I mention our use of Logic of English Essentials pretty regularly in my week-in-review posts, but it has been many months since I’ve written a comprehensive post with our thoughts about the program. It’s now been a little over a year since we started the program and Miss M (age almost 9, third grade) has completed 36 of the 40 lessons of the program. We took a break for a part of the summer, spent two weeks on a few lessons, and of course had a few other vacation weeks during the year — which explains why in about 55 weeks we have not finished a 40-lesson program. 🙂
As a bit of background, here are a few other posts I’ve written about Logic of English:
A review of the book “Uncovering the Logic of English”
My initial review of Logic of English Essentials (also includes background of our previous spelling curricula attempts).
My last long “update” post from late last summer
A post about how I organized my LoE flashcards and game cards
I’ll just cut to the chase and talk about results first, then go back to some nitty gritty details of how we’ve used the program and our plans for the future.
Just to give you an idea of where Miss M was coming from shortly before starting LoE, here’s a few sentences she wrote last winter (Jan – March of 2012, 2nd grade):
On a worksheet about the five senses asking, “What did you smell,” Miss M wrote: “I donde no waet I smeld.”
A few more example sentences (they seem random, because they are from a writing curriculum we tried last winter and are in response to various prompts or pictures):
“I licke free time becus I can do waet evr I want.”
“The chilin are sackbordin.”
“I had cholitk melk. It was fomy.”
“My famly went on are vry frst bike ride this yaer.”
So, you can see why I was very eager to find a spelling curriculum that would work for us. Not only was Miss M making a lot of errors (though possibly not more than some other 2nd graders), her errors didn’t necessarily make sense…they weren’t always even phonetically regular errors! There were times when she would write something out, and later herself couldn’t even read what she wrote because of the types of spelling errors she was making. She told me she hated writing because it was so hard to figure out how to spell everything.
So what does Miss M’s writing look like now?
I don’t have a ton of examples handy of Miss M’s recent writing. I made conscious decision to focus on spelling this year, and not ask very much in terms of a formal writing program. Miss M has, however, recently taken up writing notes back and forth with a neighbor friend. She typically has me check these notes for spelling errors. Here’s a recent note with spelling errors intact:
I got your letter. It was wet and hard to read. Why was it outsid in the rain? What kind of feald trip did you go on today?”
So, two errors. Miss M found the “outside” error quickly when I asked her to look at that word again. I then praised her choice of a phonogram for the /long e/ sound of “field,” in that it was a choice that made sense — then I let her know what phonogram she should have used instead.
Miss M is only eight (she turns 9 in a few days!). I don’t expect perfect spelling from her. But I am super pleased that when she does make mistakes it is often a letter carelessly left out or written out of order (that she can find quickly upon review), a wrong-but-logical phonogram choice, or a word she really can’t figure out (but almost always knows she has spelled the word wrong, and marks it that way before she hands it over to me for editing).
As she is writing notes on an almost daily basis these days (and doesn’t have to think so hard about how to spell each and every word), she’s applying her knowledge of spelling to the words she uses frequently, and is more consistently remembering which phonograms to use and how to apply the rules she has learned this year.
One of my favorite comments from her recently came when I was reviewing a note in which she had spelled the word “flower” correctly, and I had praised her for this spelling. Her comment was, “Mom, I used a lot of logic to figure that one out.” 🙂 I think she may have had “flower” on a spelling list at some point, but hadn’t used that word much since then. Now she has the tools and “logic” to figure out a word like that even if she didn’t have the spelling automatically memorized.
Now on to a few “nitty gritty details”, for those readers looking for that sort of thing!
How we used Logic of English Essentials:
First, I want to say that I am terrible at using curricula as written. I don’t think I use a single product exactly the way it is supposed to be used. I am always tweaking, modifying, changing and experimenting. So these adaptations we have made are no knock on the curriculum. I end up “changing” even the things I really like. 🙂
Each and every week we used the “lesson” on new phonograms, spelling rules, exploring sounds, and so on. We often played phonogram games and occasionally played spelling games. I dictated a spelling list to Miss M on each non-review week. We did some spelling journal assignments.
For us, I found the grammar was too much for our priorities this year. I started out doing a few of the basic grammar lessons at the beginning of the program. But things started getting a bit more complex, and I didn’t find Miss M was retaining the information without spending a lot of time on it. Given that Miss M was only 8 for most of the the school year (we started using the program when she was seven), I know she has plenty of time to learn more grammar. We used an alternative, fun program to learn the parts of speech (Sentence Family — read my review here), and shelved the grammar portion of Logic of English Essentials.
We also were somewhat sporadic about the writing exercises and sentence or phrase dictation. For much of the year Miss M found sentence dictation to be really stressful. I think she might be ready for more of that next year. As the program went on I noticed a lot of the written exercises were tied in to the grammar lessons, so I decided to find other ways for Miss M to practice writing her spelling words.
What did our week look like? Here is what our typical LoE spelling week looked like for most of the year:
Monday: Together, I would introduce the lesson — new phonograms, spelling rules, and so on (basically, all the parts of the lesson before the spelling list. After the Logic of English Phonogram App was released, Miss M would also be assigned independent phonogram practice with the app
Tuesday: Spelling list dictation. Because Miss M didn’t like the thin paper in the workbook if she happened to need to erase, I started having her do her lists in her own spelling notebook (just a little blank notebook from Target). After we developed that habit, Logic of English released an e-book version of the workbook. For students that don’t like the thin paper of the printed workbook, printing just the pages you need from the ebook is a good option as well.
Wednesday: Independent spelling practice with Spelling City. I copied each and every list into spelling city, so Miss M could practice with the games on the computer. If we had time, sometimes we also did a game for phonograms and/or spelling words. On weeks where a Spelling Journal assignment made sense, she would sometimes do those as well.
Thursday: Independent practice of spelling words out loud (Miss M finds it helpful to read the word and then spell it out loud a few times), and also either Spelling City practice or a phonogram or spelling game together.
Friday: End of week test/assessment using the Spelling City app on the iPad. I am terrible about not giving hints with my facial expressions when giving spelling tests, so Miss M takes her test from an “unbiased tester”. 🙂
Plans for Next Year:
We’re almost done with our school year, and due to standardized testing and other plans during the next two weeks, we’re now on “summer break” from formal spelling instruction. Of course, I’m sure Miss M will still be writing notes to her friends, giving her ample real-life practice with spelling. 🙂
Including the final review week, Miss M still has four lessons left to complete her initial run through the Essentials program. At this point I plan to complete those lessons with her in the late summer. Then when we start the 2013-2014 school year next September, we will go through the Alternate/Advanced lists available on the Logic of English blog for LoE Essentials.
I have not yet decided if we will use the grammar portion next year. I have another grammar program in mind I had previously planned to use with my kids starting in 4th or 5th grade, but I don’t yet own that program so I need to do further research as to what I think will be best for Miss M.
If you read my earlier posts about Essentials, you may have noticed I originally planned to use the program with Mr. E, my Kindergartener, as well this past year. I did try and use portions of Essentials with him all fall — but I had a hard time getting the pacing and activities right for him. I ended up buying the Logic of English Foundations Beta in January to use with both Mr. E and Mr. K. In retrospect I really wish I would have bought it when it was first available in August! But it has been a wonderful nearly five months of using it (mainly with Mr. E so far). I am nearly all the way through Foundations, and that will deserve a review post all its own.
But, since Mr. E has completed what is currently written of the Foundations program (levels A-D, though really mostly C and D since he came into that program with prior knowledge), I need to continue his reading and spelling instruction next year as well!
Unless something wonderful and new comes along between then and now, I plan to try again on Essentials with Mr. E in the fall when he is a first grader. A lot will be review — but I think that’s okay, because he seems to be retaining his reading knowledge from Foundations better than he is retaining/applying his spelling knowledge at this point.
I have this idea of keeping Miss M and Mr. E on the same “week” of the program with different lists, so they could review the same phonograms, spelling rules, etc together and maybe, just maybe even do some grammar work together. I have no idea if this will actually work out for us! (I guess you can follow my blog and check back next year to see how it goes.) 🙂
Thank you for posting this – I’ve been looking at the Essentials program, and all the reviews I have read are written by people who say it looks terrific, but haven’t actually used it! I am very much like you in that I change and tweak anything I buy, so I’ve been hesitant to purchase an expensive spelling program only to drop parts and make up my own way of doing it. I’m happy to see that the main parts of this did work for you and, in fact, could be used for multiple years as review or more in-depth exploration. I appreciate your comments – thanks so much!
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Would you be willing to share your Spelling City list name so I could use it with my kiddos?
Thanks so much!!
Try this link: http://www.spellingcity.com/aragon95/
Hello! I have a son who is in first grade now needing some support with spelling. Wanted to see if you would recommend foundations or essentials. I feel like we can go either way.
Hi! I feel like most first graders benefit from the fun, colorful format of Foundations. The focus of Foundations is a bit more on reading than on spelling mastery, but you can focus more on the spelling aspect of you want. Essentials is pretty intense for children younger than 3rd grade!