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Debbie Sharp Loeb, teacher by training but full-time mom to a disabled son, craftsperson, bead artist, great cook, creative homemaker & terrific spotter of cool new products for everything under the sun, presents Hodgepodge: recipes, household hints, stories about children, friends & relatives, cool stuff, music, & much more.

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Friday, January 08, 2010

Starfall - Free Phonics Reading Program

This is one, of I'm sure there are many, free phonics programs on the Web.
" opened in September of 2002 as a free public service to motivate children to read with phonics. Our systematic phonics approach, in conjunction with phonemic awareness practice is perfect for preschool, kindergarten, first grade, second grade, special education, homeschool, and English language development (ELD, ELL, ESL). Starfall is an educational alternative to other entertainment choices for children."

"In May of 2009, we released our Starfall Kindergarten Reading and Language Arts Curriculum. The lesson plans motivate kindergarten children by creating an atmosphere of fun and enthusiasm, providing opportunities for child-directed instruction, and facilitating the needs of English language learners and struggling readers learning alongside their peers."

Note: As a teacher certified in Elementary Education, Special Education, and Teacher of Reading I strongly believe that children need a foundation in phonics.
My special needs son was taught to read with a program that was heavy in both phonics and mnemonic devices. He learned to read early and decode words well.
(Because of his seizures and the medications over the years he has lost some of these abilities.) My other son was taught with an "integrated language program", which they would not admit was basically whole language, and was taught little if any phonics. I knew from the beginning this was going to be a problem and with all my knowledge I wasn't able to remedy the situation. As I predicted he "hit the wall" at third grade. (and this was even with him going out of the classroom for Basic Skills instruction.) Because he wasn't taught decoding skills, phonics, he had trouble reading and thus lost comprehension. Believe me I did try to work with him at home.
It's a long story and now many years ago, but a bunch of us parents did try to bring it to the attention of the Board of Education. Nothing was done until a new Superintendent took over. I sent him a new letter plus all my previous letters with articles on how children being taught with Whole Language were having problems. Within days I had a meeting with him and the head of the curriculum. I was able to counterpoint everything she said about their program.* In time the program was finally changed with new materials being ordered.
Of course by then it was too late for my son. We ended up having him go to a Huntington Learning center and he tested well below his grade level in reading, which I already knew. After a few months he was brought above grade level.
The school system ended up having so many kids in Basic Skills that were having trouble reading they had to hire extra teachers and aides to go into the first grade classrooms.

*[Oh, and at that meeting I said how my son with special needs was taught reading with a program that was heavy with phonics and mnemonics and had learned to read earlier and better than his brother. She said "Yes, we find that does work well with our special needs students." In my head I'm thinking "Well,DUH" but to her I said, "Well, gee then don't you think it would be great for the regular students?" She couldn't say anything.]

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