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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Alpha Phonics Review

Did you know that the English language is composed of only 44 different speech sounds?  Neither did I, until I received a copy of Alpha-Phonics to explore and use with my almost-kindergartener.  Alpha-Phonics is a flexible beginning reader primer fairly different from some others that I have come across in my homeschooling journey so far.  It is based simply on phonetic learning and awareness, introducing one vowel at a time and focusing on all possible word families of that vowel before moving onto the next sound.  In essence, learning those 44 different sounds and how to put them together to read fluently.

The Alpha-Phonics program, designed to be used in either a classroom or home setting, consists of one spiral-bound manual, which holds both the lessons and the Teacher’s Manual, which follows the lessons.  Contained in the Teacher’s Manual are a brief history of the English language and how the concepts used in Alpha-Phonics were developed, several pre-reading activities and suggestions for teachers to use in teaching the alphabet and letter sounds, and lesson by lesson instructions, some including scripts to use with your student.  This package is currently selling on the website for $34.95 plus shipping.
This program now also comes with a computer CD, which is essentially the manual on disc.  This disc used to be sold separately for $39.95, but it is now included!  One nice feature of the CD, however, is that the teacher has the option of having the instructions for each lesson right on the same page as the student lesson.  Those instructions can be print only or print and audio, and this feature lessens the need for flipping back and forth in the print manual (which does tend to get tiresome at times).
There are 128 lessons in Alpha-Phonics, covering simple concepts like short a and “am”, “at”, and “as” in Lesson One and continuing to much more difficult sounds such as y as short i and “syntax”, “tyranny”, and “mystery” in Lesson 128.  Short vowel sounds are introduced first, followed by consonant blends, and then long vowels.  The student pages are very simple, using black and white larger print, no pictures, and minimal distracting elements.
Our experience with Alpha-Phonics was very positive.  At first I was unsure that it would be a program that we would be able to use:  between the time that I requested it and the time that I received it, my five year-old began spontaneously reading on his own.  (If it could always be so simple!)  So, needless to say, when I received the curriculum, I was worried that it would be “a moot point”.  However, when I sat down to explore it and actually use it with my son, I was impressed. 
As I mentioned before, this is a full and very in-depth program, in only 128 lessons.  Although my son could string together simple sounds, he had yet to understand any blending or irregular sounds, so we essentially just jumped in and covered the first lessons very quickly and then slowed down dramatically when we got to material that was new to him.  The lessons are short, which make them easier to review and also helps them appeal to little ones with attention spans to match, and we were able to follow them at our own speed.
Alpha-Phonics has a web site (www.alphaphonics.com) that has several different videos explaining varied parts of the program.  The customer service was wonderful; for example, I had a question about the CD-ROM, and my call was answered directly by the owner, who is very knowledgeable and passionate about teaching children to read.  (For those who are interested, currently the CD does not come in a version that works on Mac computers).  There are also a phonics workbook and simple readers available on the website.
In the days of computer-everything and constant electronic stimulation, the idea of a black and white print book may not make our kiddos jump for joy very often.  Alpha-Phonics, however, seems to bring us back to the basics in helping our kids learn to read.  The lessons are quick, simple, and organized in a logical way.  In our home, with my child, they work.
 **Disclaimer:  I was sent Alpha-Phonics at no charge in exchange for an honest review on my blog.**

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