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Primary Arts of Language Reading and Writing Review by Ashley Koulak

Jill Pike, Anna Ingham
Institution for Excellence in Writing
8799 N. 387 Rd.
Locust Grove, OK 74352
All About Spelling Level 1
Marie Rippel
All About Learning Press
615 Commerce Loop, Eagle River, WI 54521

Primary Arts of Language, or PAL, by IEW is one of the most fascinating programs for reading and writing instruction that I have ever seen. While both Reading and Writing have their own separate books and activities, the program is meant to be used together. When it all came in the mail, I was a bit overwhelmed. There are 3 comb bound books, All About Spelling 1, a Phonics Farm and 2 DVD’s. It looks like a lot, but the author, Jill Pike does a great job explaining each of the courses on the DVD’s. Everything you need to use the program runs $149 and is recommended for grade K-2. The program is based on Anna Ingham’s “Sound-Sight Program of Learning,” and as you move through the books, you will see a lot of her influence. Not to mention a fantastic rendition of her and her daughter singing “Robin in the Rain” on the DVD.

PAL Reading comes with a Teacher’s Manual with 80 lessons with an appendix, a Phonics Game Book, Phonetic Farm with stickers, and a DVD. My best advice before you try and organize your reading program would be to watch the DVD. On the DVD Jill Pike explains the program, has examples of some of the phonics games, and has some great information on how to set up and organize your components. The DVD also contains the easy readers PDF file, and the work pages for you to print and assemble. The reading program is divided into four stages: Foundations, Activities, Discovery, and Library. Your child will move through the stages as they progress from basic phonics to eventually reading aloud to others.

In the Foundations section, phonics, phonograms and whole words are introduced. Concepts are introduced with flash cards, games and the Phonetic Farm sticker chart. Skills are reinforced through worksheets and posters for your child to use. Activity Time is the next stage, where phonics lessons continue. The games are used heavily in this section. Students should spend about 30 minutes playing games with or without a partner. The printable easy readers are introduced in this section in a very gentle manner. They are very well done. Next is Discovery. Students are still learning and perfecting phonics sounds and phonograms at this point, but instead of reinforcing concepts with games they will use flash cards. These are just card stock cards with one word on each that your child will practice decoding and reading ten at a time. The Library stage is last. At this point children should be ready to read beginner books or leveled readers. In the appendix there is a list of suggested books to find at your local library. Children should practice reading daily from their chosen books. This stage is my favorite. I love fostering my child’s love for books by visiting the library. They feel more involved when they get to choose from an assortment of books. It’s so magical when they can read these books!

There are some prominent differences in PAL Reading that I noticed right away. The program teaches many sight words, which are written and collected on index cards as you move along. Letter sounds are introduced with a story and a picture using the letter. I really feel like that made a profound impact on my young daughter as we were learning letter sounds. She saw the letter in the picture and the story was relatable to her, that also helped her remember how to write her letter properly. Each reading lesson begins with a poem that can be found on the DVD to print, and in the back of the Teachers Manual. The poetry selections were carefully chosen and are perfect for primary students. The reading program also has an array of file folder games that have a Montessori feel to them. All the hard copies of the games are in the Phonics Games book and can be reproduced from there. The Phonics Farm is a cute fold out card stock scene and sticker set of all the phonics rules students will learn throughout PAL. Jill Pike did a fantastic job putting this program together. It is engaging, colorful and fun! While we spent about 30 minutes each day working through the program, it didn’t feel like school. We had fun and I was amazed at how quickly my daughter caught on!

PAL writing also comes with its own DVD with an introduction to the program by Jill Pike. She gives an overview and some helpful tips on using and assembling the pieces. The writing lessons are divided into three sections:printing in part one, copywork in part two and composition in part three. The workbooks needed for the writing portion are found on the DVD in PDF format. The writing portion also includes All About Spelling 1, which is introduced in part two of PAL writing. Each of the lessons in PAL writing begin with a class journal entry. This includes the date, child’s name and just a few simple sentences about their day. My daughter wasn’t ready to write, being only five, so I wrote for her. As time went on, she was able to take more control over her journal and write out the date with little help.

In the first section of Writing, there are 31 lessons that introduce manuscript. The writing style is a little different than what I used for my older kids. PAL emphasizes keeping the pencil on the page as much as possible, as opposed to the “ball and stick” method we have used. I like this approach much better, I think this will ease our way into cursive. As well as keeping the frustration from my daughter to a minimum. Story summaries are included in this first part but are kept very simple. Lessons end with a sort of spelling test, requiring your child to write out the letter by the sound it makes only. Which was great to reinforce encoding, in preparation for spelling full words.

Part two has 40 lessons and starts introducing All About Spelling. I really like the approach used by All About Spelling. We have used it with our older kids, and it has been wonderful. It is a very gentle, mastery-based approach to spelling. All About Spelling has 24 lessons, sound cards, magnetic letter tiles, tokens used for segmenting words along with a progress chart. All About Spelling is multisensory, which made for easy and engaging lessons in our homeschool. I can’t think of anything worse than being given words to study and then be tested on. All About Spelling is nothing like that, thankfully! With my older kids we didn’t start spelling until about second grade. I like the idea of starting younger, and thankfully the program allows us to take our own pace with my Kindergartner. Part two also introduces copywork, using the “house” approach to letter formation. House, attic, basement. This concept was a game changer for my second grade son! His handwriting was awful, and his placement of letters was worse. Adding in the “house” concept really helped to make his handwriting better. So, while he was past needing instructions in reading, we were still able to use PAL Writing to help correct penmanship issues. Part two also takes a Charlotte Mason turn in narration. Instead of answering simple questions about stories, like in part one. Students are now asked to retell a simple story in their own words. Again, the stories used were carefully selected and certainly not “twaddle” as Charlotte Mason would say.

Part three moves into composition. There are 16 lessons that teach the techniques used in IEW’s “Teaching Writing with Structure and Style.” Our plan was always to use IEW for writing, so the seamless transition from primary into the other programs appealed to me. I always worry when we switch gears if there will be anything lost in transition with the kids. Using PAL relieved that anxiety for me. PAL Writing required less preparation than the Reading did. And while Reading was a large amount of prep work, it really was worth it for us.

The beginning sections of the PAL Reading and Writing program are perfect for Kindergarten aged kids. I feel like the following sections though could be first to second grade. At the end of the writing it could even be third grade. So, while the program moves over a vast amount of information and requires certain skills by your child, PAL encourages you to take it at your own pace. There is no next level to purchase, or to make you feel like you need to finish at some deadline. For me this was really what we are striving for in our homeschool. While PAL required a significant amount of set up and printer ink, I’m thankful that the DVD’s were included. I feel like having Jill sit and take time to go over the program was very helpful in figuring it all out. Overall this was a welcomed change of pace for us. Thank You IEW for making Reading and Writing fun and exciting for us again!

-Product review by Ashley Koulak, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January 2019