B5 and I have been using Ultimate Phonics Reading Program by Spencer Learning for the past few weeks.
What is Ultimate Phonics Reading Program from Spencer Learning?
This is a complete phonics program, which is systematic, without frills and very thorough. It consists of 262 lessons, each containing up to 43 pages. What sets it apart from other phonics programs is that it can be used for all ages and all abilities from beginners to struggling adult readers. Ultimate Phonics Reading Program is a downloadable CD Rom which runs on Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, and XP and Macintosh OS X 10.5.8 or higher. It can be downloaded onto multiple computers and once downloaded does not require internet access to work.
How Did We Use Ultimate Phonics Reading Program?
My daughter already knew all her letters and sounds and was just learning to blend before we took a summer break. Unfortunately in the interim she seemed to have forgotten a lot of them 🙁 So took her through all the letter sounds again starting from the very beginning of the program. It took a couple of weeks of flash card use before she was fluent. We then went back to the program, beginning once again at lesson 1. B5 and I did just ten minutes a day. She does not love learning to read, so any more I think would have been tricky for her. But ten minutes was the recommended amount of minutes, three times a week. We did it everyday, with her sitting on my lap at the computer. I believe my 8 year old could have used this program independently as it was very simple to navigate.
Lesson one focuses on all the sounds of the letters. As we had just worked so hard on regaining her recognition of the letters and their sounds, this was revision for her, and we completed it in less than ten minutes. This first lesson also introduces the child to the idea of consonants, vowels and phonics as well sight words such as a and the. Every concept is explained thoroughly using a computer activated voice, so reading is not necessary. I am guessing this feature is for the older beginner readers but I have to say how impressed I was to see B5 taking on board the whole idea of phonological words and non phonological words (sight words). I think this first lesson really filled in a few gaps regarding just how phonics works:
Lesson 2 moves quickly on to actual reading. The primary letter sound required for the words is revised and then a list of words is read by the child. I really appreciated that reading happened almost immediately, and B5 was reading well enough that she was able to decode the short words with ease. This very quickly built up her confidence. I went through the words alongside her first in the list form:
And then took it one word at a time until she had them all learnt. And here I think is where this program excels. Most reading programs contain lists of words which the child reads one at a time. I think seeing a whole list whilst at the same time trying to read that list is quite disheartening for a child, especially one who finds reading hard. Spencer Learning shows the list but it is separate to the pages the child has to read. On the reading pages, only one word is given at a time, in large print and also broken down into its phonical parts. This means a child only has to worry about one word at a time, which makes such a difference, I think:
I was bowled over! Honestly, I was close to tears. Here was the girl who has balked at reading, and had not really excelled on any of the programs we had tried with her, reading like a pro. Before lesson 2 she had been sounding out each word out loud and even then often not getting the correct word. Because Spencer Phonics works with one main sound, she immediately picked out that sound (a) and was able to decode the words in her head. I could literally see her enjoying it more and more as she managed to read each word in front of her. By the end of lesson two she was exclaiming how easy it was and how much she loved reading! Just by lesson two! I could not believe it.
The last nine pages of lesson two were sentences. For this I turned off the volume, using the mouse to highlight the word she was reading. This really helped. With the sound on, the computer decoded and read the word it highlighted, but without the volume the word was simply highlighted. This made it obvious to B5 which word she was meant to be reading from the sentence, meaning she never missed a word by mistake:
As you can see, all the words were either one of the two sight words she had been taught (a and the) or short words which all had the short -a- sound in the middle:
The fact she was reading sentences from lesson two onwards made her feel so successful, and success bred enthusiasm. This was the first time EVER she was reading without complaint. I think this program has worked this well because it is simple to use, with no blips in the programming. It makes complete sense, even to a five year old. It is methodical and thorough, without moving too quickly. It is almost impossible to fail with this program. It is repetitive without feeling like it is boring.
What did we think about Spencer Phonics?
I honestly can’t say enough good things about this program! It is by far the best phonics program I have ever used with a child (and I have used many). I have nothing negative to say about it at all. It was easy to set up, easy to use, took very little time, results were seen immediately and my reading shy child now exclaims that reading is her favourite subject! I wish I had known about it when A8 was struggling to learn to read. I just know this would have fitted her like a glove. This will definitely be the program I recommend to friends and family. It is really very, very good 🙂
You can try Ultimate Phonics free for 10 days.
Find out what the rest of the crew thought about this phonics program by clicking on the graphic below: