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Detailed Reading Comprehension Review by Donna Campos

Jan Bedell
Little Giant Steps
P.O. Box 863624
Plano, TX 75086

Jan Bedell's Detailed Reading Comprehension (DRC) kit includes instructions, an answer key, three laminated response cards in color, a card stock viewer page, three sets of flash cards (levels 101, 201, and 301), and a disk with 30 pages of detailed reading sentences for each level, and 10 pages of comprehension questions for each level.

Bonus materials for DRC "Junior" include two pages of listening comprehension for each level, six pages of Level 1 junior reading comprehension for each level, and six pages of Level 2 junior reading comprehension for each level. The goal of the program is for the student to learn 60 sight words while increasing short term memory skills, improving discrimination skills, raising processing ability, and increasing recognition of punctuation symbols and positional words, all while gaining understanding that word combinations have precise meanings.

In addition, multi-colored wet erase markers are recommended for use with the response cards throughout the program. All components come in a large zippered baggie with the flash cards grouped in rubber banded sets and the disk in a thin plastic CR-ROM case. Access to a printer and computer to print off the necessary reading and comprehension sheets is also required. It is also necessary to cut the designated rectangular hole out of the viewer page for placement over a single sentence at a time during the process.

DRC uses the Word Flash Method in order to teach individual words without burning a student out on learning. Short (under two minute) sessions are used to present words to the child in a manner of presentation, with the teacher giving the words to the student verbally while showing the card. Instructions offer guidelines for number of cards and rotations before moving to playing a game with the cards in an effort to continue solidifying results. Quick sessions are essential to the process and plenty of positive encouragement should be offered consistently during the presentation and game.

Additional word cards are added to the session each day until the child knows all of the word cards by sight, at which point the comprehension portion of the program begins. Symbols are also taught in two different extremely short, 30-60 second sessions, and are presented in similar fashion as the words with progression to writing the symbols and having the student write the symbols as they begin to learn them.

Each of the three levels of the program are worked through before moving on to the next level. Once all of the words are learned in the set of 101 flash cards and the symbols are known, the student is ready to read the detailed reading sentences using the viewer card and response card as instructed. After completing one page of ten sentences they will complete the Comprehension pages and the teacher will check the answers against the answer key to insure understanding.

The process of learning the words and symbols with the Word Flash Method should take from one to three weeks, with the following weeks systematically working through all 30 pages of the detailed reading sentences pages and comprehension questions. Speed of the process is left to the discretion of the teacher and abilities of the student and the time table of the school environment. When level 101 is completed, the entire process begins again with level 201, and then level 301, which concludes the DRC program.

For students having difficulty with level 101, a junior level is included with instructions to begin at a pace better suited for younger students. Little Giant Steps offers educational materials for any environment where learning takes place, including home schools, public schools, private schools, various therapy programs, and day to day home environments. The additional information regarding the neurodevelopment in children is explained on the company website and various learning styles and teaching environments can benefit from the use of these materials.

The DRC activities from Jan Bedell have been an excellent addition to our home school. My son has excellent auditory abilities and regularly memorizes entire books while he struggles with reading skills. This program offers a wonderful combination of short learning sessions, flash card memorization, reading, and comprehension of the written word. The brightly colored Response Cards are easy to use and fun for the children to mark accordingly as they work.

The selected words in the program and the increase in understanding has caused my son to have more of a desire to read..He has begun working more intently and is more excited about reading more books, and I have become more excited about asking him more questions about what he is reading. The DRC activities are a great way to help children understand the value in what they are reading, that there is a meaning in every sentence, whether it be about the position of a certain item or what a specific character is doing. Reading leads to knowledge.

Each time my son had to think about the specifics in any given sentence as the colors, positions, and items changed, this kept him from becoming bored with the process. I really liked the use of the response card throughout the comprehension process as the brightly colored items were interesting to children, while the simple layout and design offers a multitude of options for answers. The use of punctuation symbols offered a great way for him to better understand the different terms and practice making them. The ability to print only the pages we needed at any given time is an advantage for any home school, although I found printing all pages for a given level worked best for us.

My son enjoyed the response card and came up with additional activities for its use during our school day, just for fun. This activity allowed us to increase his visual abilities for memory and comprehension while using his auditory strength in the process. As a parent and teacher, I appreciate the opportunity to more fully understand the level of comprehension in my child when reading, and these activities provide a glimpse of strengths and weaknesses. More importantly, the visually appealing response card and entire process of reading and responding gave a better understanding to my son of the importance of focusing on what he is reading.

The instructions are thorough and move through the process in an easy to follow sequence, but I still had to walk myself through the entire activity with the necessary pages, view card, and response card all lined up on the table before really grasping the flow of the program. Once you have run through the program, it makes considerably more sense than reading through the instructions, but reading through the instructions is definitely necessary for success. I would like to see additional sets offered from the company, as my son really enjoyed the activities. Although not meant to be a reading program, it has definitely increased my son's desire to read, and he has begun designing questions of his own for use with the response card.

Instructions suggest laminating the card stock view card and I wish the card came already cut and laminated and ready for immediate use. The short activity sessions are easy to implement into any program, but without staying focused on the desire to increase comprehension, schools may stop using the activities before seeing benefit. I encourage proper use of the activities and following the instructions for each of the three levels as your child learns more words and increases their ability to comprehend what they are reading.

Readers come in all shapes and sizes, as do their skills, reading speed, and levels of comprehension. For parents concerned about whether their children will truly learn to understand what they are reading, DRC is a fantastic program that may fill the void in reading for comprehension. The website offers test kits for further improvement of auditory and visual processing skills and contains a wealth of information helpful to every family.

The DRC activities are easy to implement and include everything you need, except for the wet erase markers already found in many homeschools. The convenience of printing pages as needed and the fun, brightly colored pictures on the response cards hold a child's interest when working the activities and offer flexibility for creative use when the program is completed. The 60 words that are learned through the program are traditional sight words necessary for adequate reading skills and include positional, color, and punctuation words. The overall process is easy to follow and simple to lead so that it can be understood by teachers of any skill level and implemented in any schooling environment for every learning style. We found the activities enjoyable and the appreciation of comprehension has found a whole new level in our home because of the DRC skills our son has learned in the program. If you are looking for activities that will help your child understand the importance of reading for meaning, Detailed Reading Comprehension by Jan Bedell is an excellent choice.

Product review by: Donna Campos, Senior Product Reviewer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July 2008.