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Phonics Tutor Review by Christine Field

4:20 Communications, Inc.
PO Box 421027
Minneapolis, MN 55442-0027

This program is like a private tutor for your beginning reader!

Imagine having the time (and the patience) to review phonics phonograms, then single-syllable words, then multi-letter phonograms, then multi-syllable words with your child, repeating as necessary! Children as young as 4 can use this program with supervision. Children 6 and older can have the benefit of self-teaching.

Simple and straightforward, Phonics Tutor Classic CD-ROM has uncomplicated screen shots of all these, read aloud by a patient narrator who will go over the sounds and pronunciations over and over until your child attains mastery. Words that have a common spelling pattern or similar pronunciation are grouped together. Most of the lessons end with a dictation lesson so the student engages all the learning modalities. This is a great choice for young students, struggling readers, or ESL students.

A newer product offered by this company is the Phonics Tutor Frequent Words CD-ROM. Intended for children over 7, this program gently introduces spelling and the rules of spelling. Over 1,500 words are included, including the vocabulary of popular word lists like the Ayres, Dolch, and Fry lists. Words are presented in patterns of spelling to help your child rapidly learn to read and spell frequent words. In addition to phonetic words, the instruction covers prepositions, conjunctions, pronouns, common irregular words, and more. Students progress at their own pace, and scores are tracked so you can isolate problem areas to review.

Both of these CDs are easy to navigate with a toolbar to review prior lessons or look ahead to future lessons. I like the easy of use of these CDs and their uncomplicated presentation. Your child will enjoy these and you will be thrilled with your child's rapid acquisition of phonics skills. These provide the patient review that our students need and ease the time crunch of busy moms.

Phonics Tutor now also has books available designed to work with the software.

Phonics Tutor Classic Teacher's Manual has screen shots of all the CD presentations, along with activities and suggestions throughout. It provides a great deal of background information and can be used for daily lesson preparation or as a resource and reference. It divides the CD lessons into nine units. At the beginning of each unit are goals and special notes, spelling rules, and additional information taught in the unit. Parent/teachers are given information on how to teach the unit, special points of interest, and suggested means of assessment to identify and remediate special difficulties. The printed availability of this material is useful for teaching review away from the computer, such as when snuggling on the couch!

The Phonics Tutor Frequent Words Teacher's Manual provides support and information to accompany the CD. The book provides screen shots and extensive supporting information. Teacher material is presented on spelling rules, flashcards, syllabication rules, prefixes, and suffixes. Lessons 1-81 build one upon another. In the remaining lessons, 81-83, students review phonograms, capital and lowercase names, and common sounds.

Phonics Tutor Student Workbook is a nice student component to use as students master the common sounds and spelling rules. The character Davy Diacritic introduces each lesson. Students also cover penmanship and dictionary skills. Grammar is gently introduced sequentially through these fun lessons. Half of the book consists of Silent Spell tests in which students are given words spelled phonetically and are to write them regularly. These are a great way to assess your student's phonics progress.

Finally, the Phonics Tutor Classic Student Reader pulls together the phonics, meaning, and grammar lessons. From the beginning, students are reading words, then short sentences. With only one or two CD-ROM lessons completed, your student will integrate everything she has learned with the selections in this reader.

There are many options out there to teach reading. These are some of the best I've seen.

Product review by Christine Field, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, October 2006