We’ve been using Joyce Herzog’s Scaredy Cat Reading System Express as part of the Old Schoolhouse Review Crew for the past month or so. Primarily Sterling, age 5 (for a few more days!) and reading fairly well, was the one who used Scaredy Cat Reading System Express, but it’s been written for readers of all ages, from those that are struggling to the gifted student. It consists of teacher training with activities and suggestions as well as board games, all the stories, all the word lists and sentence lists for Levels 1, 2, & 3 – mastery based phonics available from JoyceHerzog.com.
We used this as Sterling’s reading and spelling for this review. He immediately took the the “scared vowel” concepts and thought it was hilarious – and continues to use those terms outside of his schoolwork. SCRS Express has three options for your approach – for the learner who needs to make quick progress and feel that he is not “stuck”, for the older learner who needs to know he is not doing “baby work”, and for the older learner who is merely solidifying his grasp of words and ensuring that there are no “gaps”. We chose this third option, since Sterling is reading quite well but hasn’t had a formal curriculum for instruction, but rather I’ve gone through many easy readers and introduced concepts as he needed to know them. Filling in the gaps after using this approach sounded like a good idea.
We spent anywhere from 30-60 minutes a day on this. It wasn’t the simplest curriculum, and it took some figuring to how it would work well for us, but we’ve had fun. The game board was by far Sterling’s favorite – we could spend an hour just playing on it. My older girls (Liberty is 9 and Eden is 8) would jump in for a rousing game, usually of “Spell…” and they’d try to spell the hardest words I could think of that were words they should know. I exhausted all the words in the book and most of my brain trying to keep them working. Sterling learned a lot and I learned exactly where he’s at in the world of phonics rules and their application. That was super fun.
This book has fifteen rules. Each day we spent time on the rule we were on, but there isn’t a start and stop to the day’s work. There aren’t scripts, but just lots of ideas on learning and studying and having fun with it. The CD includes songs to help learn, and while I’m not sure if it’s my computer or the CD, the quality of it has something to be desired. It was hugely annoying – to me. Sterling, however, doesn’t get the willies when something sings and makes noise for many minutes. I think it’s just me (and maybe the six kids in my home that make noise from 6 am to 8 pm – if I’m lucky).
I like how they wrote the story. Sterling and Ruby both immediately understood how vowels can be scared when surrounded by consonants. Ruby’s a little ways away from getting very much out of this curriculum, as she’s learning to read, but I hope to use it with her in the coming months to round out her understanding. I did Rule 15 with my older girls – foreign words. Those words that are hugely influenced by another language more than English (ie. buffet and fatigue and epitome) can be difficult and make you go “Huh?” Once we talked about those, the range of words that stumped them in our games got significantly smaller.
We’ll continue to use Scaredy Cat Reading System Express for Sterling’s first grade year and hopefully be able to start Ruby at the beginning in the coming months as she works through Kindergarten. This is perfect for where Sterling is now in his pursuit of becoming a better reader and speller. (Whether this pursuit is of his own accord or mine remains to be seen. At any rate, he’s pursuing it.)
The complete Scaredy Cat Reading System Express is $30 and can be found here. It includes the 122 – page book, two multi-use board games, all the word lists, sentence lists, and stories for practice. It also includes the SRCS Rules Songs CD with songs for each of the rules (hello, long term memory!), The Story of LetterMaster MINI, and Using LetterMaster as a Teaching Tool.
Don’t just take my word for it! Check out the Old Schoolhouse Review Crew blog for more reviews on this and several other Joyce Herzog products from other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew..