When we started our 1st grade year in August, I chose Phonics Pathways as our phonics curriculum. The main curriclum we use offers two different programs, but does offer the option to use your own phonics program. After reviewing the samples on the main website at http://www.dorbooks.com/, I thought the program looked like what I wanted. After I struggled so much to teach my son, I really wanted something that covered everything in a systematic way without being stressful.
Phonics Pathways (PP) starts out simply with children learning two letter consonant-vowel sounds. The kids do not start out learning words, and the program actually recommends to avoid reading books until further in the program. I ignored that recommendation though and continued using our BOB books along with PP. After a child learns the two letter blends, there are a few games the author includes to help reinforce the skill. We used the "Train Game", which teaches kids how to put sounds together to form words.
After the two letter blends section, kids start learning how to blend the two letter sounds into three letter words. About 40 pages into the program your child will be reading short, simple sentences. The author recommends taking as much time as needed to really cement the skills needed, and that's exactly what we've done. While we could have sped through the book , we are only on page 67 out of over 200 pages. Some concepts took more time than others. For example, the two letter blends were fairly easy for her, but once we started combining them into words she needed a little extra practice. We spend anywhere from 2-4 days per page.
Right now we are in the two consonant endings section, and it's taking some time. But I've really seen an improvement in her reading. In the beginning, I wasn't sure if this program was going to work for us since it didn't include its own set of phonics readers or workbooks, but the setup is working and the method used in PP is effective.
While we're only partway through the program, here are some advantages I like:
- You can reuse the program as your child advances, reinforcing skills and practicing areas where they may still be weak.
- The program goes with Reading Pathways, which is a great way to reinforce eye tracking skills, fluency, and the skills learned in PP.
- Phonics Pathways can be used as a spelling program, also. When we studied the /ck/ sound, we used the words from that section as our spelling list. I plan on using it for spelling next year since it teaches phonics rules along with providing plenty of words.
- You can use any sight word lessons that you want. While the author doesn't encourage mixing the two, I'm a firm believer in kids learning both sight words and phonics for a solid reading foundation so we are using one of Dr. Fry's Instant Word books to practice sight words.
- I see the advancement in my daughter. While she didn't really understand why she had to learn sounds like /we/and /be/ when those were actually the words we and be, I see her brain working and differentiating between the two when she reads now. Before she would have seen the word 'went' for example, and pronounced it weent, using the word we instead of the sound for the /we/ blend. Now she does not make those mistakes and her fluency has improved.
Here are just a few things that may be a disadvantage:
- There are no readers or workbooks to accompany Phonics Pathways. To compensate for this, I take what skills we're working on and look for books at the library that use those skills. Originally we used BOB Books, and she was still struggling with a couple of those in August, but now she flies through those so I've shelved them.
- You can use phonics workbooks, such as Explode the Code 1,
to reinforce skills and include a workbook into your phonics program. We finished the first book, but upon trying to use the second book I realized that the two programs don't teach the same concepts at the same time. So you either need to teach two different concepts, which I think is detrimental to the Phonics Pathways program, or shelve Explode the Code or any other program until after you've covered the concepts in PP.