WHAT IS IT?:
Essentials is a comprehensive, all-in-one, reading, spelling, grammar, and vocabulary curriculum that now includes three levels of instruction in one convenient package.
The second edition Essentials set I received included:
- Teacher’s Guide Volume 1
- Student Workbook Volume 1
- Spelling Journal
- Phonogram & Spelling Rule Quick Reference
- Spelling Analysis Card
- Phonogram Game Tiles
- Flash Card Decks:
- Basic Phonogram
- Advanced Phonogram
- Spelling Rule
- Phonogram Game Cards (2 decks)
This complete Essentials Volume 1 Set is available for just $198.
In addition, I received digital files for the new Essentials Reader ($17.60), its Companion Teacher’s Guide ($16), and its Companion Student Activity Book ($9.60). These, I printed and bound with spiral comb binding. They will soon be available in physical copies, but at this time they can be downloaded digitally. This set is optional to Essentials, but it can be used as a complete reading comprehension and composition program for students in grades 3-5.
Essentials Volume 2 will be coming in January 2017 for $98.10 and will include the Essentials Teacher’s Guide Volume 2, the Essentials Student Workbook Volume 2, and Morpheme Cards Set 2.
This edition of Essentials is designed for ages 8 and up, and the complete 2-volume set can include up to 3 years of instruction. It includes Levels A-C, allowing you to use the set 3 consecutive years with differentiated instruction in each year (approximately grades 2-4, or as deemed appropriate based on the included placement testing).
Also new to the second edition are placement testing and ten optional pre-lessons to help you know where each student should begin.
I did not tell my kids we would be reviewing this set until it actually arrived at my house. This is because most kids don’t get excited when you tell them they “get to do” extra English work!
However, from the very first lesson, I can honestly say that they got excited about doing this program. In fact, my 6th grade daughter actually asked to do the work and went on and on about how much fun it was! And keep in mind that we were doing this program after our full regular school days, and yet they were willingly adding this on to our regular work!
I think this is because Logic of English Essentials provides a framework that is unlike any other typical English program I’ve seen. It’s a mix of traditional lessons with fun games, a variety of activities, and new ideas that may be new to your child and to your past teaching experiences.
We started with the placement testing. My 8-year old son, Holden, is finishing up 2nd grade this spring. I expected him to test into Level A because sometimes he is not the best speller. But he surprised me by testing into Level B. I was really glad for that reason that I took the time to do the placement tests. My 11-year old daughter, Haylee, is finishing up 6th grade this spring, and she tested not surprisingly into Level C. She’s an excellent speller, so that’s right where I expected her to be. The placement testing is atypical, as well, as it covers a combination of phonemic awareness, handwriting, reading, and spelling to determine where your child should begin. My kids did not need the pre-lessons, so we jumped right in with Lesson 1.
I’d like to point out that although this program gives you an excellent pacing guide and lays the lessons out for you on a 5-day schedule per lesson, it’s super easy to adapt this program to fit your schedule and the individual needs of each child you are teaching. I did not complete the program the way it was laid out, as I already knew my kids had their own individual needs. But I loved how easy it was to make those adaptations and also go at our own pace.
Both of my kids had already completed 4 years of formal phonics instruction previously, so we mostly skipped the “Essential Concepts” section that was typically scheduled on Day 1 of each lesson. It included instruction on phonograms and exploring sounds. I did review the spelling rules in that section, though, before we moved on.
Day 2 was the “Building Words” section and covered some review (including phonogram games with things like the game tiles, bingo, etc.), working with the Spelling Journal where your child records words with similar spelling patterns, and Spelling Analysis. My biggest focus here with both kids was on the Spelling Analysis. They each received a new word list for the week, and I learned a wonderful technique here that turned out to be a big help to both of my kids. In the past, I always gave my kids new words with their actual pronunciation. Not surprisingly, they often struggled with spelling unusual words that were not spelled the way they sounded. With Essentials, the teacher’s guide instructs you to pronounce new words the way they are actually spelled, and the Spelling Analysis section tells you just how to say it and gives you a sentence to read aloud for contextual meaning. The purpose for mispronouncing the word in this way is so that the first time your child writes down the spelling of the word, they form a visual of how the word is spelled in their minds before they write it. Thereafter, you can pronounce it correctly once they’ve cemented it in their minds in this way. I found this technique really worked for my kids, as they would mentally recall the mispronunciation as a means of spelling the word correctly, even when I said the word the right way on subsequent occasions. Brilliant tip!
Day 3 was the “Words in Context” section and covered review and some grammar work. I liked the way this was laid out. I would typically teach a grammar concept such as defining a particular part of speech, and after some oral practice or practice on a chalkboard, the kids would go back to their word lists and mark all the corresponding words that could be identified with that part of speech we just learned. They would also practice identifying parts of speech in phrases, and then I would give them some dictation phrases to write down in a notebook using their spelling words. I really liked the practical application of their spelling words in this way, which simultaneously helped them learn vocabulary by using the words in context.
Day 4 was the “Words in Action” section and involved some review and then some vocabulary work, each at their own level. For Holden doing Level B, this involved working with things like prefixes, suffixes, using words in a sentence, and basic morphemes. For Haylee, this more heavily involved morphemes and learning the meanings of the individual parts of words. We used the morpheme flash cards extensively and played games with them, creating words from them and defining them once we put the word parts together. She did so well with these and really learned a great deal! I wasn’t sure how well it would stick with her, but she amazed me by really recalling them when it came time for assessments! Then they each did more dictation phrases, and Holden worked with his optional Essentials Reader and related activities. I have to tell you how very much he loved his own little reader book. The very first lesson in the reader involved quips. These tongue twisters were so much fun for him! Then the activities in the Companion Student Workbook were a blast. He willingly did the handwriting page in there, which amazed me (this child detests writing), and he did a better job of staying in the lines than I’ve ever seen him do in the past. It gave him a list of words, and we took turns using the words to make up our own quips, and then the other person had to try to say them really fast. He laughed so hard! He wanted to do this all evening long. It was nice to see him having so much fun with this.
Day 5 was designated to “Check Your Understanding,” which was essentially the test day. We all reviewed our grammar rules with the flash cards, and then Haylee would do some more activities with her morphemes. Then we moved on to the assessment section. Again, we skipped over testing the phonograms and vowels here since they’re both past the stage of needing to practice those things, and we started with their dictation phrases. This was such a great way to have them apply their spelling words in context as vocabulary at the same time! Then to test grammar, they had to go back and label the words in the dictation phrases as they identified the parts of speech they had learned. I really loved how all the instruction was brought together so cohesively in the assessment portion!
I can’t express how impressed I am with this program. The fact that my kids actually liked it spoke volumes to me. The morpheme activities were essential for helping my daughter to truly understand vocabulary, and it sparked some great questions from her as we did the work. She took a lot of pride in all that she was learning and recalling, and that did wonders for building her confidence. I saw both of my kids improving their spelling, and I was able to do some of the writing for my younger son so it didn’t slow him down, while at the same time, he showed more willingness to write some of the time than I’ve seen in the past. And although the basic outlay for the lessons is the same, Essentials does a great job and changing up some of the activities to keep things fresh and fun! From manipulating game tiles, to building words with morpheme cards, to playing bingo or little board games, Essentials keeps the kids interested and engaged with a great balance of workbook and hands-on activities, plus both written and oral exercises.
I also wanted to mention that although the Student Workbook includes all three levels of activities, but it’s intended for use by a single student, as outlined in the copyright information. So because I was using this with two children, I opted to purchase the student workbook in digital format so both of my kids could do this program and have their own individual workbook. I actually liked how that worked out, because I didn’t need to print the whole thing for each child. Since they were working on different levels, this allowed me to customize each of the workbooks by printing only the Level B pages for Holden and only the Level C pages for Haylee so they didn’t need to skip over any of the pages. I printed them and spiral bound them with their names on the covers. The digital student workbook can be printed as many times as you need for your own family, and it is available for only $9.60.
I really wish I’d had this program when all of my kids were younger (my oldest is a high school junior!). It’s a one-stop shop for all of your language arts components, and it’s so simple to use. And it helps kids to see how all of those individual language arts skills are so highly interconnected in practical everyday use. It’s a great way to consolidate instruction time for spelling, vocabulary, reading, and grammar into a single seamless daily lesson that is effortless to teach and flows really well. I loved how easy it was to adapt for each child’s needs and how easily it lent itself to natural stopping points based on the attention span of each child. I would really encourage you to give this program a try!
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