Today I wanted to highlight a couple of free resources that have been very helpful to us recently!
First for Miss M, my steadily-improving-speller:
We’ve used Spelling City off and on for the past couple years. It’s a great website, and you can add your own spelling lists for your student to practice or play games with their words. But I we are super excited that Spelling City now has a free iPad app as well. That’s just an easier way to use this resource. I’ve entered our Logic of English Essentials spelling lists so far, and plan to keep doing this as we go along (search for me under username aragon95 if you are also a LOE user and want to use the lists too!). Miss M likes playing “Hang Mouse” and doing word searches. I’ve also used their “spelling test” feature for a painless end-of-lesson assessment. The app won’t give away the correct answer if she is struggling (something that I have, uh, been known to do in the past). And it is very patient. 🙂
Then for Mr. E, my new reader:
I think especially for those of us teaching reading primarily via phonics (and using as few “sight words” as possible), it can be challenging to find appropriate easy reader books. We’ve read a lot of BOB books, we have some Nora Gaydos readers, and I’ve found some books that work okay at the library, but Mr. E still needs lots of practice to develop fluency in this beginning stage, so we need more books! I have more on the way that I’ve requested from the library, but I also stumbled upon the I See Sam readers:
Aren’t the characters cute? This set of readers was developed in 1972, but because of the type of government funding that was used they entered the public domain in 1977.
There are 52 short books in the set. If you are teaching reading via phonics, you only have to introduce a few phonograms beyond the basic single-letter phonograms to have them make sense (ee, th, and wh are the three main ones I’ve seen so far, plus letters doubled at the end of single syllable short vowel words — ll, ff, ss). The level of difficulty increases very, very slowly and there aren’t too many words on each page — features I really appreciate!
Scans of the original books are available here. Another website, readingteacher.com, has re-formatted the books nicely and even created interactive flash animations/readings to go along with about the first half of the books. We’re using the printable versions from this site. It is a bit tricky to navigate and you have to create a free account to access the printable books, but I think it was worth it! (Once you create your account, select “levels”, then after you find the level you want, you can click “parents/teachers” to find the printable books for that level…at least that’s how I got there!).
Since Erik does have some reading experience, I started him out at book 18 (a bit of a random choice — easy enough to build fluency but far enough along to not be too boring). He loves it so far and has read about five books.
The only downside is, of course, if you want your reader to be holding these books in his/her hands while reading, you’ll have to print them out. I have a laser printer and the black-and-white pages are pretty sparse in terms of ink use. The formatting of the books does not lend itself to duplexing, so we’ll use a big stack of paper to print these. But compared to buying new sets of Bob or Nora Gaydos readers, I am pretty sure we are still coming out ahead. I think it would be possible to read these on an iPad or other tablet/e-reader type of device, but I am not sure Mr. E would like that as much so we haven’t tried that yet.
Some (or maybe most) easy reader books can be a bit lame due to the limited vocabulary. In one sense these are just as bad if not worse than others I’ve seen in regards to this measure. But my five year old and his shadow (aka, Mr K, age 3.5) both think they are hilarious, so no worries about lameness from their target audience I guess!
Have you found any other printable phonics-based easy readers you like? Are there any other great spelling websites we should try?