Sunday, November 11, 2012

Primary Arts of Language by IEW

 The Institute For Excellence in Writing (IEW) is one of those curriculum providers that I have admired from afar for many years.  I have often passed their booth at homeschool conventions and thought, "When I am really ready to start teaching writing, I will check them out."  But if I'm honest, I felt a little intimidated by IEW and just wasn't sure if it would be the right fit for our family.

 Nevertheless, when I had the opportunity to review IEW's new Primary Arts of Language (PAL) program, I just couldn't pass it up.  The PAL program is designed to teach primary age students (grades K-2) how to begin with reading and writing.  I was particularly interested in this since I have a kindergartner this year.  E5 started the school year using a different program, but I was finding that it just wasn't right for us.  We kept trying to make it work, but I could tell that E5 would really flourish with something more hands-on and less like a workbook.  The more research I did on PAL, the more it looked like exactly what I was looking for.

 I have to say, at first glance the PAL program looks overwhelming.  Partially, that is because it is not just one program, but two complete programs designed to fit perfectly together.  I will briefly break the components of each program down...
   First up is the Primary Arts of Language: Reading Complete Package.  It includes:

PAL Reading Teachers Manual
PAL Phonetic Games book - This spiral bound book includes everything you need to create over 30 file folder games for your student to use with the reading program.  The games are printed on cardstock, making them durable for repeated use, and all you have to do is cut them out and assemble them into file folder games.
PAL Phonetic Farm Folder with Stickers - As students learn new multi-letter phonograms, they have the opportunity to put stickers onto their Phonetic Farm.  As well as a reward tool, the Phonetic Farm is also helpful for reviewing the sounds.
PAL Reading DVD Rom - Includes the following:
  • 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)
 If purchased separately, these items would cost $98.  But the PAL Reading Complete Package is sold for $69.

  The second component of the PAL program is the Primary Arts of Language: Writing Complete Package.  It includes:

PAL Writing Teaching Manual
PAL Writing DVD-Rom - Includes the following:
  • 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 plus bonus e-audio downloads

I was thrilled that the PAL Writing package included All About Spelling.  AAS is a program designed by Marie Rippel that we have reviewed before and were already familiar with.  I have enjoyed using AAS with my older kids and knew that the E5 would enjoy this multi-sensory approach as well.

If purchased separately these items would cost $113.  The PAL Writing Complete Package is $89.

 For a more thorough introduction to the PAL program, watch this video from Andrew Pudewa:

You may also be interested in this webinar recorded to answer many FAQs about the program.

Finally, I wanted to share how a typical day using the PAL program works.  First, I will tell you that it did take me about a week to look through the contents of the program and to prepare the items needed.  Both the Reading and the Writing program contained an introductory video on the DVD Rom that I watched immediately and found very helpful. I then set about printing out the student materials and assembling them in two separate binders (one for reading and one for writing).  I also prepared all of the file folder games at once.  You may choose to prepare the games only as needed, but I knew it would be helpful to me to already have them ready and available when I needed them.

Also, I will mention that E5 has only been using this program for a few weeks and we are moving slowly but steadily through it.  So there are some components of the program that we haven't got to yet (namely All About Spelling) which will start later in the program.

At the beginning of the day, I will open both of my teacher's manuals (for the reading and writing programs) and set them side by side on my desk.  I refer to them both and move back and forth between them as directed. 

First, we will read the assigned poem.  The poems are repeated for several days and each day the poem will be used to teach new phonograms, spelling, or grammar rules.

Next we will move on to the class journal.  Our class journal is a simple notebook that I (the teacher) write in each day with the help of E5.  We will head each day's entry with the date which gives us a great opportunity to review calendar skills and capitalization rules.  Then E5 will help me to develop 2-3 sentences describing our day, which I will write.  Again, we review capitalization rules as well as punctuation rules.

Next we will move on to printing where E5 will review the letters he has already learned to write and sound out, as well as learn new letters using the PAL Letter Stories.  The letter stories are an adorable way to help students learn both the sound and construction of a letter.  For example, the letter 'c' is the happy letter.  He's happy be cause he is a c-c-cookie who someone has taken a bite out of.  (The letter 'c' looks like a round cooking that is open on one side because someone has taken a bite.)

Next, we will enjoy story time.  A new short story is provided each day in the teacher's manual, which I read out loud and then ask questions pertaining to the characters/setting, problem, climax, and clincher of the story.  I love that in kindergarten, E5 is already learning the elements of a short story!

Then E5 will get to play a few file folder games to reinforce the sounds and words he is learning.

E5 is always excited to get to this part of the day.  Not surprisingly, he loves playing games and I love a curriculum that includes learning games as part of their program! 
After playing games, we will have a work period...generally this is just a color, cut, and paste one-page activity that reinforces the sounds and words that we have learned that day.  E5 is a bit of an artist and has always enjoyed coloring and creating things.  He happily spends long periods of time working on art and craft projects and he shows no exception during the work period section of PAL.  He actually enjoys it.
Finally, we will add stickers to the Phonetic Farm which E5 will tell you is his favorite part of the day.  Exploring the Phonetic Farm allows him the opportunity to review the sounds we have been learning.  Sometimes we will have a spelling test or other end of day activities that PAL recommends.
Here is E5 with his sister, L4, who has also been following along with the PAL program.  They are playing the Color game together.  I love it when there is fun and smiles in my classroom!

Final Thoughts:  The Primary Arts of Language by IEW is a thorough program.  While I initially thought it seemed overwhelming, I found that there was a tremendous amount of help available within the program to make it easier for me to understand.  Once we delved into the program, I found it easy to use with each part of the day broken down step by step.  Generally, it takes us about 1.5-2 hours to move through the material for the day.  However, I think we, personally, are a bit slow.  This is new material for E5, he enjoys taking his time with coloring and playing games, and we also allow for a slower pace so that my 4 year old can follow along.

Also, I am happy to report that E5 has begun reading his first words using the PAL program!  He is not just memorizing, but beginning to sound out words.  Even though he is my fifth child to learn to read under my tutelage, I never ceased to be amazed and humbled at being a part of the process.  It is quite a blessing!

Primary Arts of Language was absolutely the right fit for our family.  I would definitely recommend it for anyone looking for a beginning reading and writing program.  Several families reviewed this program, so feel free to check out other reviews at the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.
Disclaimer: I have been given the wonderful opportunity to review many homeschool products over the last few years. The only compensation that I receive for my review is the free product. I feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity to participate in review groups and I have enjoyed trying out these products and giving you my honest opinion.
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