations for the three-part lessons which follow. It also introduces the various materials used in the program. Teacher Resources appear next, providing handy reference materials for you. But I am most anxious to discuss the lessons themselves; the wonderfully directed and perfectly laid-out lessons! The harried homeschooler will find a friend in these! Lessons are beautifully systematic and organized. Part One of each lesson has two or more of the following components: Phonograms, Exploring Sounds and Spelling Rules. While students should know 26 phonograms (A-Z) before they begin, these are reviewed and the other 48 are introduced and reviewed throughout the lessons. This is done by oral introduction, written practice, dictation, flashcards and games. Exploring Sounds includes phonemic awareness and other activities that analyze the new phonograms more extensively. This often involves oral and auditory exercises. Spelling Rules (30 of them) are taught in most lessons, generally corresponding to the new phonograms taught in that lesson. Besides student/teacher dialog, workbook and other activities are often used for additional spelling practice. In the second part of each lesson words are introduced through spelling dictation and analysis. About this section the author claims, “Students who are not reading will spell their way into reading.” This should strike a chord with homeschoolers, since several popular phonics curricula operate on this premise also. Here, the author provides an amazing spelling list/chart complete with pronunciation, practice sentences, spelling hints, parts of speech and extension words formed from the base words. Spelling lists contain 15 words each, including phonograms and learned spelling rule words. The final part of each lesson consists of: Grammar, Dictation, Composition, and Vocabulary Development. Early Grammar sections introduce parts of speech; the last is on subordinate conjunctions. Dictation exercises are opportunities for students to practice auditory memory, spelling, and punctuation. Composition exercises are formulated to utilize the word and word skills the student has learned to build good sentences. Often, a student is asked to write sentences according to a model (subject noun + verb + direct object) or to practice a particular sentence type (command, question). Vocabulary Development covers other word skills like contractions, usage, prefixes and suffixes, compound words, roots, etc.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking….and you’re right. This is more than a reading rescue program. It is actually a full-blown Language Arts curriculum. Even handwriting is incorporated. It has phonics, reading, writing, dictation, spelling, vocabulary, grammar. The only thing I would add to this program is readers – one for each lesson using the new phonograms. Another facet I particularly like about this program is the constant review. In addition to learning new skills, each lesson practices at least twenty previously learned phonograms. Additional reinforcement is provided throughout using every modality. Further, every fifth lesson is a review and assessment lesson given by dictation. If students make fewer than two mistakes, the rest of the review lesson may be skipped. Otherwise, review activities are provided that focus on the specific areas that need more practice. The author is serious about students “graduating” from this program with great literacy skills!
I know I mentioned the ease of using these lessons, but it is difficult to convey without actually seeing them. Much of the dialog is scripted. Teaching instructions are clear and direct. There is no guesswork involved in when and how to incorporate the supplemental materials.
Now that I’ve covered the Teacher’s Manual, let’s look at these supplements:
- The Student Workbook is available in manuscript and cursive format. The manuscript book is slanted or D’Nealian as opposed to ball and stick. Use also if your handwriting choice is italic. This workbook is for all student written exercises. Corresponding lesson sections are clearly marked. It’s a hefty 480-page book with a nice, large font. You will need one per student.
- The optional Spelling Journal is for students to organize and record words by phonogram and within phonogram by sound. It is referenced in many lessons and I would recommend purchasing this one rather than making your own.
- The Phonogram & Spelling Game Book provides fun games and activities to support learning phonograms. These are referenced in the Teacher’s Manual in both regular and optional instruction. Some of the games require 1-3 sets of The Logic of English Game Cards.
- The Logic of English Game Cards are decks of cards used in various games and activities. They are available in black book-face type, blue book-face type and green cursive.
- Basic Phonogram Flash Cards contain the 74 phonograms taught in the program. The front of each card displays the phonogram; the back has the sounds used in words. They are heavily used in the lessons.
- Advanced Phonogram Flash Cards contain 35 additional phonograms that can be learned after those in the program. They are covered in Uncovering the Logic of English.
- Spelling Rules Flash Cards contain the 30 spelling rules with examples on the back. They are used repeatedly in the lessons.
- Grammar Flash Cards are brand new!
- Cursive Handwriting Program book is optional to the program. It contains both teaching instructions and student handwriting pages.
My first impression of using the course for a true beginner was that it seemed to move very quickly. The first lesson reviews the letter phonograms, focusing on the qu sound; explores vowel sounds vs. consonant sounds through whether they can be “sung” or not (great stuff); practices short vowel spelling, though does introduce the variant –nk ending; introduces nouns and simple plurals; dictates noun phrases from the spelling list (“bad leg”, “fast cat”); has students create an oral story using the dictation phrases; and asks students to compose six more phrases using the last five spelling words coupled with nouns from the list to create their own phrases. This seemed okay, especially given that the suggested implementation was two weeks for this one lesson. But the next lesson jumped into introducing the phonograms ck, ee, ng, and th, and exploring short and long vowels. After catching my breath, I realized that the author was:
- Not moving too fast, given the two week time frame; I covered all of the phonograms with my beginning readers at the rate of one to two per week.
- Introducing phonograms in a more logical manner than I’d implemented in that they seem to be introduced by frequency of use rather than construct.
The basic approach of this course is different than many other phonics courses because of its emphasis on learning phonograms. Instead of teaching phonics “rules”, then teaching all of the exceptions, it teaches each phonogram along with the sounds it can make. This makes sense as it would help a child to decode words if they knew all of the possibilities. They would never read “bread” as “breed” in the context of a sentence, for example, just because they had only learned the two-vowel rule and didn’t realize that the phonogram ea can actually say long e, short e or long a. Likewise, you won’t find the concept of “magic e” in these pages. Silent e is Rule 12 of the spelling rules, with the most common consequence being forcing a vowel to say its name. Unlike many phonics programs, this use of silent e isn’t presented until Lesson 17, a goodly way through the book. While I agree that silent e isn’t a phonogram, my children learned to read many words quickly because of this “rule”. However, it did make teaching those pesky exceptions harder in words like move, love, and give.
The program is also more intense than most beginning phonics programs. It has a no-nonsense look and feel. You won’t find songs, brightly-colored workbook pages or prizes here. So if you are looking for these things, this is not the phonics program for you. If, on the other hand, you are looking for a solid, no-fail approach that will not be distracting, be easy to use, and teach all of your language arts in one place, here it is.
This is also hands-down the best curriculum I have seen for remediation. If you have a child struggling with any facet of literacy – reading, writing, grammar, or spelling – I would strongly recommend this resource.
The bare bones Essentials Curriculum packages below include the Logic of English Teacher’s Manual plus your choice of Manuscript or Cursive Workbook. The Basic Package adds the Basic Phonogram Flash Cards. The Full Set includes everything in the Basic Package plus Spelling Rule Flash Cards, a Spelling Journal, the Phonogram & Spelling Game Book and the three different sets of Phonogram Game Cards.