Sep 27, 2016

Homeschool Review Crew: Spencer Learning

My younger two children, who are 4th and 5th graders, are both late/struggling readers. My 4th grader, who is a girl, is actually starting to blossom a little. She reads for pleasure on her own, at least, and chooses chapter books whereas my 5th grade son never reads unless he has to and, if left to his own devices, still chooses picture books.

I strongly believe that their struggle is mostly retaining the basics. They took a long time to master letter sounds and are still learning some of the phonemes. So I was interested in reviewing Ultimate Phonics Reading Program from Spencer Learning to see how it would help.

Ultimate Phonics Reading Program {Spencer Learning}
Ultimate Phonics is a downloadable software program. It was super easy to install and set up. Then I was able to let the kids pretty much navigate it on their own. For us, the only hard part in getting them started was that they were not beginners, so we had to figure out where they needed to be. There are 262 lessons, starting with letter sounds (the first letter it teaches is "b) and progressing through all the phonemes to "ture". 
Each lesson is pretty much the same. If you look at the screenshot below, you can see the lesson number. Clicking on that lets you choose which lesson you want to go to. Or you can navigate with the double green fast forward or reverse buttons. The single green buttons move you forward or backward within the lesson. You can also choose to move around by clicking on the Pattern button. 

If you click on the Pattern button, you can choose your lesson based on the phoneme rather than the lesson number. And the History button tells you, obviously, where you have been. This is nice for "checking up on" those wily students that say, "Oh, I've done the work!" even if they haven't. It is also helpful if you are jumping around hitting weak spots and are also forgetful like we are. Using the History button keeps you up to date on where you've been.

So, the above screen is the first page in the lesson. It introduces the phoneme. If you click on the sound button, the text is read to you. Clicking on the yellow box lets the child hear the sound of the phoneme. 
The next page is below... a list of words. Clicking or scrolling over the words activates the sound feature and the words are read aloud. 

Next, each word comes up individually. The word in black is read as a whole word, the yellow boxes are read in parts as you click or scroll. 

After those pages are pages of sentences. Again, clicking or rolling means they are read aloud. You can hear the whole sentence at once or choose just a particular word. You can even right click a specific word and have it sounded out for you. After the sentences is the next lesson. 

As I said, this is a simple and easy program. The kids could easily handle it on their own. Since it is not flashy and little kid-ish, it can be used with older, struggling readers and not just young beginners. It is a complete program. Once your student has worked their way through all 262 lessons, they will know all the phonemes in the English language. 
This was not a great fit for my kids at this time. I think a couple years ago, Daniel would have greatly benefited from Ultimate Phonics. The slow, steady, repetitive pace with lots of help and no pressure would have been perfect for him. Right now, though, they are both past needing a program like this. They have the ability to read fairly fluently even though Daniel doesn't yet like to. Daniel is reading at a high second grade level and Abbie is pretty solidly third grade. I do wish we had known about Ultimate Phonics earlier.
  I like the fact that it is easy to use and not sparkly and exciting. Sometimes educational programs are too much fun and my kids get so caught up the games that they never actually get around to learning anything. I like how it has so much practice with lots of different words. And I really liked how we could easily focus on the parts of the lessons that benefited us the most. Since my kids are pretty fluent, we spent most of our time in the sentences section so they just got a lot of reading practice. This was a help for Daniel's confidence. He liked that if he got stuck on a word he could click it and hear it correctly. This helped his comprehension. 
If you think Ultimate Phonics Reading Program will help your student, you can access a free trial and try it out! You can also read what other Crew Members thought by clicking on the banner below. 

Ultimate Phonics Reading Program {Spencer Learning}
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