Friday, September 6, 2013

Schoolhouse Review: Logic of English

I am so excited I finally get to tell you about the latest product I had the pleasure of reviewing!  Logic of English offers a different approach to teach reading, spelling and writing.  I was truly astounded at how well this system really seems to work, especially for my daughter who has Down syndrome.

For the purpose of my review I was given the Logic of English Essentials - A systematic approach to reading, spelling and writing.  I received the Teacher's Manual, Student Workbook, Basic Phonogram Flashcards, Spelling Rule Flash Cards, Phonogram Game Cards and the Phonogram and Spelling Game Book.

I have to admit when the package arrived I was a bit overwhelmed!  There is so much to this program and the approach is not like anything I have tried before.  I have done both phonics and a blend of phonics and sight reading, but this is different. There is a lot of information to take in and the size of the books are proof of that. Look at the size of the workbook alone, I have never seen one so large.

While there was a lot to learn and go through the Teacher's Manual did have everything I needed to know.  The introduction section is 69 pages long and I encourage you to read each and every page as it has invaluable information about the program.  It explains the phonemic approach and how to actually teach it with sections on sounds, grammar, spelling, dictation, cursive writing, sample schedules, and more.  There are also useful tips such as how to organize the supplemental materials which I personally found to be extremely beneficial.

The Logic of English Essentials stresses the importance of phonemic awareness which is the understanding that words are made up of individual sounds that are glued together to make a word.  There are 45 phonemes of the English language and by the time the student is able to read they need to be aware of at least most of them.

Unlike phonics where one sound is taught at a time they introduce all the sounds of a phonogram at the same time.  Here is a sample of the a card.  The front side just has the letter or letters of the phonogram and the back has the sounds.

The Logic of English Essentials is for ages 7 all the way up to adult as it is used to help both new and struggling readers.  While Essentials can be used with younger students they do have a Foundations unit that is geared towards 4 to 7 years old that would probably be more suitable for that age group.  They also recommend starting with cursive writing rather than printing and have a section of the book that explains that approach.  However, they offer workbooks and phonogram game cards in both cursive and print so you can choose your own preference.

In the introduction you will find beginner to adult sample schedules that range from teaching a lesson every one to two days to teaching a lesson every one to two weeks.  Because Gess has special needs I chose to use the six to seven year old guideline of one lesson per week.  Even though she is a great reader and knows what the words are, her speech is lacking and she has really missed some of the sounds.  It also gives her more time to make sure she grasps the lessons completely.

Each lesson is divided into three parts:

Part 1 - Phonograms, Exploring Sounds, and Spelling Rules

Part 2 - Introduction of the words through spelling dictation and analysis

Part 3 - Grammar, Dictation, Composition and Vocabulary development.

At first I tried to follow their sample lesson plan but it didn't really flow or work for me.  I wasn't sure when to do each worksheet and it seemed like we were not getting everything done that way.  I also have been using this as part of our speech therapy so I divided part 1 into two sections for each day and made my own schedule.

What I do is take each part and divide it into 4 daily lessons with the last day being a day for review, quizzes or tests.  I also took the Exploring sounds and divided it into 4 days worth of work.  Some of the "work" was using games for review so it wasn't as work heavy as it sounds.  It just took me a couple of weeks to figure out how to best get it all in.  Doing it my own way does mean that I spend an hour or so planning out my week, but it is well worth the time. The material is so great that I just don't want to miss any of it!

The actual work itself is explained in detail in the Teacher's Manual.  It tells you basically word for word how to present the material and there are areas where all the phonograms and spelling lists can be looked at quickly as well.  They have about an 8 minute video that explains exactly how it works.  I highly recommend you watch it. 

I believe the supplements they provided are essential to this curriculum as they are a huge part of what makes this so great.  The flash cards are nice of course as the child needs that visual to see what they are learning.  The Phonogram Game Cards and the Phonogram and Spelling Game Book are spectacular.  My daughter has really been on a game kick and wants to play board games or cards all the time.  The fact that she was perfectly happy to substitute these games for  your standard family board game speaks volumes to me.  She certainly thought they were fun!  In fact, we had to spend a few days at the hospital when my mom was ill and playing a phonogram card game or two not only helped pass the time but helped Gess review at the same time!  Here we are playing a game called Last One during school.

They also had games that did not require cards.  Some used templates they offered in the back of the book, some were active and didn't require anything and some would have been more fun with more kids.  Here we are playing Phonogram Bingo.

Another great thing about the games is how they incorporate them into the lessons. While the game book will have boards for the games that incorporate all the phonograms they also have blank ones that let you write in only those you have used.  They also have some in the workbook to use with specific lessons and phonograms.  There are just tons of options and I love that they have same games incorporated into your lessons but also allow you to choose your own too.  

The main reason Logic of English is so exciting to me is because of the fact that Gess has made tremendous strides in her speech since we started it.  Since Gess has Down syndrome she has really struggled with speech intelligibility.  We always incorporate speech therapy activities into our day but there have always been sounds she has struggled with.  Since doing this I have found that there are other sounds she has been missing as well. Because of their approach I have heard Gess finally get some of these sounds for the very first time! 

The directions have you teach the kids the sound as well what part of your mouth to use and how to feel and check for it.  It seems that Gess does better when she knows why she is doing it.  I discovered that Gess was pronouncing V with the F sound but now she not only says it right, she holds her throat to make sure she can feel it!  She does the same thing with the Z sound.  Now she buzzes instead of faking an S sound.

Here she is feeling for the puff of air when she says the p sound.

It has been absolutely amazing watching her make such tremendous progress with her speech because she knows exactly what she should do!  The best part is she carries this over into the rest of her day.  It is not uncommon to see her make these gestures while reading a book or having a conversation as she checks herself for the proper sound.  I love it!

Gess is also able to break down words into syllables now too.  That has always been a struggle for her. She can read a word fine, but breaking it down into syllables was hard.  The whole clapping thing never worked.  She would just randomly clap as she spoke.  Now that Logic of English has explained how to do it, she is much better at it!

One day as we were talking I asked Gess what her favorite part of the school day was.  She said, "making the sounds."  I think that pretty much says it all. They make learning the phonograms fun.  She doesn't feel like that part is learning and it is not only helping her speech, its helping her reading, spelling and grammar too.

In the lessons they make sure that each spelling list, spelling rule, grammar rule and new phonogram work well together.  I no longer have to find some unrelated random spelling list to go with my curriculum. Every word has phonograms that are relevant to the lesson and we learn the rules about why they are spelled that way!  Last week we had AY and AI.  They make the same sound but one is used at the end of the word and one is used in the middle of the word but at the end of the syllable.  Within her spelling list there are words that use those rules: plain, paint, day, gray and train.  Now Gess knows why she spells them that way and she can pronounce them all correctly.

The worksheets were pretty easy to follow.  Some items were dictated and they had to write it down.  The spelling list was also given through dictation with the part of speech and plural forms of the word added in during the course of the week.

Besides the amount of time it took to plan each week the most difficult part of using it was keeping all the cards organized for each lesson.   They have a section in the book that gives some tips on how to do this but even then, if you want to incorporate card games they all end up mixed up.  I have all my stuff in a small crate which helps a lot but by the end of the week there is a pile of cards that need to be sorted through again by the next lesson.  Learning to make sure they were ready before class was key!

As a teacher I think it is important that we always remain willing to learn something new.  The thought of trying a new approach when I thought what we were doing was "working" was a difficult choice to make but I am certainly glad that I did.  Do not let the fact that this does things a bit differently keep you from trying it out.  To me this was absolutely worth the effort, price and time. Seeing the results that I have had with my daughter just amazes me.  I only wish I had Foundations to try with her when she was younger!  I am certainly eager to read some of the reviews about that.

I think the greatest part of the program is seeing Gess put it into practice outside of the school room, especially in regards to her speech.  To watch her hold her throat when she says a v or z sound and concentrating on the exact sound in her casual conversation means the world to me.  There is something about the way that this is presented that just makes sense to her.  My husband agrees.  We have talked about how our language often doesn't make sense, at least how it is usually taught presenting rules with lots of exceptions.  Here it all makes sense.  Yes, there is logic to the English language!

Logic of English Essentials allows you to purchase each item separately.  They have a handy cart that lets you check which items in the package you want to include.  Again I recommend each item I was given.  The total of everything I received was $188.00.  It is well worth price, especially if you have more than one student in that age range.  You can use this with all your kids and simply purchase additional workbooks.  Here are the prices and links for each item I received.  I found them all beneficial and I would not leave anything out.  There are also products I did not receive, so be sure to check out all the options.

Logic of Essentials Teacher's Manual - $95.00
Logic of Essentials Workbook - $25.00 
Basic Phonogram Flash Cards - $18.00
Spelling Rule Flash Cards - $15.00
Phonogram and Spelling Game Book - $15.00
Phonogram Game Cards - $10.00 (You need at least two sets to play the card games.)

If you want to learn more about Logic of English check out their website.  They also have the Foundations curriculum for younger students, a handwriting course for both manuscript and cursive and a Logic of English App.  Members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew got to try out different items so be sure to check out their reviews to learn more about Essentials and the other great products that they offer. 


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Andrew Wesley said...

Thanks for a great blog. I was able to get the information that I had been looking for. Thanks once again!
Skype English Class

Laura said...

The cards look like and the approach sounds so similar to All About Spelling that we are using for some of my other children. I am glad to know that it has worked so successfully. I will look into the Foundations for Mylie. Thanks for the helpful review!


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