Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Rocket Phonics

Rocket Phonics, designed by Stephen Guffanti, M.D. and Maureen Guffanti has everything a parent and child could want in a phonics program. Maureen created the program with the help of her husband when their daughter wanted desperately to learn to read at a very young age, but failed to thrive with traditional teaching methods. As Maureen designed the curriculum, her husband approached the project from a scientific view point.

“He had UCLA do a study with homeschool children using Rocket Phonics. The 2001 UCLA study found the students using Rocket Phonics learned nearly 4 months of reading skill for every month they used the program, while the students in the control group learned just under one month of reading skill for every month they used their programs!”said Maureen.

When I first read the description for Rocket Phonics, “a multi-sensory, game-based” curriculum my interest was perked. I have a four year old son whom I recently began describing to friends as “Curious George”. Aidan is cute, but oh so curious! There are many days that like the man with the yellow hat I am at a loss to try to keep up with his inquisitive and very active antics. Rocket Phonics, if not by name alone, promises excitement, adventure and energy in every lesson. Aidan was thrilled at the prospect of “school” related to rocket ships and space travel.

We began using Rocket Phonics as soon as it arrived to our home in a big white box full of possibilities. The curriculum consists of two spiral bound texts designed to be used by the teacher and student simultaneously (Volume one-205 pages, and Volume two-450 pages), a pocket folder of supplemental pages, a deck of 72 Play & Read playing cards, 1 Rocket peeker, 1 bag of bingo chips (red), two treasure hunts complete with prizes and bonus e-mail gifts for $160.00. Aidan eagerly participated in his first reading lesson as we looked at all the playing cards, reviewed their sounds and then followed up with a Bingo game designed to encourage review of phonetic sounds of specific letters.

The first day of use I had Sierra, my seven year old daughter, sit in with Aidan during the lesson even though she is currently reading at a solid first grade level. Aidan is very much a non-reader and I thought having his big sister present might take just a bit of the pressure off. I was also curious to see if Sierra would find the games interesting and engaging. I am happy to report she loved them. Despite being over shadowed by Sierra’s skills, a bad case of cabin fever and a teacher that was still trying to understand the ins and outs of a new curriculum, Aidan loved his first phonics lesson. After spending 30 minutes learning letter sounds in a variety of game based activities he asked me, “Can we play this again?”

Aidan and I have attempted a phonics lesson about three times a week. I purposely have not pressed daily lessons at this point because he is still so young. I want him to continue to enjoy the learning process; seeing it as a treat and never a chore. Our Rocket Phonics lessons usually last about 15-20 minutes in length. To date we have played phonics bingo and reviewed sounds with the play and learn cards which have the letter listed below a photograph or drawing of an object which begins with the phonetic sound during each lesson. Additionally, to keep interest peeked we have played an action game where Aidan completed an action related to the photo on the play and learn card, (ie. hop like a kangaroo for letter K) and another game requiring us to create the shape of letters with our bodies. All games have been a hit and according to Aidan are “a lot of fun!”

According to the Rocket Phonics website this unique curriculum is “Perfect for children of all learning styles, even very active kids. Rocket Phonics readers go from non-reader to 5th grade reading in two years or less”.

I have no idea what learning style Aidan is at this point of his life other than “little boy”, which makes Rocket Phonics an ideal choice for our homeschool. Rocket Phonics activities and games appeal to all types of learning styles; kids who are visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners. Since I am unsure of Aidan’s strongest learning style the various activities provided through the Rocket Phonics curriculum will provide him with an opportunity to learn phonics in the way he learns best. After one month of use Aidan can consistently recognize 7 of the 9 basic phonetic sounds taught in the first lesson of the curriculum. His interest is high and he and I continue to enjoy every lesson.

This is the most child-friendly phonics curriculum I have ever laid eyes on and I am anxious to witness its success with Aidan. We will write another review after six months of use and then again at the conclusion of the program. Stay tuned for future updates and reading progress with Rocket Phonics.


Dr Dyslexic said...

Have Sierra read the words on page 142. If she can read 70% of those words without sounding them out then let her read the stories in the following pages. Section 3.1 stories are all written at first grade level. If she needs help with any word she can see the pronunciation on the previous page (all stories are written twice first with phonetic helpers and then without).
When she starts getting stuck and needs help on more than three words per story she is at her level of instruction which means she can benefit from using the helpers. The program goes to fifth grade level and Sierra should finish it in about 6 months.


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