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Rocket Phonics

by Stephen Guffanti, M.D., and Maureen Guffanti

Reviewed by Martha Robinson

Purchase details: Rocket Phonics by Stephen Guffanti, M.D., and Maureen Guffanti. $172 list price. Published by Rocket Phonics. Please support by buying this program from our Christian Book Distributors link or Amazon affiliate link.

Rocket Phonics states that it "combines the best of phonics and sight-reading for fast and effective learning" for "new learners as well as children who have tried another method and become frustrated." The kit includes a manual, one-page quick start guide, deck of cards, bingo chips, a "peeker," and various other papers as support materials.

The program begins with bingo to teach the child the "initial teaching alphabet" of 36 sounds. Each sound is introduced with a picture. Apple is for /a/, and lion is for /l/, for example. After just one bingo lesson and a brief overview of blending, the child has the opportunity to read simple words using the "peeker," a rocket shaped piece of card stock with a window in it to reveal one word at a time. Long vowels are symbolized with two letters -- "ay" for long a, "ie" for long i, "oa" for long o, "ea" for long e. Long u is not represented, but "oo" for food and "ou" for foot are included.

The next lessons use "Go Fish" to reinforce the 36 sounds, and then "Simon Says" gets the child reading and doing basic commands. The "Go Fish" cards are standard playing-card size and have the sound and the color picture associated with it on them. In the readings, letters in gray have that phonetic sounds shown under them as in the example below.

Simon says, "Pre*tend you sat on a bee."
ie u      e z     p  i              oo             u   ea

Many readings, Aesop's fables, riddles and jokes, and "Wise Advise from Kids," follow. Tests of "common word lists" help the parent determine progress, and successful completion of the sixth and final word list indicates that the child is at a fifth grade level of functional literacy. As the book goes along, readings and word lists are presented first in a "prompted" format, with the phonetic sounds below each line, and then in an "unprompted" fashion with a plain typeface. In later stories, comprehension questions are added.

Rocket Phonics represents spelling as a separate topic from reading and discounts the spelling rules used in many programs.

"Warning: Most people who learn through a phonics approach learn 'rules,' like 'when two vowels go walking the first vowel does the talking.' The problem with these 'rules' is they are not always true. A child who has been given a rule that is not true feels betrayed. In Rocket Phonics we call the rules tips because that seems more flexible. The reality is that reading teaches reading. The value of the tips is to focus the child's attention on parts of the words to improve the development of his sight vocabulary. This also improves the student's spelling. Spelling is more difficult than reading because it requires recall, whereas reading requires only recognition. Our priority is reading and we urge you not to sacrifice your students' growth in reading for spelling. If the tips help, use them, but do not drill them. There are too many exceptions for the drill to be worthwhile."

A box with tips for the lesson appears before the prompted reading. "Word Extenders" pages emphasize parts such as suffixes that can be added to words to change them.

Recommendation: Rocket Phonics has a unique approach that is sure to get students reading quickly. The approach of teaching reading completely separately from spelling and writing is a philosophy that a parent must agree with to use this program. The phonetic spellings used in this program are unlike any other program out there, so if you are planning a transition to a "Writing Road to Reading" type curriculum, for example, your student will be quite confused. However, if getting your child reading quickly is your main concern, Rocket Phonics is very likely to bring success. resources related to this review:'s Language Arts Resources Section for tips on teaching reading and more!
Review of The Reading Lesson
Review of Sing, Spell, Read, and Write, Pre-Kindergarten
Review of Sing, Spell, Read, and Write, Kindergarten and Level 1 Combo Kit
Review of Sound Beginnings
Review of Spell to Read and Write and The Wise Guide
Review of Watchword

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