The PAL Reading complete package includes a teacher’s manual with easy to follow steps for implementation; DVD-ROM with audio files, tutorials, and the student manual in PDF; Phonetic Games book with file folder games to make; and the Phonetic Farm folder with stickers. The Phonetic Farm is a tri-fold folder with a farm scene. As the student learns the phonograms, he adds stickers representing those phonograms. If purchased separately, this would cost $98. As a complete package, it costs $69. The entire package can be used for multiple children except for the Phonetic Farm. Subsequent children will want their own farm to build. An extra Phonetic Farm costs $19.
PAL Writing complete package includes a teacher’s manual, DVD-ROM with audio files, tutorials, and the student manual, the All About Spelling Basic Interactive Kit and All About Spelling Level 1 (Teacher’s manual and one student material packet). The cost for this set if purchased separately is $113 but bundled together it costs $89. While this curriculum seems costly, I believe it is worth every penny.
In order to avoid writing a thesis on this product, I highly recommend watching the webinar on the IEW site here. It may be long, but it is worth it to truly understand this program. The webinar will show you inside many pieces of the program, tips for use, how and why it it was developed and what is included. When I first looked at the website I wasn’t sure that this program would be a good fit for our family. When I watched the video I realized it would benefit Pumpkin Pie and I was very hopeful that I would be able to review this product.
Opening the package can be intimidating because there are many pieces to each piece of the program. I was very grateful for the DVD-ROM to watch for both the PAL Reading as well as the PAL Writing. I suggest watching the videos before even trying to read the manual. The PAL Reading package also comes with a little Welcome to PAL card that has the 4 steps to get started and an email address for extra questions. I especially love the small hint at the bottom of the card that says, “You may want to hide the Phonetic Farm stickers until you are ready to use them!” This is very good advice that I highly recommend. Upon opening the box Pumpkin Pie was itching to dive in and start using the materials. Those stickers would have been long gone if I hadn’t been holding the box! As it was, Strawberry later found the stickers and began sticking them :( Make sure you put them way up high!
Both the DVD from the Reading and the Writing portions contain bonus mp3 lectures. There are 9 total as one is on both discs. The lectures on the Reading disc are:
- Nurturing Competent Communicators MP3 Audio by Andrew Pudewa
- The Four Language Arts MP3 Audio by Andrew Pudewa
- Poetry as an Integrator MP3 Audio by Anna Ingham
- Intro to the Blended Sound Sight Program MP3 Audio by Anna Ingham
The lectures on the Writing disc are lectures from past Writing Teacher’s Symposiums and include:
- The Four Language Arts MP3 Audio by Andrew Pudewa
- Reading Comprehension MP3 Audio by Adam Andrews
- Dictation, Narration, and Public Speaking MP3 Audio by Andrew Pudewa
- Units 1 and 2 in the Primary Classroom by Shirley George
- Unit 3 in the Primary Classroom by Shirley George
Setup for PAL Reading can be done lesson by lesson or all at once. I found it easier to set up as many games as possible in one sitting instead of setting up each game as the lesson dictated. Above is a picture of my work area setting up the games. I placed them all in a file box with the manuals. I also glued the CD sleeves into the backs of both the Reading and Writing manuals so I wouldn’t lose them. Another thing I did to prepare for teaching Pumpkin Pie was to print out the reading worksheets and letter writing sheets and then bind them into a notebook for her. She loves having her notebook to work through even though she hasn’t been a big workbook fan.
I am a tinkerer. I always mess with curriculum and never use it as spelled out. For the most part PAL has been an exception to that rule. I find that the flow is so smooth and logical, and the lesson manual is so clear that I don’t need to modify things much. My modifications include doing the journal during devotional with all children rather than during Pumpkin Pie’s reading time and not posting every poem or chart on my walls as well as a style of writing change.
Before I share our opinions, I thought it best to give an idea of how the pieces fit together. The best way for me to do this is to share our typical routine- which generally follows the outlined structure in the manuals. Reading time using the PAL system starts with me reading a short story and discussing the story sequence with Pumpkin Pie by asking her the typical who, what, where, why questions. We then will practice her handwriting. PAL does recommend teaching printing but it can be modified to use cursive. I personally believe in teaching cursive first, so I have modified all the letter worksheets to cursive and teach the cursive writing letters. Both the story sequencing and the handwriting practice come from the writing manual. I then get out the reading manual and we move on to reading and talking about a poem. The poem is used in the lesson to teach new phonograms, and review older phonograms. After the poem, we play some file folder games and continue talking about phonogram sounds. These games both introduce new material as well as review old material. The manual gives teaching tips and instructions rather than a script. As Pumpkin Pie plays a game, I can quickly scan over the next small section of information and know what to include in our discussion. Following the games we practice some reading sentences and phonograms and I explain the workbook pages she will do during her own time. Typically it is 1-2 short activities that includes a bit of thinking about letter sounds, helpers, and reading a couple words, coloring, cutting, and pasting. We then do Pumpkin Pie’s FAVORITE part of the whole lesson- the Phonetic Farm. After we review the Phonetic Farm, Pumpkin Pie works on her assignments for the lesson.
At first I was a little worried about the sight component of PAL. I am a huge proponent of phonics learning. That said, while PAL does introduce some words by sight, it does not do it in a vacuum. Rather than telling the student, “This is green,” and making him memorize “green” the teacher does point out phonetic “helpers” and even underlines them or marks them according to the directions in the manual. As a result, the student might be building a sight word repertoire, but it includes understanding the phonetic clues and being able to apply those clues later. After introducing the word “green” with the card game (flash cards), we discussed the /ee/ phonogram and then added it to the phonetic farm. On the phonetic farm stickers, there are words that use the specific phonogram. One way to handle this is to have the teacher read the words and discuss them. Because Pumpkin Pie went into PAL Reading with knowledge of the primary sounds of each letter, when possible, I have asked her to decode the words on the stickers. She loves it and loves seeing that she is succeeding.
PAL has quickly and efficiently been building Pumpkin Pie’s confidence. She didn’t think she knew all the primary sounds that each individual letter makes. After she saw MUGS the dog game, she wanted to try all the letters so she could feed more bones through his mouth. She discovered she did know the letter sounds! Multi-letter phonograms have been a real problem for her though. The combination of the Phonetic Farm and the games has also been slowly building her confidence. At scripture reading, after she had completed three lessons, she was more excited to read and even attempted more words than she usually would have because they were longer or had a couple of multi-letter phonograms. Yeah! A huge step forward! She also recognized “helpers” in some of the words she was reading.
One of the PAL Writing components is time for a Class Journal. I love the idea of having a family group “class” journal. On the video for PAL Reading, it mentioned recording things like if someone lost a tooth or what you are studying. Butterfly and Tiger have their own journals but I had never thought about starting a school year journal for the family! When I presented the idea to the children, they loved it. I included all of them in our efforts. They like to add tidbits about their educational plans, the weather, what they see outside, and sometimes just descriptions. It is really a wonderful part of the program that I would never have thought of on my own. While I write for the family, I point out various structure mechanisms I am using to help Pumpkin Pie understand such things as capitals, lowercase, proper nouns, etc. It is good review for my older children as well.
As mentioned before, PAL Writing also comes with All About Spelling Level 1. Pumpkin Pie still has about 15 lessons before she begins All About Spelling, so I cannot comment on its use. Some of my crew mates did get to All About Spelling though, so be sure to read their reviews by clicking the banner below. Prior to receiving PAL, I had considered All About Spelling. It is based on the Orton-Gillingham methods of teaching spelling and is rooted in the phonograms and rules that really do apply to English. I have, in the past, used a similar program with great success. All About Spelling is multisensory and the manual is designed to be open and go. I look forward to Pumpkin Pie getting to the Spelling portion. I know that understanding the spelling rules will really help her to understand reading as well.
I truly can not say enough good things about the PAL curriculum. I have never used a reading curriculum in the past but with Pumpkin Pie, she really needed something to help her grasp the connection between phonograms, sound, and words. This curriculum has been such a blessing to my family and I am so grateful that we were able to review it.
As I finished up this review, I asked BC to read it for me. I really wanted to make sure I did this fantastic curriculum justice. He wanted to add his two cents too. One day was especially busy and I didn’t get Pumpkin Pie’s reading lessons in. She wanted to continue so badly. I really needed to make dinner so I handed BC the teachers manual, showed him our materials and told him to have fun. He was pleased to see that even though he has not been using it from the beginning, it was easy for him to jump in and go. The manual was easy to follow and he really enjoyed giving Pumpkin Pie her reading lesson that day.