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Sing, Spell, Read, and Write, K-1

by Sue Dickson

Reviewed by Martha Robinson and Mary Leggewie

Purchase details: Sing, Spell, Read, and Write Kindergarten and Level 1 Combo Kit by Sue Dickson. $226.95. Published by Pearson Learning. Please support HomeschoolChristian.com by buying this program from our Amazon affiliate link.

Martha's Review:

Sue Dickson created the Sing, Spell, Read, and Write curriculum based upon her extensive experience in classroom teaching. She combines songs with phonics, writing, grammar, and games for a program that is memorable and fun. Packaged in a large box with a carrying handle, Sing, Spell, Read, and Write has a wealth of components.

The kindergarten portion of the set offers a gentle approach to the basics that will be taught again in level 1. A small pamphlet gives cursory instructions for using the two large print workbooks, All Aboard and On Track. Cut, color, and paste activities for recognizing the letters and their sounds and the writing of block letters (two inches tall) are the primary activities in the first workbook, while letter strip manipulatives used to create three letter words and story pages are the main staples in the second workbook. The back covers of both workbooks can be used as ruled pages for writing with an included Vis-a-Vis type pen and small eraser. The Phonics Song and the Ferris Wheel Song are introduced at this level. Six colorful readers complement the workbooks, and several more readers may be cut out from the On Track workbook.

A one hour video tape shows the author explaining how to use level 1 of Sing, Spell, Read, and Write to a homeschooling mother. Mrs. Dickson shows what to do during each one of the songs, discusses some of the reasons for the methods used, and makes suggestions about how to use the materials. She sets the parents' expectations for spending about an hour a day doing Sing, Spell, Read, and Write.

Level 1 has two workbooks, Off We Go and Raceway, and Assessment Book, and an Instructors Manual. Off We Go covers the entire alphabet (short vowel sounds only) with the child doing cut and paste, dot-to-dot, coloring, and matching activities, and writing plain manuscript one inch tall. During this workbook, the child moves a plastic cling race car around the Language Arts Raceway, a colorful laminated paper with a step for each letter on the inside track and the thirty-six steps of Raceway around the outside. The Phonics Song is used with Off We Go, and the child is to point to the letters on a laminated placemat while singing.

The Raceway workbook contains the majority of the learning in the program. Thirty-six systematic steps build the students vocabulary and reading skills as new phonograms and different pronunciations of phonograms previously covered are introduced. Ten songs and various manipulatives are used during the program to help reinforce the concepts, and simple games based upon Go Fish and bingo are to be played daily with a box full of trinkets serving as rewards. Workbook pages have reading exercises, plenty of writing (3/4 inch rule), matching, and fill-in-the-blank activities. Grammar lessons, covering end punctuation, capitalization, syllabication, superlatives, and contractions, are also in the workbook. Seventeen readers have multiple stories each. The child moves the cling race car around the outside of the Language Arts Raceway as steps are completed.

An assessment book contains comprehension tests for each of the readers, three achievement tests, and a certificate of completion. The instructor's manual gives step-by-step directions for all activities and answers to each workbook page and the assessments.

The Sing, Spell, Read, and Write songs are on both CD and cassettes. Children sing the songs with an adult leading. The melodies are simple, and the words are easy to follow.

Recommendation: Sing, Spell, Read, and Write offers a fun method to teach phonics-based reading, writing, and beginning grammar to young children. It has been used extensively in both classroom and homeschool environments for many years with great success. Sing, Spell, Read, and Write is easy to use with straightforward, clear instructions; however, it is an expensive program, and one can teach a child to read quite well with many less pricey methods. At the recommended one hour per day, it is also more time consuming than some parents may like. Before investing in the program, I would recommend careful consideration of whether the method will suit both you and your child.

Mary's Review:

Martha covered the components of this new second edition, and I'm going to briefly touch on the improvements from the first edition. I used the first edition of Sing, Spell, Read, and Write to successfully teach my two boys to read, so I was eager to see what changes had been made with the updated version, as well as whether or not the Kindergarten level edition was worth the additional cost.

The old songs from Sing, Spell, Read, and Write have been updated to a "fancier" style of music (there was nothing wrong with the old style or words), and have a few changes, such as changing "Indian" to "inchworm," and "ox" to "Octopus." One noticeable improvement is the slight change in the in the "2 vowel/silent e" songs. My kids could never seem to understand "the first vowel speaks, it says its name." The new version clarifies this by changing the lyrics to "the first vowel speaks, it says the letter name."

The video featuring author Sue Dickson and a homeschool mom is significantly shorter and much less intimidating for new homeschool moms compared to the previous edition showing Mrs. Dickson interspersed with actual classroom scenes. With a length of a little over 1 hour, it does the job just fine without being overwhelming.

Re-vamped workbooks are now color-coded to match each step on the raceway chart, and now the "Ferris Wheel" song's "Tickets" are on heavy card stock for durability. Students are now encouraged to make complete words with the blends in the Ferris Wheel song, with the aid of additional worksheets. This was something that I felt was lacking in the first edition. More practice sheets are included in the Off We Go book, along with a several "My Little Storybooks" that can be cut out and turned into little readers.

The readers have updated artwork. A few updates have been made, including adding children of more colorful photos. Only minor changes to the text of the readers have been made. The only "politically correct" change I could see (besides getting rid of "Indian") was that a chapel in the previous reader used to have a cross on the top, and the cross is now gone, but the chapel still exists.

Tests are now found in a separate "Assessment Book" rather than appearing at the end of the workbook. Rather than a single "circle the correct choice out of the 3 possibilities," there are additional pages now that help reinforce what was learned in each storybook. A standardized-test format is used for some portions, such as the storybook comprehension questions. Some of the assessments contain new stories to read with accompanying comprehension questions. This additional work could slow down the speed at which one finishes the first level of the first edition, but for the child who needs extra time to absorb the information more slowly, this could be beneficial. Those who are required to do standardized testing might appreciate this bit of practice.

The full-color teacher's manual has been significantly improved. It is much more suited to the novice teacher than the old manual, giving a more detailed step-by-step approach. The new manual clearly points out which materials are needed and which songs the student should be learning. It suggests pacing for each step, and includes grammar lessons and comprehension questions from the storybooks.

One of my biggest complaints with the first edition was that the spelling was too much for my two boys. In the second edition, Mrs. Dickson gives "permission" on the video to lift the spelling requirement towards the end if it becomes a burden, and go back later. I figured this out myself while using the first edition, but always felt guilty for not doing the complete program. This "permission" could be a benefit to the nervous homeschool mom who thinks she has to follow every step rather than tailor the curriculum for her individual child.

Mary's Recommendation: Overall, this is an excellent program, which I heartily recommend. I used the first edition to teach my two boys to read, and found that I needed to go to the library for additional "easy readers" to get through a few steps. With the encouragement to create words using the blending taught in the Ferris Wheel song, and the additional little storybooks and extra worksheets found in the new version of "Off We Go" and the Assessment book, supplementation may be unnecessary. My children enjoyed the readers and looked forward to reading each day. While this program is pricey, it is complete, and suggests that a child will be reading at second grade level upon completion. While I feel the money is very well-spent for the Level 1, the purchase of the Kindergarten level would only be valuable to a family who has an eager young child (4 years old) who insists on reading early. Otherwise, Level 1 is sufficient for a child who is really ready to begin reading. If you have more than one child, be sure to find out in advance if you can purchase extra workbooks.

HomeschoolChristian.com resources related to this review:

HomeschoolChristian.com's Language Arts Resources Section for tips on teaching reading and more!
Review of The Reading Lesson
Review of Rocket Phonics
Review of Sing, Spell, Read, and Write, Pre-Kindergarten
Review of Sound Beginnings
Review of Spell to Read and Write and The Wise Guide
Review of Watchword

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