Logic of English sent us Essentials: Logic of English Complete Set to review. Essentials is meant for age 7 to adult but J-jo (4.5) is the one who is using it in our household. While the level is right for him, I have to tweak the lessons for his attention span, as you will see when I discuss how we used it later on in this review. We also reviewed the Phonics with Phonograms App.What Essentials: Logic of English Complete Set is: Essentials is a systematic phonics reading, spelling, and writing. There are a lot of materials: the teacher’s manual is ginormous and I felt completely overwhelmed. I was a bit nervous of what I had gotten myself into and kind of wished I hadn’t been so enthusiastic to review this. However, as I started reading that tome, I felt encouraged by all that is in there. Our package included
- the Essentials Teacher’s Manual
- Essentials Student Workbook
- Spelling Journal
- Basic Phonogram Flash Cards
- Spelling Rule Flash Cards
- Grammar Rule Flash Cards
- Advanced Phonogram Flash Cards
- the Phonogram and Spelling Game Book
- Manuscript Game Cards
- Phonogram Game Cards
- 2nd Set Game Cards
- a Quick Reference Chart.
All of this costs $243, which seem high, but for a thorough program that spans more than one component of language arts and is for a wide span of ages (meaning you will use it for several years), it actually is a good price. You could get by with just the Teacher book and the student workbook if finances were tight.
The Teacher’s Manual:
This hardcover book is very thorough. I love that everything I need for spelling, grammar, and writing is in one place. There’s a lengthy introduction section that is important to pre-read. It’s replete with scope and sequence, sample schedules for various types of students, explanation of the different parts of the lessons, tips, and teacher resources.
The student Workbook:
The softcover student workbook comes in Manuscript or Cursive. Logic of English recommends starting with cursive, but since we didn’t, I requested the Manuscript workbook. It includes game sheets (like a board game, or a bingo sheet) as well as the writing exercises. The workbook is consumable and you need one for each student. I love that the pages are perforated and I can pull them out. After we were done with the sheet, I three-hole punched it and put it in a binder.
The phonogram cards:
I love how detailed they are and how big they are. These are used in every lesson.
Each lesson has three parts plus optional activities:
In the first part of the lessons, the student learns and reviews phonograms. The phonograms are introduced in related groups and there are also 20 previously taught phonograms to review. The review usually involves a game from the Phonogram and Spelling Game Book or one from the workbook.
There is an exploring sounds section which includes phonemic awareness activities. For example, in lesson 1 students discover that vowels can be sung and consonants can not. In lesson 4, this is reviewed, and then the student must decide if multi letter phonograms (like “ee” or “ck”) are multi-letter vowels or multi-letter consonants. At this point in lesson 4 there is a blue box of optional sounds practice in the workbook, a sorting activity, or a vowel and consonant collage.
There are also spelling rules to learn in some lessons. The spelling lesson rule corresponds to a phonogram that was taught in that lesson. For example, the rule “ay usually spells the sound /a/ at the end of a base word” is introduced when the phonograms “ay” and “ai” are taught in lesson 4.
Part 2 of the lessons is spelling dictation and analysis. The word is spoken, used in a sentence, and then the student has to say how many syllables in the word and sound the word out aloud. Then the student writes the word in the workbook. Logic of English has the students mark the spelling words as a way to analyze the logic behind the spelling of the word. Multi-letter phonograms are underlined and vowel sounds are marked. There are more markings as well. We only mark the multi-letter phonograms because J-jo is only 4.5 and already Logic of English stretches him mentally without this step. However, I do still talk about the words with him, pointing out silent letters and the sound of the vowels.
Part 3 consists of 4 components: grammar, dictation, composition, and vocabulary. Here are examples from lesson 4. For grammar, we reviewed nouns, adjectives, non-count nouns, and plurals. The new learning was articles as adjectives. The students are asked to write the nouns on their spelling list as plurals. They are also required to identify these nouns and also the adjectives on the list. They begin to label nouns and adjectives in phrases in this lesson. The grammar portions are gentle and scripted and they work well for J-jo. They remind me of another grammar program I have used with Bear, but I love that Logic of English has the grammar integrated with the spelling. The dictation involves phrases made from combining spelling list words (in lesson 4). I peeked ahead to future lessons and see that these progress into dictations of short paragraphs. It is very incremental.
There isn’t that much in terms of composition. I would not consider this a full writing program, but these are nice exercises to improve writing. In lesson 32, the composition involves playing with sentences. The students are given the simple sentence “Children play,” and asked to expand them and make them more interesting by following the directions. (Add an adjective. Add a prepositional phrase, etc.) In lesson 4, however, students only write six phrases using their spelling list words. The later composition lessons remind me of Writing Workshop time when I taught third grade. You teach this mini-lesson and then remind students to try to incorporate this skill when they write later in the week. The vocabulary lessons vary, but so far have involved using suffixes, compound words, and what o’clock means. The optional activities include activities to address different learning styles. There are kinesthetic, visual, auditory, and creative activities.
How we used Essentials with our 4 year old: Here’s a glimpse at our first attempts with it. A play-by-play if you like.
I approach my son with the first lesson. We are supposed to review the phonograms of 26 letters of the alphabet. He is a little rusty with the extra vowel sounds (y says 4 sounds like in yellow, gym, sky, and baby) and not impressed with this as his reading lesson. We go over how q always needs a u with it and he writes three “qu” words on the whiteboard. I am too overwhelmed to take photos. He doesn’t want to do anymore. I am supposed to teach him how you can sing vowels, but can’t sing consonants. He doesn’t want to. I don’t really either, so we end there, not quite done part 1 of lesson 1.
Two days go by in which I can’t get him interested in a Logic of English “reading” lesson, though he reads plenty out loud to me or to himself. He is reading at a grade 2 reading level now, but still needs to learn the more complex phonograms which he knows in context, but not alone. I finally convince him to do the second part of LOE lesson 1. I am supposed to dictate 15 words for him to spell. He starts out very enthusiastic, but I know it won’t last, so I skip a ton of the CVC words and give him “quilt” and “soft” and “pink” instead, which are further down on the list. “Pink” ends it for us, even though I review the “nk” sound with him before giving him the word. He spells it but then proclaims he is off to play. I convince him to stay so we can talk about nouns and adjectives and plurals, but then let him run off. In these two days, we’ve managed to do Parts 1, 2, and 3 of the first lesson now, but in a very abbreviated way. Yes, it hasn’t been as I pictured, but I am gaining confidence in the program and willing to persevere.
My first thoughts after two days: This is probably better for older students. It is a lot of writing for him. I sometimes let him use the salt tray or the paint bag so his fingers don’t get too tired.
I need to revisit that sample schedule for young emerging readers. I notice that they recommend 5 spelling words at a time. Interesting how I intuitively knew that was the right number for him.
We continued to use Essentials almost every day, slowly. The emerging schedule says to teach one lesson every 2 weeks. I’d say that is about what we did, though I didn’t end up following their schedule, (in revisiting the schedule again to write this post, I am thinking it would really be best to do so). The learning curve has been steep for me, but I continue to gain confidence in teaching it. We have done 4 lessons and are about to do the assessment and review lesson (they appear every 5 lessons).
J-jo liked the games. He especially liked Phonogram Tag in which I showed the phonogram card and he took a step forward if he got it right, or didn’t walk forward if he couldn’t remember the phonogram. We let bear join in and gave her all the hard phonograms! A variation of this was to play it on a staircase and pretend the staircase was a mountain. Both these games are in the Game book.
There are also board game templates in the workbook to practice phonograms in a different way.
What I love about Essentials:
- Everything (spelling, phonics, grammar, vocabulary, and composition lessons) is all in one book. Though I need to still use another writing curriculum (one that focuses on narrations and summarizing), and also readers to practice reading, this is still by far the most inclusive language arts program I have encountered.
- I can use this book with both my children. For reviewing it, it was easier just to focus on J-jo. I have not used it with my advanced 6 year old yet. Mostly because I am not sure where to place her in the book. (this is a negative) She certainly would not want to start at the beginning. I most likely will continue the path I have started with Bear, but now will continue Essentials with J-jo.
- The games include a variety of card games, board games, and kinesthetic games. We especially liked the kinesthetic ones.
- The program is very systematic and has a clear progression. It is easy to pace according to the needs of your child.
- It teaches the “why” of spelling.
- The phonogram cards are very large and easy to read.
What I wish was included:
- Diagramming of sentences. Though sentences are analyzed for their parts of speech, there is no diagramming.
- While it is true there is no reading practice within this complete Essentials set (Fluency sheets would be a nice addition within the worktext, but there is a reader that can be purchased to correspond with the Essentials lessons), this isn’t a deal breaker for me, especially now that J-jo is a fluent reader. We would rather practice reading with real literature.
Some other negatives:
- The price could be prohibitive for some.
- It is very teacher-led and scripted.
- It has a steep learning curve (at least for me) and there is SO much information per lesson that it is a bit overwhelming. However, if you don’t mind tweaking things just a little, we found that doing so helped us enjoy Essentials more.
We also got to review the Phonics with Phonograms App. This app for all ages is available for all i-products. It is a great way to have the kids practice the phonograms. Students get to hear, and see the 74 phonograms needed to read and write 98% of English words. The app states a phonogram and the student must choose it from a set of phonograms. There’s nothing fancy about it, and it does its job, which is all that is needed from it. Even in its simplicity, it is well designed and looks professional. I especially love that we can customize the difficulty and have different students set at different difficulties. You can even make custom lists. This app is useful even if you are not using Logic of English, and it would have been great to have this from the beginning of J-jo’s learn-to-read journey.