English Phonics: Primary Phonics

I’m procrastinating by writing posts instead of planning.  I started the year with a big bang as usual and petered out after about a week.  sigh

That said, I’m still planning away, just with many low days and some high days.

One of my goals for this year is to teach Thumper how to read in English.  Last year, I only had energy for her to review her short vowel sounds and work on some sight words.  It wasn’t planned, but it worked out perfectly because she can now read in Chinese.

The series we’re using to learn to read is Primary Phonics.  You can get it at Rainbow Resource for much cheaper than Amazon.  For me, this set is perfect for Thumper, who already knew all of her alphabet sounds and had practiced reading at school, but now needs more practice.  I feel like already knowing all the sounds first, and learning to read words first, makes it easier to the children.  I remember Thumper getting very frustrated with the BOB books for that reason, just too many things going on.

There are 6 sets, 10 books each.  We’ve been doing 2-3 books a day when we remember, for the last 2-3 weeks, and have progressed from set 2 to set 3.  The first set was all on short vowel sounds.  The second set long vowels and magic E (made, cake, etc), and the third set is on blends, first two vowels, then two consonants together.

I’m loving the set so far.  I tried to be cheap by printing out a free phonics set online.  But it only had 18 little booklets and by the 7th and 8th book, I knew it was just progressing way too fast.  Thumper had a lot of trouble sounding out words and reading smoothly.  So I bit the bullet and ordered sets 3 and 4 from Rainbow Resource.  So far so good.  The books are written so there’s repetition of words and focus on specific sounds for each book.  We go through the list of focus words on the inner flap before we read, and I let her read a few pages so ensure she gets it and then just go away and listen with half a year.  The other day we went biking and she read a whole phrase on the bike map, which let met know that she’s really learned those vowel blends finally.

You can buy workbooks and comprehension books along that match each set.  I like the workbooks because Thumper likes to go through and color the pictures and do the exercises for fun.  It’s also an easy way to turn in to our charter school when it’s time to collect samples.  I’m not sure if comprehension is necessary.  I read this book once wrote by a veteran homeschooling mom, who basically said that when you learn to read it’s about sounding out the words, not necessarily about comprehension, because the children are spending all their efforts on learning to read already, why are we asking them to also think about what they’re reading at the same time?  You can do comprehension with other non-learning to read activities.  That logic makes sense to me.


There are lots of programs out there for reading.  This is one area where I did not do a lot of research.  I chose Primary Phonics because it is the set that was used in her preschool.  I figured if our Montessori teachers chose it it’s good enough for me.  I’ve also seen this other set called Hand Prints from the same company used in the preschool.  I think they’re short readers for after you’ve learned to read?  I may get those too when we’re done.

I also have another set of free phonics booklets.  Again, the progression was just way too quick, with too many words in one page, really hard for beginning readers.

Oh!  My trainer said to go to Primary Concepts for language readers and I do see they have lots of different sets.  When I have more money I will maybe spring for them.  Otherwise I will just use my local library.

Sight words

I want to talk a bit about sight words.  Thumper had a super easy time with sight words.  If I had been more on top of it, she would have learned my 200 sight flashcards last year.   I asked her why once and it turned out that she sees words as a whole.  I think it is because of the Chinese influence.  She could be more of a whole word reader than a phonics reader.  I did some massive reading on this years ago.  It appears that some kids who struggle with phonics flourish once you do the whole word reading program instead.  She already learned her phonics so I’m continuing on with our phonics program.  But I always thought it was kind of interesting the influence of reading Chinese characters on her reading.   I’m also more of a whole word reader.  I read super fast and sometimes when I read a page I’m just looking at the word formations and not sounding out words one by one.  It’s more of a quick scan for words.


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