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Back on the Right Track Reading Lessons Review by Amber Smith and Cindy WestBy Miscese R. Gagen
Right Track Reading LLC
PO Box 1952
Livingston MT 59047
Teaching a child to read can be the most intimidating and rewarding thing you do as a homeschool parent. If reading has become a stumbling block in your homeschool day, Back on the Right Track Reading Lessons, by Miscese R. Gagen, is the tool you need for your struggling reader.
In teaching my own children, I have discovered that each student’s learning style is unique. This makes using Back on Track a great teaching tool because it uses multisensory methods to maximize success. I wish I had a copy a few years ago when I was stumped with a nine-year-old who could not read a string of sentences. We used our text book twice, then added another phonics book, but still he was not decoding words with confidence. He began falling into the dreaded habit of guessing and plain resisting. This multi-sensory approach worked so much better for my hands-on kid. We used Back on Track as a Summer intensive Program to check for gaps in his phonics knowledge, and now he is ready for high school work without worry.
This book is teacher intensive. We used one-inch letter tiles that we made ahead of our lessons to help reinforce strong left-to-right tracking and end my son’s letter confusion. If you are looking for a simple workbook method, this may not be the best fit. This book is teacher guided, step by step, teaching each letter combination and sound patterns to give your student a clear understanding of why the letters behave the way they do. Do you have a student that is thrown off by words that “don’t follow the rules?” This book addresses exactly that issue.
The lessons cover phonics more completely than any other book I have used, but it doesn’t take any longer. The material can be covered completely and easily in four or five months. Lessons run about 20-30 minutes, four or five days a week for seventy-one lessons. After that your child can transition to ten additional lessons with guided reading skills and hints to build fluency, comprehension and vocabulary.
This is a fast-paced program. By lesson twenty your student is reading three syllable words. This makes Back on the Right Track Reading Lessons a perfect teaching tool to help get older students and adults back on the right track with their reading skills. Lessons are scripted, easy to follow and unillustrated. There are no childish themes to throw off the confidence of a struggling older reader.
This book is a more than a lesson book, it is a powerful resource for anyone teaching children how to read. There are tons of assessments and tools in the back of the book. Reading these helped me understand different trouble spots to look for in my readers. There are several reading-problem-specific evaluation tools to help you get a clearer picture of where your child might need more practice and why.
The highly effective, targeted, multisensory activities were key in helping my struggling readers get past their learning hurdles. Using this as your teaching source is great if you are not sure of your child’s best learning method, because it uses all of them. I and my older students benefited from the clarity of the 30 spelling lessons included in the book. I learned several spelling rules I didn’t know. You use word groups from previous reading lessons, so reading skills are reinforced twice with no additional materials needed. Back on the Right Track Reading Lessons is a comprehensive tool to teach Reading and Spelling, with the tips and hints to help you teach your struggling reader with confidence.
- Product review by Amber Smith, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July, 2018
Her method includes direct instruction that teaches all sounds in a deliberately planned sequence. In other words, she never assumes children will automatically make letter/sound connections. So many programs today teach something quickly and expect children to be able to transfer that learning to other similar skills. Children fall behind when they aren't able to make the rule connections. On the other hand, this program teaches the r-controlled vowels (like "ar" and "er") and each of the vowel combinations like "ai," "ou," and "ea") specifically. If you can hear a sound or see a combination of letters, Ms. Gagen teaches it!
The program is perfect for homeschoolers since it was developed to be used as a one-on-one tutoring program. Four to five days a week, you and your child are expected to spend between 20 to 30 minutes on the lessons. Some lessons may take longer than one day to complete and thatís okay. The author is only concerned that the lessons are completed in order since there is a very specific plan of progression.
In order to complete the lessons, there are a few materials you need to make. Never fear, though. Clear directions with pictures are included. Using index cards, you will make a set of sound cards, and using poster board, you will create a word-making template. Also, using inexpensive bathroom tiles, you'll make a set of sound tiles. All of the materials are excellent manipulatives that reinforce the lessons perfectly. Detailed instructions for using the manipulatives are given within the lessons.
A general principle for this program is that you correct errors immediately so that nothing is ever learned incorrectly. The plan also suggests things like speaking in "kid terms," pronouncing all sounds correctly yourself, constantly reinforcing left to right reading, and always writing in block print (as words are typically seen in books.) For the parent, there is a sound pronunciation table to be sure you are saying each word or sound correctly.
Before getting into the lessons, there is a section of pre-reading activities that you could use with young children or as warm ups for children just beginning to read. Then it's on to the lessons. There are 102 very clear, scripted lessons in Right Track Reading Lessons. In Lesson 1, children are learning sounds, writing letters, using manipulatives, and reading simple words like at, am, and mat. By Lesson 6, children are reading sentences. Here's an example of what a child should be able to read by Lesson 34: "Mom said we must not drop the eggs. The eggs will crack if we drop them." And by Lesson 102, a word list including dexterity, prescribe, increased, participate, implement, and more should be able to easily be read!
At the end of the book, there is an eight-page section of spelling strategies and patterns. The book has no frills. It's printed only in black ink with no pictures, but that actually helps keep the child focused on the task at hand.
Because of the manipulatives, the program reaches visual, auditory, tactile (hands-on), and even, to some extent, kinesthetic learners. Because the parent must be involved in the teaching and initial preparation of the manipulatives, this program might not appeal to every family. But for those looking for an intensive, systematic, purposeful reading program that will take children from literally nothing to about a 2nd or 3rd grade reading level in a year, this program is excellent!
Back on the Right Track Reading Lessons is meant more for older students or even adults who are struggling readers. Using a similar format, the lessons aim to move students from struggling to proficient readers. Extra skills focused on in this book include multi-syllable words, fluency, and expanded vocabulary.
There is a section that teaches you how to evaluate the reader for the skills they need, how to make a plan for them, and how to explain the plan to the student. With 45 to 60-minute lessons, five days a week, this book uses the same systematic plan as the first book. Some of the same manipulatives are used too. There are only 77 lessons in this book, but they include much more information per lesson.
In the back of the book, you'll find information sections for guided reading, building fluency, developing reading comprehension, and expanding vocabulary. There are also 31 spelling lessons, but they are not as fleshed out as the reading lessons. Evaluation checklists and forms for pronunciation and spelling patterns are included as well.
These books can lead your children into a full understanding and ability to read (and spell). I have been so impressed, this is becoming my new reading curriculum!