The Homeschool Review Crew had the opportunity to review a product from Spencer Learning called Ultimate Phonics Reading Program for the last several weeks. I used this with Pierce, who turns five years old in a few days. He’s doing Kindergarten this year and reading short words.
Ultimate Phonics Reading Program is a download for your computer. It downloaded easily and fairly quickly onto my not-so-new (Windows 7) laptop. The program retails for $69.95, but there’s a sale right now to purchase it for $49.95. Sale ends Friday, September 30. You own the program with purchase, and upgrades are free forever.
This program contains a potential two or more years of phonics and reading lessons for as many children as you wish to use it for – it saves where you were last but you can move between lessons however you wish. Progress for each student is not saved; that’s up to you to decide. It does keep a list of “History” to make it easier to see other places you’ve been recently.
Each of the 262 lessons follow the same method.
First it introduces with Ideas or Pattern. It introduces the sounds the lesson will focus on. Clicking on the letters will cause the computer to read the sounds presented, as many times as necessary. Pierce started here with hearing the computer, repeating after it, until he was grounded in what the letters together were spelling. This screen shot is from Lesson 2, at the very beginning. This is where we started with Pierce, since he’s a very new reader. Skipping between lessons is easy though, so you can start where your child needs help most.
Word List is next, introducing words that will pop up in the lesson. Clicking on them will cause the computer to read them aloud so your child can practice them before going further into the lesson and finding those words in the sentences. This screenshot is from Lesson 262 – the very last lesson in the program, just to show you the progression as they learn.
Next comes the Words portion. It has the words separated into sections based on letter blends or individual letter sounds, and clicking on each of the yellow “cards” will make the computer read the sounds that the letter/letters make, to help the child sound it out. This is lesson 52, a good 10-20 weeks into the program. The progression is slow and steady, not overwhelming and moving along at a good pace for even the struggling reader. Since the lessons are short – 10 or so minutes so long as the child is picking up the concept, they could potentially do more than one lesson on the easier days.
Finally comes Sentences, where the child puts their work into sentences! They can still click on a single word that they are stuck on and have the program read it to them, and they can click on the speaker image above the sentence to have the whole sentence read to them. It puts the words they’ve learned that lesson and the lessons before it into sentences to complete the lesson.
The whole program, as you can see, is very simple and basic. There’s little color, no animation, no creatures or silly sounds. The little arrow/box in the bottom right corner will even black out the screen behind the program for zero distractions on the computer screen. Pierce is as squirrelly as they come (We’ve done English lessons while he was standing on his head!) so the less distractions the better. He did not exactly enjoy these lessons, but he did learn from them. They are dry – thus, no distractions – but they get the job done. I had a love/hate relationship with the program. Teaching children to read is NOT my favorite thing. Pierce is my sixth child to teach to read and it’s not getting any less tedious. I love it when they get it and can enjoy reading, but the teaching process can be a bit mind-numbing no matter what you use to teach them. This program, while not changing the mind-numbing aspect, got the lesson over and done quick without issue, so that we can move on with our day. Works for me!
I received a license key for the program. It continues to ask me for my key when the program is opened – I don’t know why it won’t store it, but that’s frustrating. I have to go back into my email and find that information unless I leave the program open from day to day. That was the extent of technical issues I encountered, so I’ll call it minor.
Sixty reviewers on the Homeschool Review Crew used Spencer Learning’s Ultimate Phonics Reading Program and reviewed it. Check out their reviews too!