This fun, colorful and easy to use phonics program has been updated and repackaged several times since we first offered it. Currently, each grade level is divided into two levels, each of which contains a Quick Start Guide, workbook, DVD, readers, and reward stickers. The workbooks are very high-quality and visually interesting (some pages are full-color, the rest have a more limited palette). The storybooks are done by different authors and illustrators (some of them award-winning) and are also high quality both in content and form. Lessons are consistent in format throughout the program: first watch the DVD lesson, then read the corresponding pages in the workbook. After practicing the words, students read a story, then “celebrate” with a reward sticker.

The content at each level has changed over the years too – Level PK starts with learning the letter names and sounds. By Level K, children have moved on are ready to start reading simple “a” words like “rat” and “cat.” If your child hasnt mastered the alphabet and letter sounds, PK is the place to start. Theyll learn both uppercase and lowercase forms of the letters, and blending sounds as well. If they are already comfortable with the alphabet and sounds, jump into the K level. The DVDs lead you through the lessons at each level. Each lesson on the DVD combines audio and visual features, with animations of letters joining together, and then a speaker reading the word. After a series of words has been covered, the segment is shown again and the child is encouraged to read the word before the speaker says it. The DVD never gets tired of taking your child through the words. Use the lessons as often as you like until your child has learned all of the words. The audio component is really a plus if youre a busy mom, since your child can do most or all of the lesson on his/her own with very little participation required on your part. An older child could also easily oversee the use of this program.

According to the Quick Start Guide, lessons should require only 20 minutes. The first part is Learn watch the DVD, learn the sounds and words introduced, or learning Helper words (sight words), then continue the lesson wherever you left off in the workbook. Next is Practice, using the next workbook Practice page, with the child reading all of the words that were learned in the lesson. Every lesson ends with “Read” in which your child reads a story in the workbook or one of the books (as prompted by the workbook). At the end of each lesson, your child can place a sticker on the workbook page that either directs them to the storybook or holds the story. You can also register your product on for online games and printable activities to enhance what is included in the kit.

The K Level concentrates on short vowels and learning CVC words. A good number of sight (Helper) words are also introduced. And after reading the first reader in the K Level, there are several discussion/comprehension questions are included in the workbook as well. Level 1 of First Grade introduces and practices initial consonant blends and teaches more sight words. Level 2 of First Grade introduces and practices final consonant blends (and digraphs), some suffixes (-ing, -er, -ly, -es, -ed) and some words with two syllables. In Second Grade, Level 1 introduces long vowels, first with silent e, then other long vowel digraphs including ee, ea, ow, oa, ai, ay, y (as long i), y (as long e); r-controlled vowels including ar, er, ir, ur, or, ore, eer, ear, are, and air. It also presents additional Helper words. Level 2 of Second Grade continues with more sounds and “complex consonant blends.” These include oy, oi, ou, ow, au, aw, long oo, short oo, igh, and ind. Three-letter initial blends are covered (shr, str, scr, spr, spl, and squ) then phonograms kn and wr. Soft c and g complete the phonics instruction. As in other levels, more sight words and two-syllable words are included as well. After this level, you can continue reading instruction with the Master Reader set (see review later in this section).

I really like the audio/DVD component of this course. It is crisp, clear and understandable. Children would require little further instruction to follow along in the program. Materials are very nice, especially in quality and format. Instruction is solid. Many programs do not do enough to introduce children to letters and letter sounds, expecting that you will use some other method to teach these prior to beginning a phonics program. The price and feel of the program is similar to that of Sing, Spell, Read and Write. Materials in that program are more rustic and less engaging and colorful, but instruction is more complete. It also has writing and spelling components which this program lacks. HOP incorporates reading comprehension and is easier to use and less time-consuming for the teacher. There is absolutely no guess-work or training time. The online games in HOP are a nice little bonus for children, and a good trade-off for the inexpensive prizes in SSRW. At the end of SSRW, you have fewer remaining phonograms to cover; at the end of this program, youll really need to finish up with an advanced phonics book or program, or incorporate remaining phonics constructs into your spelling program. I also think the Grade 1 level of this program is particularly light. I seriously doubt that youd spend an entire year on initial and final consonant blends, a few suffixes and some sight words. Normally, these skills take little time and effort for children to acquire. I would, therefore, suggest completing the entire program in one and one-half to two years, beginning as early as PK, and catching remaining phonograms with another program. One other aspect of the program is that because it is split up into several levels, you can try one, then switch to another program if needed without the major loss of investment you would have with a “complete” program.

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