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Monday, May 20, 2013

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Joyce Herzog

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Joyce Herzog has served homeschoolers for twenty five year through speaking engagements, books she has written, and consulting services.  She holds a permanent professional certificate to teach K-8 with an endorsement in learning disabilities, and her writings earned her a doctorate in 1995.  Dr. Herzog has published many educational materials and recently I had an opportunity to use and review Scaredy Cat Reading System Level One.  

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Joyce Herzog, while watching children struggle as they were trying to learn to read using methods that failed, was convinced that any child could learn to read if they were given a learning friendly environment and methods which built on their strengths and worked around or developed their weaknesses.  Along the way she began talking about vowels being "brave" or "scared" while teaching children to read instead of using the terms "long" and "short" that children didn't really seem to understand.  This was the start of The Scaredy Cat  Reading System.

The Scaredy Cat Reading System teaches reading and spelling using rules that make sense taught in a way that is easy to remember.  The student is taught to look at the whole word and apply principles in analyzing sounds before sounding out. A variety of  hands on activities help the students practice to mastery while stretching their vocabulary and improving reading and spelling.

There are 3 levels to the Scaredy Cat Reading System.  The level we reviewed, Level One, is for beginning learners (3 and up) who have not yet mastered names and sounds of the letters.   Level One has three different steps.  In step one, the student is learning to recognize the alphabet in order,that it is made up of individual letters, and to learn the alphabet song (which by the way is not the traditional alphabet song, but a much better one!)  In step two, the student will learn the names of each letter, and recognize both upper and lower case both in and out of order.  In step three, the student learns the primary sound each consonant makes.

Scaredy Cat Reading System Level One can be purchased for $75 and
comes with:

  • Level One Teacher's Manual
  • Level One CD contains The Story of the LetterMaster and the Level One songs
  • The Story of the Letter Master comic/coloring book
  • Level One Student Activity Book
  • ABC Reader (can specify secular or Christian)
  • Level One Fun Pack contains: flash cards, capital and lower case letter cards,  beginning sounds and ABC sorting cards, consonant and vowel posters, reversal prevention charts, magnetic alphabet, magnetic beginning sounds, ABC spinner, ABC Bingo, Letter Parts (pre writing activity), Letter Sounds Review Game

You can purchase an additional student activity books for $30.

Here is a sample of the Christian reader.

Here is a sample of the secular reader.

You can see a sample of the Teacher's Manual here.

A Student Activity Book sample can be seen here.

I have been using Scaredy Cat Reading System Level One with Lily, my 4 year old daughter.  She could recognize a few letters but not consistently, so I knew Level One was where we needed to start (if you are not sure where to start, you can have your child take a placement test.)  We have been working 3 days per week for 15-30 minutes per day.  I did have to read through the teaching materials before beginning as well as cut out some of the cards to use for the games.  The Scaredy Cat Reading System is not a scripted lesson plan.  It is very flexible depending on your time and your students interest level.  The author has many suggestions for what to do for "main course" days, "appetizer" or "salad" days, or dessert days.  We tried to do a variety of activities through out the week, starting with the ABC song each day, a hands on activity, and an activity out of the student work book.  We played the story of the LetterMaster when coloring or playing one of the games.

First of all, I love that all of the books are spiral bound and can lay flat on a table.  Being able to hold my place without having to hold onto the book is a big bonus for me!  I like the flexibility of the program and that it emphasizes each child being an individual and to make it fun for you children.  I love the inclusion of all of the "hands on" activities, for reading/spelling, and "pre-writing."  I LOVE the Christian version of the ABC song!  Fantastic!  I LOVE that the program teaches children to recognize not just a lowercase letter in this level, but also an upper case letter and even different fonts of letters so that the children know that "a, A, a, a" are all the same letter.  I LOVE that American Sign Language is included in the reader.  Lily asks every day when it is time to do her "school work."  She is really enjoying the activities and worksheets.  Lily loves using the alphabet spinner and finding the letter card to the letter she spins.  It is her favorite game and she wants to play it everyday!

Lily playing her favorite letter game while listening to the LetterMaster 

I think The Story of The LetterMaster is a good story, that tries to explain all the letters and their sounds and give a logical reason for all the inconsistencies we face when learning how to read and spell.   The story is long and I think a little complex for young children.  The comic book is 31 pages long and the recording of the story being read that comes on the CD is 23 minutes long.   Lily has a pretty good attention span for a 4 year old, but she is not at all interested in this story.  I have played it several times while she colors or plays or plays hands on games but she pays little attention to it.  She does recognize that the man in the book is called The LetterMaster and that all the letters have different sounds.

I wish that I had thought to laminate the cards from the Fun Pack.  They are printed on card stock, but I think laminating them would help them be sturdier.  I also think that the Make A Letter "pre-writing" activity would work better for little hands if the pieces were larger and cut out of foam.

The Crew reviewed a variety of products from Joyce Herzog.  To see what my Crew Mates had to say, click on the banner below.
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