Phonics Friday Part 2 – Configurable word wall

It’s another Friday and I am continuing on my mission to teach my son to read. In Part 1 last week I showed a simple vowel phonics chart I put up in my boy’s room. This allows me to review with him most night his vowel sounds. This week I am adding to his “bedroom classroom” a configurable word wall.

I decided to create some big letter tiles that I can use to make simple words for my son to sound out. I can also have him practice by making words himself.

I used pages on the iPad to make the tiles but MS Word would work as well. I created a table on a Normal letter-size paper that was in landscape orientation. I used a font that seems better for dyslexics reading. I think Comic Sans is recommended but that wasn’t a choice with Pages for the iPad. Chalkboard font on the iPad seems similar to comic sans so I chose that one. If I set the font size at 120 points to got the letters and spacing shown below.

I made enough columns and rows so each cell would fit one letter with large font size. I printed out the page of letters. Then I finally used my laminator for the first time! I cut out each individual letter and then put a hole in the top.

I decided to use yellow card stock after reading this report about the best background colors to use for dyslexics. I think other colors could be slightly better but yellow was the closest color I have to orange and light yellow.

Once I had enough letters I worked on getting the spacing right. To do this I made the vowel letters a little narrower by cutting off some of both sides. Then I used a simple CVC word to figure out the hook spacing. I used simple teacup holder hooks so I could hang the letters up and make words.

I put up some additional hooks to store the words but I arranged them with the same spacing. Now some of the older boys try and make funny phrases.

The boys have fun coming up with new words or even silly combinations of non-words. In the future, I hope to make blends and other consonant combinations. I also hope to experiment with different background colors. So now every night I can make new words for my son to practice reading.

What do you think of my configurable word wall? If you are interested in making your own here is a free copy of the Letter Tiles I used. Do you have any suggestions for teaching phonics? I would love to hear them in the comments.

Phonics Friday Part 1 – Bedroom Phonics Chart

I am on a mission to teach my son to read. My older kids eventually learned to read but for my son who struggles with learning difficulties ranging from Dyslexia to auditory processing issues reading is hard! I thought I would share my experiences hopefully every Friday. I also hope to post a free copy of the resource I create for teaching phonics.

While I was casually talking to my wife about teaching our kids to read I asked my wife what she remembered from her school years when she learned to read. To my surprise, she responded with the fact that she didn’t remember and that she just learned. That was an ah-ha moment for me. My wife has always been able to read well. In fact from her description, it sounded like she just picked up a book and started reading.

I on the other hand had to learn to read. It wasn’t always easy. But I remember how I learned to read. I was taught using a structured phonics approach. I attended a grade school where they used A Beka. One of the vivid memories I have from learning to read I still remember it while I am reading to myself or sounding out words subconsciously. What I remember most from my school years learning to read were phonics drills. I don’t remember how often we would work on those drills but I can hear them in my mind. I looked up the charts and they are about the same. You can see a sample one here. I remember it was on a big flip chart at the front of the room. When I think back to learning to read I am convinced that drills helped me learn to read. I decided to go to that method to help reinforce phonics for my son.

So here is a picture from my son’s room of what I am doing.

Wall poster in my son’s bedroom for drilling vowel sounds.

I quickly made this phonics chart last night. I ended up using MS Word but you could do it on the iPad also. In fact, I probably would have used Keynote if I was doing it again. The picture of the Indian I got from a great site for free images here. I let my son pick out the picture so it was something that interested him. I chose vowels since my son keeps mixing up simple words with i and a as a short vowel sound. My goal is to work with him every night before bed. I make him say with me “a-a” in apple “i-i” in Indian. So far it works pretty well. The only change I think I will make to the poster is to put the letter first and then the picture. Also here is another great resource for free phonics charts.

What do you think of my phonics chart? What have you done to help your child learn to read with phonics? What do you remember from when you first started to learn to read? Was it easy for you or hard?

If you would like more information on teaching phonics and teaching boys to read I suggest you check out my post on free reading resources. Also here is a free copy of my phonics vowel poster. If you would like to see more of what I am doing to teach my son to read with phonics check out Part 2.

CTCMath Family Membership Review

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

We are so excited to be able to use the 12-month Family membership from CTCMath. We school all year long so it’s nice to be able to add additional students if they need some additional help.  Keep reading below to see what CTCMath is all about.

What is CTCMath

CTCMath is a full math curriculum that covers all the math topics your child will need all the way threw high school.  The program is an online subscription that has lesson videos and review problems.  I reviewed the Family membership which lets you set up all your children in whatever grade they are in.  You can give assignments to each child and due dates or you can select what lessons you want them to work on.

As a parent or teacher, you can see all your children/students and see what progress they are making.  The picture below shows what the teacher screen looks like where you can see the child’s progress and what lessons are coming up.  It is also where you can assign tasks.

When your child logs in with his name he can work on the tasks you assigned or you can help them select a specific lesson or unit you want them to work on.  Each lesson has videos your child can watch and then there are questions for them to work on after they watch the video.  The questions are all answered online but you can also print out questions if you would like.  Once the question is answered, the correct answer is shown if they got it wrong.  The student then clicks on a button to go to the next question.

You can also have your child take a diagnostic test on the subject. The picture below shows one of the diagnostic tests for second grade.

Lesson results are easy to see as shown in the picture below.

 

What did we think

I was really impressed with CTCMath video lessons and my kids liked them also.  I thought the explanation and the graphics used to explain the lesson were really good.  I wasn’t planning on using CTCMath with my high school daughter for her Algebra but after watching some of the lessons I decided I would use them for her also.  There are so many different topics so you can easily find any topic your child might be struggling with to review.

I didn’t really like the option of giving assignments.  I preferred just selecting a lesson for my sons and letting them work on that instead of assigning him work.  It just works better for us that way.  I feel like I know what math topics my son needs to work on so I can just have him select those lessons to work on.  Maybe if your child is self-motivated you could assign tasks and just let them work on the assigned lessons.  Whatever works best for you if you are looking for a comprehensive online math curriculum then I would recommend CTCMath.

Be sure to visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog to read more reviews of CTCMath.

From Kindy to Calculus CTCMath 12-month Family membership {CTCMath Reviews}

Math Shed and Spelling Shed Review

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

Spelling is not my specialty so we were excited to receive 12 months of access to both Math Shed and Spelling Shed.  If you are looking to add some spelling and math digital learning to your homeschool, let me tell you about Math Shed and Spelling Shed.

What is Math Shed and Spelling Shed?

Math Shed and Spelling Shed are part of EdShed.  The programs are designed to help your student improve their math and spelling proficiency.  Math Shed and Spelling shed are an online subscription. The program is web-based so it works on both a computer and also on the iPad.

Spelling Shed – Spelling Shed is a full Spelling curriculum program.  There are six levels (called Stages) plus a beginner level for phonics.  Each level has spelling lists that focus on a particular spelling rule.  For example, Stage 3 has a list for Long /a/ sound words. You can assign your student a Stage and even a specific Spelling word list.

You set up students and give them assignments in the “Teacher Hub”. You can also set the password for your student there or keep the recommended one.

They can work on spelling lists or play a game called”buzz” where they try to make different words with letters on the screen.

There are three kinds of game:

  •  Play – This is the main game type and use used for assignments
  • Bee Keeper – Can you guess your words by choosing letters.
  • Buzz Words – Make words using random letter tiles.

 

MathShed – MathShed is a web-based program with games to help your child learn different math facts.

The math games have a question and three answers to choose from.  There is catchy music and sound effects.  This is what the gameplay looks like.

Both games allow you to earn honeypots to buy different accessories for the avatar.  That is the main motivation for the student. There are also points so you can have a competition between students.  If you have two computers you can also set up a head to head competition by creating what’s called a Hive.  The teacher or the student can set up a hive competition game.  I tried it with my boys however we had issues with the iPad not showing the keyboard so we were not able to fully try that level.

What we thought

Math Shed and Spelling Shed were definitely helpful for my children working on spelling and math facts.  The boys enjoyed the games and were challenged.  I usually set up the game difficulty level for them depending on what I thought their level.  The Easy level shows all the letters that are used in the spelling word but the most difficult level does not give any help.  The instructions say not to worry about it using the easy level and to use the hard levels towards the end of the week.

One of the other nice features I liked about Spelling Shed was the curriculum guide.  There is a pdf and PowerPoint that you can use to teach the new spelling list.  I thought it was very helpful to see all the spelling words and the instructions on. how to teach and use the program.  Each week has a lesson plan, activities and printable practice/homework sheets with answers

I hope you consider EdShed to help your child spell better and build math mastery!

Be sure to visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog to read more reviews of Math Shed and Spelling Shed.

Spelling Shed & Math Shed {Education Shed Reviews}

Reading Kingdom program review

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

If you are teaching your child to read be sure to check out the online reading program Reading Kingdom.  This blog post is a review of the online Reading Kingdom program.  Check out my review below to find out if Reading Kingdom could work for your child.

What is Reading Kingdom

Reading Kingdom is a captivating online reading program that also teaches the keyboard layout. The program works on computers and also on the iPad. Each lesson introduces a new word to learn.

There are several different activities to help learn the words. The new word is introduced and then you have to type the letters in the order. Sometimes there are letters between so the child had to distinguish which letters are correct and the correct order. If after a certain time the child has not selected or typed the word correctly, the right answers are shown on the screen. The time can be adjusted as shown in the picture below.

Since typing on the keyboard is required for the Reading Kingdom program it is nice to see that there is a game included for keyboard typing practice. The game uses a Space ship to shoots words by typing them on the keyboard.  There are several levels starting with the top row of the keyboard and then other rows are added and more words appear.

Reading Kingdome shows overall progress. You can see the word being learned in the current level.  You can even move students to the next lesson or have them do a lesson again.  There are five levels and a placement test which determines which level the student begins with.

What we thought about Reading Kingdom

To start the program my son took the online assessment. Since my son knows simple words the program started him with words like kid and girl. My son hasn’t learned sounds like ir but the program introduces them in a way that they get plenty of practice.

Even though my son knows how to use the iPad he actually doesn’t really know they keys on the keyboard. Initially, it frustrated him but thankfully there is also a game included with the program to practice typing.

We tried both the computer and the iPad. With the iPad, you have to use the on-screen keyboard which reduces the size of what is displayed on the screen. I thought some of the words were a little small. On the computer, you can either use the onscreen keyboard or the physical keyboard.  We ended up using the computer more than the iPad.

Overall my son enjoyed the activities but he got a little frustrated since he was not very familiar with the keyboard.  After some practice games, he got a little better and it was a little easier for him to continue on the program.  I also tried to help him a little with the general location where the letters were on the keyboard. It also helped to extend the program response time so he had more time to find the right letter.  I would definitely make sure your child has a beginning knowledge of the keyboard for Reading Kingdom.  Once my son started to get to know the keyboard a little better, he really started to enjoy the program more.   I would recommend checking out Reading Kingdom and try the 30-day free trial to see if it will work for your child.

Be sure to visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog to read more reviews of Reading Kingdom.

Reading Kingdom & ASD Reading {Reviews}

Reading Unlocked Reading Program review

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

My son is loving the online reading program Reading Unlocked.  The lessons are short and provide many different ways to practice reading.  The lessons are only 10 minutes a day and he has no complaints when we work on reading with Reading Unlocked.  Since I have lots of boys, I am always looking for good phonics-based reading programs.  I feel like my son is actually learning better with the Reading Unlocked program than other programs we have used.  I was especially excited Reading Unlocked works on an iPad. Keep reading to see how our review went.

What is Reading Unlocked

Reading Unlocked is an online subscription program for teaching reading. The Reading Unlocked program works on a computer or an iPad using an internet web browser.  Reading Unlocked only takes 10 minutes a day.  To get started you choose the reading level your child is ready for based on three different lines of text shown in the picture below.  The first level is for beginning readers.  The second level is for readers who know almost all the letter sounds and three-letter words along with some blends.  The last level is the highest level and introduces more complex blends and long vowel sounding words.

The Reading Unlocked program should only take about 10 minutes a day.  There are several different exercises you do with your child.  To start a new sound or blend is introduced.  There are status dots at the top to show you how much is left for the lesson.

Several words are introduced with the lesson sound or blend.  Each letter sound (or blend) is sounded out individually and then the sounds are sounded out together in the whole word.  This is especially helpful for my son who has auditory issues.

Many different exercises are used to practice the lesson sounds.  The picture below shows the exercise where the student changes the word by switching out one of the sounds.  For example below you are supposed to turn nest into chest by moving the ch blend over the n.

The picture below shows where the student chooses the picture that matches the word.

All the exercises were at the level that my son would not get discouraged.  The picture below shows another exercise with the words learned.  Each line as a few additional words plus the other words which reinforces what they just learned.

The last exercise has a poem to read and the student reads the highlighted words.  I initially didn’t really like this but my son really seemed to like it. After the lesson is complete you can see the words learned and the days you have completed a lesson.

How we used reading unlocked

Because Reading Unlocked works on the iPad, I found it easy to help my son who is learning to read before bed in his room.  With the iPad and Reading Unlocked you can work on learning to read anywhere.  The only issue with using it before bed is then its hard to write out some of the words he is learning as the program says.  I wish there was a worksheet or a list of words that I could download and help him practice writing the words he is learning.  You are supposed to write the words on a separate sheet of paper during the lesson, but if you don’t have writing materials handy you may not remember what words your child is supposed to practice writing.  I usually try and take a screenshot of the words he is supposed to write out, and then I make a worksheet for him to practice later.  

Since my son has been reading simple words for awhile I started him off on the second level.  My son did pretty fine until some of the lessons used blends like ch and sh which he hasn’t learned yet.  Even though he had not learned those blends he did ok after I explained how the blend sounded.  Later I realized that those blends were introduced in the last several lessons for the first level.  In the settings you can change what level and what lesson to work on.  I tried several lessons until I found the ones where the blends started.  I had him work on those earlier lessons so I could make sure he understood those blends.

I only used the program with one of my children.  While I did not see a way to add individual students, you can use it with multiple children by changing the level and the lesson in the settings.  It would be nice if you could add another child, but it’s not that big of an issue.  Once you start using the program you get a feel for where your child should be at. Overall the Reading Unlocked program is very effective for teaching reading.  When I asked my son what he liked about Reading Unlocked he said, “I am learning more.”  I was surprised he said that, but I really feel like he is learning more.  The program is just enough for him to learn without being overwhelmed.  

Is it right for your child?

If your child struggles with your current reading program or complains about learning to read then I would recommend you give Reading Unlocked a try.  Reading Unlocked is especially good for homeschool parents who have limited time to help their child learn to read. Reading Unlocked is especially good if your child struggles with reading.  As a homeschool dad with lots of boys I recommend Reading Unlocked to teach your child to read.  I especially love that Reading Unlocked works on the iPad so we can work on it anywhere in the house.

My son really thinks Reading Unlocked is helping him learn to read better. Other families used this product too so be sure to check out their reviews by clicking on the banner below.

Reading Unlocked {Reading Unlocked Reviews}