Monday 12 May 2014

Logic of English: a review

Some children find learning to read easy but for others it is a long and difficult process. We have a child in the latter category so were interested in the opportunity to review Logic of English.

Logic of English Review

 Interested-yes but cautious as we are veterans of several reading schemes: an English synthetic phonics, a UK version of a US synthetic phonics scheme, a phonological scheme for struggling readers and an on line synthetic phonics programme alongside everything else. So, a spreadsheet later, the decision was made: Logic of English Essentials

Logic of English Review
seemed to be a good fit:
  • It isn't childish
  • It covers grammar as well as reading and spelling
  • It includes games
  • The rate of progression can be varied
  • It is scripted
  • Designed to be used one to one.
To my delight, we were selected for the review. A little later, and after some anxious tracking of a parcel across the North Atlantic, a parcel arrived. It contained

  • a teacher's manual
  • Student workbook- we chose manuscript
  • Game book
  • two decks of phonogram cards
  • phonogram flash cards (basic and advanced)
  • grammar rule flashcards
  • spelling rule flashcards
  • phonogram and spelling rule quick reference chart
  • spelling journal
I knew that it was going to take me a little while to get my mind round all of this. Probably, the most important two things to read are the instructions at the start of the teacher's manual and the game book. 

The instruction manual helpfully gives different schedules for using the programme according to the type of learner

  • struggling readers and spellers: 8 year old to adult not reading at grade level
  • struggling spellers: 9 year old to adult students reading at grade level, needing spelling remediation
  • emerging readers and spellers: 6 to 7 year old students
  • young emerging readers: 5 to 6 year old students
My seven year old is using Logic of English (LOE) so we started off with the third category. This suggests taking 30-60 minutes a day and taking a week over each lesson. In order to start the lessons the student needs to know single letter phonograms, have a basic level of phonemic awareness and write lower case letters. There are plenty of games to go with learning the phonograms and the introduction provides activities for working on phonemic awareness. The suggestion is to spend one to thirty hours before starting the book on these parts of reading. 

This was mainly revision for my daughter but she enjoyed the games. The part that was new to her was learning all the different sounds for each vowel, in order of frequency. I certainly couldn't do this before using the games and flashcards.

Logic of English gives explicit, systematic instruction in phonics making it ideal for struggling readers and spellers but of value to most learners. There was plenty that I didn't know which might explain my rather weak spelling skills-I'm very thankful for spell check.

The actual lessons are divided into three parts:
  • Part one which emphasizes phonics
  • Part two which is mainly around spelling
  • Part three is a grammar lesson
We started by taking a week over a lesson. The first lesson was mainly revision and didn't take so long but as new or less familiar phonograms were introduced we slowed down.

As there are several components to LOE Essentials, I will go through each of them.

  • Teacher manual: This is a hard cover, 537 page book. It contains a 61 page introduction which really needs to be read before starting. I found myself referring back to this once we were in the swing of using LOE. Each lesson has a chapter with full instructions; in fact, most parts are scripted. The book indicates where the student book needs to be used and has suggestions for further practice. There are helpful notes, for example, on where spelling errors are likely to be made.

  • Student workbook: This is a soft cover 480 page book. There are two versions: manuscript and cursive. LOE advocates the use of cursive and there is a helpful section about this in the teacher manual. Whilst, I agree that there are advantages to using cursive, the only difference between the manuscript and cursive versions of the student workbook, is that some examples are written out in the appropriate hand. We chose the manuscript version because the cursive style used is quite different to the one that Younger Daughter is using. The cursive style is so different that I was concerned that she would not recognise all the cursive letters. The workbook is perforated so that completed sheets can be removed.

  • Game book: this is a soft cover 96 page book and is invaluable. There are so many ideas for games and practice. We started using the phonogram games and activities and after a few weeks realised that using the spelling games would be particularly helpful. These games provided much enjoyment.
  • Phonogram cards: we were provided with two decks. Many of the games require two decks of cards. We have a red manuscript and a blue bookface sets. These are sturdy cards. It is worth keeping them together with a rubber band. We separated out those we were using from the others.
  • Phonogram flash cards (basic and advanced). So far we've just used the basic set. These cards show the phonogram on the front and on the reverse, the sound/sounds of the letter and examples of how it is used.
  • Grammar rule flashcards are used in the grammar section of each chapter.
  • Spelling rule flashcards. We found that a helpful way to remember these was to skip out the rule!
  • Phonogram and spelling rule quick reference chart. We haven't used this much as yet but it will be helpful to have around the desk while writing once we've covered more rules.
  • Spelling journal-72 page soft cover book. This allows the collection of words with the same phonogram together and also can help decide which phonogram to use. So far, for us, this has been used as another way of practising the words.

So how has Logic of English worked for us?

Yes, but it has taken us a while to work out a rate of progression through the book which is sustainable.

The single letter phonogram practice and the first couple of chapters were really revision. My daughter likes the games and requested them outside of her usual learning time. The first double letter phonogram introduced is qu which wasn't really new and was followed by the double letter ck. However, after this more phonograms were introduced per chapter: not new initially but by chapter 4 when the phonograms were oi, oy, ai and ay we had to slow down.  Breaking this up into small chunks and going slowly seems to work well. We have found that we need to be flexible about the rate at which we use the book.

I was a bit concerned about actual reading practice as the manual contains a few words to read to illustrate phonograms but no actual reader. Having appropriate level reading material is something important for us and we were pleased to discover very recently that there is a new LOE reader set available on pdf.

The spelling section has again proved to be something that we need to take slowly. 15 spellings with different patterns are too many in one go and using the slowest suggested rate with five a day seems less overwhelming. The basic pattern is to go through these once but we are needing to review these more. The games book has helpful suggestions for spelling games and activities. We need to incorporate these on a regular basis.

We live in the UK and write UK English. There are some notes about this. For example, in lesson 4, around the word grey. Apparently, the UK spelling is gray. I hadn't realised this but thought that they could be used interchangeably. However, on the same lesson, there wasn't a note about favor which we would always spell as favour. Later, in lesson 37, there is a section on American and British spelling for -or/-our where the difference in spelling of favor/favour is noted.

My daughter loved the initial part of the programme with the games on sounds where she was confident but has found more recent elements rather overwhelming. In lesson 4, the broad a sound was discussed alongside the different ways in which the long a sound can be written. This was too much in one go. We skirted round the broad a and concentrated on the long a sound.

Every five lessons is a review which starts off with an assessment. In the first review lesson, there were 15 phrases for dictation, 20 words and up to 60 spellings. The spellings are those from the last four lessons. The teacher is to select those spellings which need more practice.

Would I recommend Logic of English? Yes, it is a wonderful resource for weak spellers and would have been helpful for one of my other children who finds reading easy but spelling difficult. I'm in much the same situation and have found it logical and useful. For my struggling, seven year old reader, even the slowest pace has been a bit too fast. Ideally, there would be more words to read with each phonogram and repeated practice of these each day. In many ways, I could remedy this by making spelling word flash cards plus some more. I am keen to go through LOE with my daughter as I am sure that she will benefit but needs to work slowly and with more repetition.
For most children, this is a useful resource to start once they know basic one letter phonograms and can blend consonant-vowel-consonant words. In my opinion, they need a half hour concentration span. The vendor recommends this for children/adults aged 7+. This seems realistic. .

The complete Logic of English Essentials set retails at $243 (about £144.08). Yes, not cheap but this is a large set and so thorough in its coverage of English phonics and grammar.

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1 comment:

  1. i found that I needed to slow the pace down with my lad as well. No sense stressing children out when a slower pace does the deed nicely. :)