Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Crew Review: Fun-Time Phonics from The Critical Thinking Co.

I have always been impressed with any curriculum we have used from The Critical Thinking Co. Always. When they appeared on the Schoolhouse Review Crew review list for a second time this year, I was happy to volunteer. We received a copy of Fun-Time Phonics to use with our children and review.

As with every Critical Thinking Co. product I've used, Fun-Time Phonics is a paperback workbook. It is 314 pages long, with 100 activities included. Some activities are several pages long, and should be broken into smaller segments with young readers. The book is full-sized, measuring 8.5 x 11 inches, and one inch thick.

Some workbooks from The Critical Thinking Co. are consumable, though most allow photocopying for family use. Fun-Time Phonics doesn't involve any writing. Every activity is completed by pointing, so this book is completely reusable and non-consumable.

Fun-Time Phonics uses colorful illustrations in all the activities. The pictures represent words that are listed for the parent at the bottom of the page, or along the outer edge of the page. This is a pre-reading workbook. There aren't any words to read in it until the final 13 pages. Though my son was using his reading skills to figure out some of the activities.

I first tested this with my 7 year old son, who has already learned the basics of reading. He can read 3 letter words easily and is gaining confidence in reading larger words. The beginning sections of the book were a breeze for him. He did struggle with the letter-switching activity where they replaced the middle vowel with a different vowel. He had never done that before. We also used Fun-Time Phonics to practice hearing different vowel sounds and identifying them. This is actually a skill he will need in learning to spell and write.

When I used it with my 4 year old pre-reading daughter, we started at the beginning and found it was more a fit for her. We moved slowly, working through the early pages. We soon had to stop, as she was not ready for the later activities. She may need more time to be ready for reading lessons, or she may need extra review.

I like the different way some of the activities approached phonics. The Critical Thinking Co. uses a comprehension approach in Fun-Time Phonics. The vowel-switching activity to create a new word was new and challenging for my son. The largest portion of the book has the child picking which image begins with a certain 2 letter combination.  (Which word begins with be_ ?) This was also a mind-stretching activity for my son. However, I can't stop using our reading curriculum with him, since he is basically beyond the scope of this book. Although using this does increase his understanding of the word-building process.

Although Fun-Time Phonics is intended to be a complete, stand-alone phonics curriculum, I am having a hard time trusting that it will work on its own. It is obviously a great supplemental resource for teaching phonics, but I don't think it can stand alone as a reading/phonics curriculum. At least, not for my children.

Fun-Time Phonics is available as a paperback book for $39.99, or as a Windows download for 2 computers for $19.99. If you want it for up to 6 computers, the price is also $39.99.

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April E.

The Critical Thinking Company Review

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