Review of Intensive Phonics and Reading Horizons
Both programs use a one-on-one teacher-student instructional model, however, with the second volume – called Reading Horizons, older students may be able to work with less teacher instruction, depending on their skill level. I received the entire set to review, however, you can purchase only the components that you need or want to use. There is a software companion that enhances the curriculum and can be of great value to the visual learner, however, it is not necessary to purchase it to use this curriculum.
Level One – Discover Intensive Phonics Ages 4-9
Discover Intensive Phonics contains two teacher manuals that are used according to skill level. If you started using this in Kindergarten, you would not need to use volume two. If you continued for first grade you would review volume one at a pace individual to your student, depending on their retention of the materials previously learned, and then proceed to using part of volume two. Continuing on to grades 2 and 3, you would do slight review, and move into the advanced skills more quickly. The end of year 3 you would focus more on the grammar skills taught near the end of volume two. So, essentially, you could purchase the whole Discover Intensive Phonics kit and use it for 3 years! If you don’t start in the beginning, there are instructions for you as well. There is no guess work, the teacher manual seems to “hold your hand”, so to speak, when it comes to directing your child through the program (which I love). Another think I really appreciate about the teacher manuals are they are sturdy and made with high quality paper and tabs (great if you are going to use it for 4 years!). They are laid out in a very organized fashion and since they are spiral bound, you can open each book and lay them flat.
There is no “student workbook” with Discover Intensive Phonics; instead it is called the “Sound Essentials Book”. It is also tabbed for ease of use and spiral bound. This book contains practice and activity pages, some required, others are just for “extra practice” as needed. They are labeled accordingly. These pages are all black and white with no distractive images. Some of the pages contain an explanation of the skills being practiced or taught. These pages are also found on the enrichment CD for easy printing, or I suppose you could use them directly from the book. Since it is spiral bound they would not rip out nicely though.
In the Sound Essentials Book you will also find a variety games and activities that will help your child retain the information they are learning. There are lists of skills and the games that will enhance each one, so again, no guess work. If you are like me, games usually seem like more work that they are worth and usually don’t have much benefit. You will be glad to know that the games and activities included in this curriculum can be played and used without much preparation or scouting out of objects/supplies. For example, there is a game called “Beat the Clock”. This game is a fun way for the learner to write as many letters, words, blends, etc. as possible in one minute. If you have more than one student, you could have “competitions”. Another game I liked was “Duck, Duck, Goose!” which aids the student in identifying the numbers of syllables in a word. At the end of the Sound Essentials Book are assessments and mastery checks for grade 1 and above as well as other useful tools.
There are 4 readers included with Discover Intensive Phonics. These readers are not expected to be used in Kindergarten, but can be if your child is ready. There are 32 stories in all, comprehension questions, and word lists. They also correlate with the computer lessons and student activity pages. These books have black and white images, which I would probably let my child color as a reward when they successfully read the story.
This was my favorite part! All you need is a black board or dry erase board. Students are encouraged to use this as a visual learning tool. I don’t know about you, but my children love writing on dry erase boards and chalkboards. When they are excited about something like that, it makes learning fun. This set includes some charts and other tools you will utilize with the curriculum.
This is not to be confused with the interactive software, which is included in my review below. Both Discover Intensive Phonics and Reading Horizons come with an “Enrichment CD”. This is AWESOME! When you get your curriculum and you pull it out and look at it, it can be overwhelming (it was for me). This CD includes video tutorials explaining every aspect of the curriculum, as well as tips and all of the master copies. When you get yours, I recommend popping this in right away!
The Computer Software for Discover Intensive Phonics
The computer software is easy to install. This level is geared visually for the early learner, being very colorful and engaging. There is a little “guide” as well as a friendly voice. This interactive software is like having an individual tutor in your home (or classroom). There are colorful lessons, immediate results (correct/incorrect), and fun games that help reinforce skills being taught. It is not necessary to have this software to use the curriculum, but it would definitely be a great enhancement. You could also use the software if you are not confident you will do a good job in getting the skills to really stick on your own.
Level Two – Reading Horizons Ages 10+ to Adults
Reading Horizons is the next level, geared towards children 10+ and adults. While Reading Horizons builds on skills taught in Discover Intensive Phonics, it is not necessary to have gone through it to successfully achieve the results you are looking for. Reading Horizons has all of the same great features as Discover Intensive Phonics, but concentrates on developing older students. There are no frills with this level and nothing to distract or confuse the student.
Reading Horizons not only develops the phonetic skills necessary to teach upper grammar/middle school aged students and adults how to read, also included are lessons and instruction on spelling, grammar, vocabulary, and handwriting, as well as listening and thinking skills. The interactive software is much more appealing to me in Reading Horizons (as an adult). It is visually a high quality software program that is easy on the eyes as well as easy to navigate. Again, there are no frills or distractions that would confuse the student. While the software can be used to enhance or, in my opinion as a stand-alone supplement, it is not a necessary component with Reading Horizons.
What I think
Discover Intensive Phonics and Reading Horizons are thorough programs to teach reading and phonics skills to all types of learners, whether visual, auditory, or even those with learning disabilities such as dyslexia. It would also be a successful program to teach English as a second language (ESL). The Orton-Gillingham Approach makes this curriculum well rounded for EVERYONE.
What I disliked
I was a little overwhelmed by the amount of materials included with the full set. It seemed like a lot of teacher manuals, which I am not so keen on. Having said that, the Enrichment CDs took away my anxiety after I discovered there were videos to explain it all. I am one of those who would open it up and dig in without watching all the training videos. I do NOT recommend that with this program. I suppose if I had a struggling reader or one with a disability, I would want to take the time to watch everything to best learn how to teach my child. The instructions and suggestions are easy to understand and a lot of my questions were answered in the Teacher Manuals.
Another thing I am not crazy about is the decoding and symbols used to label the words and blends. While this is a personal preference, I can see how it would be helpful at learning correct pronunciation.
Considering that Discover Intensive Phonics can be used for 4 full years (or more if needed), you are getting a lot for your money. With Reading Horizons, you are not able to use it for the length of time that you could with the younger level, but I don’t know if there is another program out there to teach phonics and reading successfully to older students and adults. Having said that, I think it is a good price for a solid curriculum.