Sunday, November 11, 2012

Review Institute for Excellence in Writing - PAL K-2

Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) and Andrew Pudewa are both very well-know and well-respected in the world of homeschooling. IEW produces curriculum for reading, writing, grammar, spelling and more. But what you may not have know is that IEW also offers Primary Arts of Language (PAL) which is designed for kindergarten - second grade! The fabulous PAL program covers "The Four Arts of Language" listening, speaking, reading and writing in a fun and easy to understand way. PAL teaches reading using "The Blended Sound-Sight Program" (phonics and whole language). The program uses an immersion philosophy and is a great program for all learning styles.

A moms review: 
This is the last TOS Crew review I will be posting for the year...but don't worry I made the 2012-2013 TOS Crew so I will be back next year with more great homeschool product reviews for you.

This was a BIG curriculum to review and there are so many wonderful things I have to say I hope I don't bore you. I highly encourage you to watch the one hour PAL webinar. This webinar explains the program in great detail.

I first heard about PAL from a local blogger friend. She told me how wonderful and fun the program was and highly recommended it. So when I went to a couple homeschool conferences this year I made sure to visit the IEW booths to check out PAL. Each time I felt overwhelmed and PAL looked too cumbersome for our very eclectic/relaxed homeschool style. It seemed so structured and I am not one for structured curriculum and following a lesson plan. But then the TOS Crew was given the opportunity to review PAL. I was very hesitant to sign up, but I had been looking for something better to use for reading and writing and my children are the perfect age for PAL (5 and 6 yrs old). It wasn't until I watched the webinar that I realized it was totally a program that we could utilize in our homeschool and something that would appeal to both of my children's learning styles. So I signed up and boy am I GLAD I did.

PAL is very easy to use and most importantly it makes learning to read and write FUN. Both children are always eager get out their PAL binders and practically begged to work on PAL each day. And it is not as structured as I thought it was. It is very flexible and in the teacher guide they make this statement, "There is no "right" way to teach this program. It is meant to be flexible and adjust to your unique situation." We choose to do the PAL lessons as a family and started at the very beginning. My children are very close in age and my 6 yr old daughter is ahead of my 5 yr old son however going over things she already knows (like her letters and most of her letter sounds) was a great refresher for her and she is also able to help her little brother out. Lessons are encouraged to be kept short and snappy, which is great especially for short attention spans.

What did I do when the package arrived?
When the package arrived I read through the beginning sections of both the writing and reading  teachers manuals and watched the videos on the included disks. The teacher manuals are fabulous and easy to understand. Both manuals manuals work together and explain step by step what to do and when to do it. Everything you need is in the manuals including supply lists and how to set  up your homeschool classroom area. Because of my very Type A personality I choose to get everything set up in advance. I printed out 2 copies of the reading and writing student workbooks and placed them into binders (one binder for each child). I used 3 dividers in each binder to separate the reading workbook, writing workbook and completed worksheets. Our 3rd binder holds the "Phonetic Farm Readers", "Phonetic Farm Word Book" and "Reading Practice Pages (from the workbooks)." Our 4th binder holds all of the phonetic file folder games. I do my file folder games a little differently and chose to put ours on cardstock and place them into a binder. I put envelopes on one side of the cardstock to store the pieces. I also separated all the included flash cards and put them into our index card boxes.

Whats included?
The easiest way I can explain this amazing program is to give you a break down of what is included and details about each component including what we liked best.

Reading Program:
What is included with the PAL-Reading program's complete package ($69.00)

-The Phonetic Farm folder and stickers - My kids love the farm. We only use one and take turns putting the stickers on. This is a great way to reinforce the phonetic rules. Periodically throughout the week we will visit the farm and review what we have learned thus far. 

-Primary Arts of Language: Reading Teacher's Manual - This is the parents 165 page holy grail and includes step by step directions for each lesson. We do just about everything listed each day but there have been times I have eliminated a couple of the games if we are pressed for time or the children are showing they are bored or frustrated. My favorite part about the lessons is the poetry. This has been a fabulous and fun way for my daughter to feel more confident about reading. The kids favorite part is the games!

-Primary Arts of Language: Reading DVD-ROM - The Reading DVD-ROM includes an Instructional Video by Jill Pike, several MP3 files and PDF files. The PDF files included are: Student Book 1 (Lessons 1-40), Student Book 2 (Lessons 41-80), the 4 Phonetic Farm Readers (The Student Books can be purchased separately in hardcopy form.) The MP3 files include, "The Four Language Arts" by Andrew Pudewa, "Nurturing Competent Communicators" by Andrew Pudewa, "Poetry as an Integrator" by Anna Ingham, "Introduction to the Blended Sound-Sight Program" by Anna Ingham. Talk about a wealth of knowledge. Reviewing and prepping all of this information before starting the program with the kids really helped make using PAL smooth and easy. 

-Primary Arts of Language: Phonetic Games This 194 page book contains 35 fun, interactive games. This took me the most time to set up but it was so worth it. Be prepared to do lots of cutting and gluing! I highly suggest borrowing a paper cutter if you don't have one.

Additional supplies you will need for PAL-Reading:
These supplies may vary depending on how you set up your file folder games. These supplies (if you don't already have them on hand) cost less than $20.

-3x5 inch cards (2 packages) and an index card storage box
-Manila file folders (at least 35) or cardstock and envolopes (if you prefer to use my method)
-A box or crate to keep the file folders in
-Crayons, markers, colored pencils, comfortable pens, black Sharpie marker (for teacher), scissors, glue, tape
-3-ringed binder with tab dividers

Writing Program:
What is included with the PAL-Writing's program's complete package ($89.00).

-Primary Arts of Language: Writing Teacher's Manual - This 191 page manual just like the reading manual includes everything you need. It is broken into 3 sections" Printing and Story Summaries, Copy Work and Style with All About Spelling and Composition with Style. We are still working our way through Section I. Again we do just about everything listed each day unless the children show they have had enough. My favorite part about the writing program lessons are the story summaries. I am and have always been a huge advocate of reading aloud and discussing books with my children. My primary goal as a homeschool parent is to instill a love for reading in my children. And for them to be able to comprehend and break down what they just read. My daughter also is very fond of the story summaries and wanted to read through all of them on the first day. She also enjoys the journal. We do our journal together as a family and each child takes turns providing a sentence. My sons favorite part are the letter stories. I have learned so much from the teachers manual. Several of the things I have learned have made a HUGE impact on my children learning to write. For example I learned that  practicing letters or words on a chalk or wipe off board aids in the development of fine motor control and upper extremity stability. And I learned how pens are perfectly okay for practicing writing (read more here). Using pens cuts down on time wasting tasks like erasing, rewriting, sharpening and it allows children to see what they are writing more clearly without having to press so hard. Not to mention pens can be a lot more colorful and fun!

-Primary Arts of Language: Writing DVD-ROM - The Writing DVD-ROM includes an Instructional Video by Jill Pike, several MP3 file and PDF files. The PDF files included are: Student Books Part I, II and III (The Student Books can also be purchased separately in hard copy format). There MP3 files include, "Reading Comprehension" by Adam Andrews, "Dictation, Narration, and Public Speaking" by Andrew Pudewa, "The Four Language Arts" by Andrew Pudewa. Again this information was all fabulous. I especially enjoyed the MP3's. 

-All About Spelling Level One - Included you will find the Teacher's Manual (122 pages), Student Materials and Basic Interactive Packet (letter tiles, magnets, phonogram CD-ROM and tabs). Because we haven't reached lesson 32 yet we haven't had a chance to utilize everything in All About Spelling. I have read through the preparation information though and it sounds fabulous just like the rest of PAL. There are a couple of things though like the flash cards and phonogram CD-ROM which we have been able to utilize. I separated all of the flash cards and placed them along with the dividers into an index card storage box. We periodically use the phonogram and sound cards since those are items we are working on. Because I am not a huge advocate of the phonics method (because it is not the way I learned to read) I am horrible at making the letter sounds (yes I just admitted that) I have been using the phonogram CD to speak the sounds to the children when we are using the writing curriculum or playing the phonetic games.

Supplies you will need for PAL-Writing:
These supplies may vary a little. These supplies (if you don't already have them on hand) cost less than $10.

-A composition notebook to use as a daily journal (hard or spiral)
-Wide-ruled notebook paper (spriral bound or loose leaf)
-3x5 cardbox for All About Spelling flash cards
-Wipe off board (preferably a magnetic one which is needed for All About Spelling tiles) *Personal Suggestion: If you don't have a large wipe off board you can get 8x11 ones at Dollar Tree. Also if you need a magnet surface cookie sheets work great these can also be purchased at Dollar Tree.
-Colored pencils or stickers for All About Spelling Progress Chart

So what about that lesson plan?
I had decided to try doing our PAL lessons straight through rather than following the recommended schedule of breaking up the various PAL portions throughout the day. Because of our families weird schedule and the fact we were doing PAL together as a family this idea seemed to be the best way to approach the PAL lessons. Thankfully it worked so I came up with our own PAL lesson plan. This plan takes us about an hour or less each day.

Here is the lesson plan we followed that worked well for us:

-Poetry - a fun rhyming poem to learn and discuss. The same rhyme is used for several lessons.
-Agenda/Workbook - these are not dull boring worksheets. They are fun and reinforce the lesson.
-Class Journal - the journal is used to show your children how writing works. While writing you will show your child how to write the date and reinforce that writing is done left to right and that sentences begin with a capital and end with a punctuation, etc. Eventually students should be encouraged to go back through and read with you what was written.
-Printing - through the use of fun letter stories children learn the letter sounds and how to properly write their letters. This is done using a wipe off board and letter block worksheets.
-Story Time - read and discuss some well know stories with your children. Children will learn all the components of a story including character, setting, climax/resolution and more.
-Foundations/Reader Words - this is the FUN part and the part both of my kids are always eager for.
These simple games reinforce everything that was just taught including letter sounds and words.
-Phonetic Farm - Use the farm to again reinforce phonetic rules.
-Spelling Test - we don't always do this portion but if we have time we simply review the letters learned for the day. The review is a great exercise to do on car rides. I will give the children a piece of paper and give them the letter sound and have them write the letter down. All About Spelling will begin to be used in Part 2.

So its really working?
Yes it is!!! I have had some proud mommy moments over the last several weeks.

My 5 yr old son who had a really hard time with his letters is now able to write all the letters we have learned so far without too many issues. And thanks to the letter stories he can also easily remember his letters when he sees them. He is also doing very well with the letter sounds.

My daughter who has been trying really hard to learn to read is also doing much better and not nearly as stressed out as she had been. She was very proud to recite the September Poem after only 3 lessons. She can read all of the words on the flash cards we have learned so far and can read several of the poster stories.

FREE stuff:
There are some great FREE pdf and audio downloads. You will need to create a FREE account to access these items. PAL Reading samples (scroll down to bottom of the page) and PAL Writing samples (scroll down to the bottom of the page).

Wrap up:
It's awesome, fabulous and definitely worth the investment especially if you have multiple children who can utilize it. We will definitely be using this as our primary reading and writing curriculum for the rest of the year.

Links to follow:
-IEW Website
-IEW Facebook
-IEW Twitter

Where to buy:
The complete kit for Reading is $69.00 and the complete kit for Writing is $89.00 both can be ordered on the IEW website. The student e-books may be purchased as an actual book separately for $29.00 Writing or $39.00 Reading. All components may also be purchased separately for both programs, but the complete packages are the most economical.

Click here for more IEW reviews from the The Schoolhouse Review Crew.

*Disclaimer - As part of the TOS Review Crew I received PAL reading and writing in return for my honest review. Please note that prices indicated in the post are subject to change. I was not compensated for my review and all opinions are our own! Many of the links found on my side bars and in my blog posts are affiliate links. As a result, I might get paid money and I will most likely spend the money on homeschool supplies.


    MomsMustardSeeds said...

    Great review, Kathy! IEW PAL is fun and completely worth the investment.

    Jen G said...

    Love your videos! Didn't realize you have so many! =}

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