Monday, November 12, 2012

IEW's Primary Arts of Language - (review)

If you are in a homeschooling circle for any length of time at all, you will most assuredly here parents of older children raving about the Institute for Excellence in Writing.  Founder, Andrew Pudewa, is an excellent, well-respected speaker and an expert when it comes to teaching students to write.  Well, did you know that IEW doesn't just cater to middle and high school students?  In fact, there is a program designed specifically for K-2nd grade students - Primary Arts of Language.

To be completely honest, I was first introduced to the Primary Arts of Language program at a state homeschool convention a couple years ago.  It was one of those events where you visited all the exhibitors in the vendor hall, had them sign off on your sheet of paper, entered the completed form in a drawing, and hoped to win a great prize.  Like most people, I was excited when the person working the booth would quickly give me a signature and I could be on my merry way.  Well, not the IEW booth, the lady was determined to give me an overview of the PAL program.  I remember snubbing my nose at the whole system and walking away saying, "Yeah right... some homemade, crayon-colored file folder games and farm animals are going to teach my kids to read.  Ha!"
Now I stand corrected, and I've completely changed my tune.  Having had the opportunity to review and use the entire PAL program with my kiddos over the past month, I can't say anything bad about it.  Actually, it will take great restraint not to write a ridiculously long blogpost and gush profusely about the wonderful product.  I'm going to hit the highlights and share some of my favorite aspects, but to best understand and get a feel for the program, I suggest you watch a PAL introductory webinar led by the program author, Jill Pike.  I've also posted a video below with Andrew Pudewa presenting a 12.5 minute overview of the program.   

Primary Arts of Language is a comprehensive reading and writing program based upon Anna Ingham's Blended Sight-Sound Program of Learning.  The reading portion of the program uses both phonics and whole words and the writing portion includes printing, copy work, composition, and spelling.  Using PAL Reading and PAL Writing concurrently, you will have everything you need to ensure your K-2nd grade children are reading and writing enthusiastically, confidently, and with excellence. 
PAL Reading Complete Package ($69) includes
Primary Arts of Language: Reading Teacher’s Manual
Primary Arts of Language: Reading DVD-ROM
  • Instructional Video by Jill Pike
  • The Four Language Arts MP3 Audio by Andrew Pudewa
  • Nurturing Competent Communicators MP3 Audio by Andrew Pudewa
  • Poetry as an Integrator MP3 Audio by Anna Ingham
  • Intro to the Blended Sound Sight Program MP3 Audio by Anna Ingham
  • Primary Arts of Language: Reading Student Book (e-book
Primary Arts of Language: Phonetic Games
Primary Arts of Language: Phonetic Farm folder with Stickers
(If each item was purchased separately, the cost would be $98.)

PAL Writing Complete Package ($89) includes:
  • Primary Arts of Language: Writing Teacher’s Manual
  • Primary Arts of Language: Writing DVD-ROM

    • Instructional Video by Jill Pike
    • Reading Comprehension MP3 Audio by Adam Andrews
    • Dictation, Narration, and Public Speaking MP3 Audio by Andrew Pudewa
    • The Four Language Arts MP3 Audio by Andrew Pudewa
    • Primary Arts of Language: Writing Student Books (e-book
    • All About Spelling Basic Interactive Kit
    • All About Spelling Level 1 (Teacher’s Manual and One Student Material Packet) By Marie Rippel
    • Bonus e-audio downloads:
    • Units 1 & 2 in the K–2 Classroom MP3 Audio by Shirley George
    • Unit 3 in the K–2 Classroom MP3 Audio by Shirley George
    • Preparing the K-2 Writing Environment MP3 Audio by Richelle Palmer
    (If each item was purchased separately, the cost would be $113.)
    I definitely recommend purchasing both the reading and writing complete packages.  When the box of goodies arrives on your doorstep and you open it, prepare to be a bit overwhelmed.  There is definitely a lot to take in, but you are not left high and dry to fend for yourself.  Most definitely, the very first thing you want to do is get comfy, grab your teacher's manuals, and pop in the DVDs.  Jill Pike leads you step by step through both the reading and writing programs and gives very thorough explanations of all the materials and how to use them.  Do not skip this very important step.  It is the key to starting off with success.
    When using the programs in tandem, the schedule for a typical day is as follows:
    Poetry - Read the same poem for several lessons highlighting different letters, phonograms, punctuation, etc.
    Class Journal - 2-3 sentences written in a notebook.  Using a calendar, focus on writing the date.
    Printing & Copywork - Letter Stories and printing practice.
    Story Summary - Read a short story and identify the elements.
    Foundations & Reader Words - file folder games and sight word practice
    Phonetic Farm Tour - stickers on a farm scene to reinforce sounds/phonograms learned
    Agenda/Work Period - worksheets based on the lesson of the day
    Read Words/Sentences/Informal Spelling Test
    I have actually been using this program with all three kiddos, but as expected, they are all on different levels.  Rachel is still working hard to recognize letters and master basic sounds.  She continues to struggle, so for her I'd definitely say that the letter stories have made a huge impact.  The stories are cute and memorable, thus, she now has a trick to help her recall not only the sound of the letter but how to correctly write it.  Because of the letter stories, both her accuracy and retention have improved. 
    Whereas Rachel is actually taking multiple days to complete one lesson, Jeremiah and Caleb have been able to blaze through the first portion of the program.  While they have both known their letters and sounds for quite some time and been able to write them from dictation, I didn't entirely leap over the early lessons.  There were some sight words that they were unfamiliar with, so we did run through those quickly and focused mainly on the file folder games for quick reviews.  
    I must say... the file folder games took the most prep work in the program.  You can make the first ones and get started with the program and continue to create them as you go.  However, I found it easier to spend a couple hours coloring, cutting, and assembling them all at once.  Even though early on the games were rather easy for the boys, they still enjoyed playing... especially feeding MUGS and the MONSTER.  The other great thing about the games is that the boys are willing participants when it is time for Rachel to play.  Therefore, she is more motivated because she feels as if she is truly "playing with them" and "holding her own" as opposed to being bossed around and told what to do.
    I think the boys really benefited from the class journal component of the program.  Jeremiah became much more aware of the way a calendar operates and the passing of time.  Caleb paid more attention to punctuation and grammar.  In our early lessons, I did all of the journal writing.  However, a couple weeks in, I was able to turn the pen over to the boys to write the words they knew and punctuate their sentences correctly.
    Likewise, reading the stories together and focusing on analyzing the characters and story elements has been a fantastic addition to our homeschooling day.  In the beginning, stories are provided in the teacher's manual.  Then, you are able to incorporate literature of your own.  Even outside of our time working with PAL, the kids are identifying the "clincher" in our read-alouds.  I love when there is carry-over and follow-through in the course of any given day.  That's how you know a curriculum is effective!
    Finally, the writing portion of PAL utilizes All About Spelling.  This is the spelling curriculum the boys have been using this year, so they were already familiar with and ahead in this area.  They are definite fans of and benefit from the very tactile aspects of this program.  The moving of the chips and the letter tiles on the magnetic whiteboard appeal to their learning styles.  I was glad to see that PAL sees the value of this program as well.
    Overall, I'm truly impressed with the Primary Arts of Language program.  I definitely plan to continue using it with all three kiddos.  Since it is such a gem, I expect to hold on to it to use with our new little one to come when she is ready.  It is an excellent, well-designed, engaging program that produces tangible results as I've seen in just a short amount of time.  Other crew members are seeing similar results.  Read their reviews by clicking the button below. 

    Disclaimer:  I was provided both PAL Reading and PAL Writing in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.   

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