She can read! Wow! Through a phonetic approach, AbiNoelle’s reading skills are soaring. Everywhere we go she is reading something. Storybooks bring lots of excitement, and how special it is to be able to go to the library for her to pick books that she can read on her own. That’s why we agreed to review Eclectic Foundations – it is phonics based and provides a great resource for extra reading practice using the morally sound and time-tested McGuffey Readers which were used throughout American education until the 1960s when phonics was rejected and replaced with the Look-Say method.
Eclectic Foundations does not offer grade differentiated books but simply continues the pattern established by McGuffey of graduated levels based on ability. Book Levels A – I (currently levels A – C are the only levels offered on their website, with more to be added in the future) generally feature material for first grade through a senior year in college, respectively. According to their website, Eclectic Foundations recommends beginning with Level A unless the student is comfortable reading CVC (Consonant-Vowel-Consonant) words. AbiNoelle, having almost completed an entire kindergarten program based on a strong phonetic foundation, is very speedy with one vowel words and is smoothly reading stories that also include two-vowel and sight words. Therefore, based on the websites recommendations, we requested Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level B. Therefore, the comments of this review are based solely on the use of the Level B material and not any other levels offered. The Eclectic Foundations program is not simply a reproduction of the McGuffey Readers, but endeavors to be a complete Language Arts program including reading portions from the McGuffey Readers, cursive writing exercises, Poetry, reading comprehension, and grammar skills. As the writer of the curriculum indicates, much of the foundation of the program are found in the public domain; however, clearly much time has been given to compiling and organizing the material into simple to use lessons. The Level B complete package included:
- The Teacher’s Guide – outlines 144 simply lessons to complete using the student workbook, phonics practice sheets, and word cards.
- The Student Workbook – includes poetry, lined areas for cursive writing practice, and very simple grammar exercises.
- Phonics Practice Sheets – 17 laminated sheets for practicing writing/forming words using basic phonics sounds and patterns.
- Phonics Cards – cardstock sheets containing 10 word cards each which should be cut and colored to teach various parts of speech
- First Eclectic Reader in the McGuffey Series
Each item listed above is simply printed in a monochrome fashion with each book being spiral bound for ease of use. Eclectic Foundations offers the option of purchasing all the items as described, downloading a pdf version of the items, or a mixed package depending upon the purchaser’s budget.
Upon receiving our material in the mail, AbiNoelle was quite excited to begin reading her new McGuffey reading book. Each lesson is simply formatted and we were able to complete them in 5-10 minutes. After working through several weeks of lessons, here are a few conclusion thoughts:
The McGuffey selections were at a great reading level for AbiNoelle and she enjoyed reading every selection.
The Poetry selections were interesting and fun to discuss. The Teacher’s Guide gave excellent comprehension questions to ask the students which served as a great starting point for further discussion.
AbiNoelle enjoyed working to color code the word cards according to the various parts of speech being learned.
AbiNoelle always looked forward to using dry erase markers to practice words on the Laminated Phonics Worksheets.
The overall curriculum and guide are simply formatted; however, it seems slightly confusing that each aspect of the lesson (i.e. phonics word cards, phonics practice sheets, reading selections, poetry, cursive writing) are not correlated to work together. In fact, if one preferred, you could use each area by itself.
Although we appreciated this programs attempt at introducing grammar concepts at an earlier stage than most curriculums, the method of introducing multiple parts of speech at the same time and learning those parts of speech based on the color coding of words without the context of a sentence seemed at best to give an introduction to the idea of grammar, but certainly not give a concrete understanding of the concept. (NOTE: The Teacher’s Guide does suggest that by the end of the 144 lessons, the student will have a good grasp of the concepts using the fore-mentioned method; however, of course, we have not completed all the lessons and cannot verify that assertion.)
The Teacher’s guide lays out each lesson very clearly; however, it seems it is needful for the teacher to independently create ways to convey the material to the student in a way that he/she will understand. For example, in Lesson 4 the Teacher’s Guide states: “Is is a verb (green). A verb expresses action or state of being. On is a preposition (blue). A preposition shows the relationship between a noun or pronoun and other words in a sentence.” AbiNoelle did not understand “expresses action,” “state of being,” or “relationship between a noun or pronoun;” therefore we had to work beyond the curriculum plans to explain these concepts, otherwise she would have just been memorizing a list of words to be certain parts of speech of which she would have had no idea as to what all that meant.
The Reading and Poetry selections were an excellent source of extra practice and learning. The laminated sheets were a fun addition. Including the grammar concepts into each lesson at this stage was a great idea, but needed further teaching and practice than what was indicated in the lesson guides. To be able to download all material for $30 is a great resource!