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Tag: phonics

Last time I blogged about Explode the Code (ETC), it was last June and we were in ETC book 3. Four and a half books later, we are in the middle of Book 7. We have used ETC as a phonics supplement, and now that our main reading program has ended, I guess we are using this as our main phonics program. Still, Satori has learned all the rules, so this is all just a great review for us. We love the silly sentences and crazy drawings. She inserts her own examples and makes me smile.

For most books we’ve done 4 pages a day, but starting in Book 7, we’ve slowed down to just a 2-page spread per day. It just takes 5 minutes and is great review for phonics, reading, writing, spelling, handwriting, and vocabulary.

Some words are getting tougher. She has her Children’s Dictionary near her desk, and she looks up new words frequently. She used to ask me what the new words are, but now I’m happy she’s starting to use a dictionary. I think some of the words they use are not in a normal 6 year old’s vocabulary. Then again, a 6 year old probably normally doesn’t work on Book 7. Here are some examples of words she’s had to look up: sledgehammer, drawbridge, gadget, pledge, beachcomber, knickers, slipknots, and glisten.

If you notice the above page (click to see bigger), she still sometimes inserts her own silly exercises for me to do when I correct the pages. (I could have sworn I blogged about that last year.) Today’s lesson was a picture of a vampire, and I had to choose from these: “Ema dresses up like a vampire.” OR “Ema is a vampire.” While I was sitting there puzzled, she came over and pointed out her clue she gave me – a sun in the sky. She said Ema isn’t a real vampire because vampires don’t go out in the sun. 🙂

Satori doesn’t talk about vampires much, but I though the problem was pretty cute.

ETC Book 7 introduces a paragraph story with comprehension questions to answer. Each 9 page lesson includes a story like this.

There are also a couple crossword puzzles, although I think there’s just two in all of Book 7.

Since it looked like I didn’t blog about books 4-6, I will say that out of all the books Satori’s done, the only book she needed extra practice with was Book 4. It covers words with 3 syllables, and had Satori dividing them into syllables. She wasn’t getting them all correct, so I broke down and purchased 4 1/2. The 1/2 books are extra practice books.

We finished Book 4, and went on to Book 5 and 6, but then we went back to complete Book 4 1/2. By this time, she was much more comfortable working with multi-syllable words. All her syllable work in All-About-Spelling has paid off, and she polished off Book 4 1/2 much more easily than her first time around.

Here’s another sample page from book 4, where she includes her extra exercises for her mother. 🙂

We’re on a big ETC kick! Explode the Code is an inexpensive phonics workbook series, that is great to supplement our reading program. Since we’re almost finished with our formal phonics (OPG), we’re back to these workbooks and just started ETC 3. This level will be all review in terms of phonics/reading, and we’ll be hitting ETC 4 later this summer, which will be closer to her current level.

ETC 3 introduces handy little rules which enforce what we already know. For example, “If a little word ends in y, the y says long-i.”

If Satori didn’t like these workbooks, I wouldn’t make her do them, but she totally loves them. She asks to do them everyday lately. She averages 6-8 pages a day right now, that would be 2-3 page spreads like this. Oops, I forgot to take a photo of an example of one of their sentence pages. Last spring, the sentences were just too much for a new reader, now they’re a breeze. We always laugh at the sentences/pictures. 🙂

She always makes sure to put a smile on my face or a laugh in my day when I correct the pages. She can find a way to insert a joke or something cute in almost everything she touches.

So we’re enjoying our ETC program right now and seeing I just ordered ETC 4-8, I hope we continue to do them, especially when our phonics program ends. As you can see above, they’re also great to supplement handwriting, spelling and even a bit of vocabulary.

I totally wish I found this program a year ago! I may have mentioned this program a few times, but here it is more in-depth. Progressive Phonics is a free phonics reading program. You can download and print out the stories/lessons or read online. Satori cracks up over the stories. Since they just released a bunch of new Alphabetti books, we started reading the stories again. Here’s one we read a while back, but one of our favorites anyway – Who Hid Ham?


The Alphabetti books are great for beginning readers. They are too simple for Satori’s current level, but she loves them anyway. I can’t resist hearing her giggling and cracking up over the characters and then begging me to read again and again. I love how they have print for the parents to read, and larger red print for the child to read. Woe to anyone who accidentally read’s Satori’s words, or who makes her read the black text!


Everytime I check the site now, more books have been added, so we still have a few to catch up with.  The second set is about Sid the snake and his friends Sis, Dan, Ham and more. Alphabetti Parts 3-5 are not up yet and I imagine that to take quite a while. But after Alphabetti books, are the phonics books which actually teach more phonics and reading. I think we will skip the Beginning Phonics books (short vowels, they look boring anyway) and move on to the Intermediate Phonics. These will last us a long time yet. These will teach blends, long vowels, vowel digraphs… which is more of the phonics level we are at now. The books progress to more and more “red words” that Satori has to read herself.

UPDATE 2 HOURS LATER: Satori and I started the Beginner Phonics Books – Book 1 covering the short vowel “a”. She didn’t hesitate reading any of these words, she can read these simple words fluently. If you’ve read my blog, I admit that I do not force her to read simple books so we haven’t worked on fluency at all. So it was nice to read a book together with her and know that it will all come naturally! We read 10 stories which I discovered are all short but cute little poems.

Here’s a video of Satori and Daddy reading “Who Hid Ham?” together. I apologize that in the middle she shrieks to make sure I got the current page on video, lol! (David says “swandwich” on purpose, that’s how Satori used to say it last year, and we can’t resist saying it that way now.) I love how Satori reads with inflection. 🙂

You may have noticed that at one point I had listed Explode the Code (ETC) phonics program up on our curriculum. I had these all set to go as a supplement to our OPG reading program. However, the “Get Ready, Get Set, Go for the Code” books were just too simple for Satori at the time. She honestly learned all her letters and sounds in one night, by watching a Leapfrog video!

So over the summer we started our Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching reading program, but it can be dull. She gets each concept very fast. However, even though she masters the new sounds quickly, it is altogether a different thing to be able to read sentences fluently! She sounds them out. She can sound them out quickly, but nonetheless, sounding out words detracts from fluently reading/comprehending books.

Explode the Code workbooks

Explode the Code workbooks

So we’re taking a break from our normal reading program! Back to Explode the Code. We’re going to try these again, as she likes her HWT handwriting workbook so much, maybe this fall she’ll get into these workbooks.

Unfortunately, she has progressed to ETC  book level 3 now. The ones sitting on top of the above pile, that we already have on hand, are the A-C “Get Ready” books which covers consonants, which she knows very well already. But we’re going to try to go through them anyway superfast, like we do our HWT workbooks. In fact, she goes through her handwriting books so fast that we do need to stop and practice now. And luckily, ETC books cover lowercase letter handwriting practice! If it wasn’t for the handwriting instruction in ETC, I would probably wait until we got book 3 in.

We haven’t learned lowercase “f” yet in our HWT book, but we went over it today in her ETC workbook.  You can see she needs practice! But not too entirely bad for a 4 year old’s first time writing “f”s…

lowercase "f"

lowercase "f"

I am not sure how it will work out going through these early books (A-C), but I did order Explode the Code Books 2-5 last night, which takes us way beyond what we’ve learned so far in OPG.

Get Ready for The Code A
Consonants b, f, k, m, r, and t

Get Set for The Code B
Consonants d, h, j, n, p, and s

Go for The Code C
Consonants c, g, l, q, v, w, x, y, and z

Books 1 and 1 ½
Consonant review
Short vowel sounds

Books 2 and 2 ½
Initial and final consonant blends

Books 3 and 3 ½
Long vowels including silent –e
Digraphs (sh, th, wh, ch, ng, ck)
Trigraphs (-tch)
Vowel digraphs (ee-ea, ai-ay, oa-ow)

Books 4 and 4 ½
Compound words
Common endings (-ful, -ing, -est, -ed, -ness)
Syllable types (open, closed, ending in -y and -le, diphthong, and three-syllable words

Books 5 and 5 ½
Word families (all-alk, old-olt-oll, ild-ind, qu words)
3-letter blends (thr, shr, scr, str, spr, spi)
Diphthong -ey
Three sounds of -ed

Books 6 and 6 ½
-controlled vowels (ar, or, er, ir, ur)
Diphthongs (oo, oi-oy, ou-ow, au-aw, ew-ui-ue-ou)
Vowel digraphs (ea, ie, igh)

Book 7
Soft c and g
Silent consonants
Word patterns (ear, ei, eigh)
Digraph ph

Book 8
Advanced suffixes and endings

I saw this idea a month ago on The Snail’s Trail blog (link below) and couldn’t resist it, it’s so cute! It uses paint chips, those free paint color samples you get from Home Depot/Lowes. I waited until I actually bought paint so I wouldn’t feel guilty just taking a bunch! If you are familiar with my blog, you’ll know why I have so many orange, green and purple chips, lol!

To make your own free paint chip phonics game, grab paint chips with 3 colors with a square cut out on the right side. Next grab a bunch with the long sample of colors.

Paint Chips filled in

Paint Chips filled in

I then went through our current and near future lessons in Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading (OPG) and All About Spelling (AAS) and marked down the beginning sounds on the long strips, and the ending sounds on the 3-color strips. Be sure to write the beginning sounds small enough to fit in the little squares! Then I cut the 3-color strips. Now you’ve got a fun game to use for reading/spelling!


Check it all out at the Snail’s Trail, a wonderful blog with tons of ideas! The link will take you right to her post on the “Handmade Word Family Game”, complete with all the word families, blends, and diagraphs. Thank you Momma Snail!