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SOW Phonics…A Thorough Way to Learn How to Read!

The following are some unique characteristics about the SOW reading or phonics program…

1. The SOW is a “wholelistic” approach to learning how to read. Unlike most  programs in which the student’s spelling words are different from the student’s writing and reading words, the SOW uses the same family words (bat, cat, fat, rat, etc.) to learn English, spelling, writing,  and reading. These subjects are not separate programs or texts, but built in to compliment each other.

2. The SOW, unlike most phonic programs which require the student to read library books to learn how to read, utilizes Merrill Linguistic Readers, which reinforce only the words of phonic sounds already introduced. This gives the student consistent and instant success in oral and silent reading. Until all phoneme sounds are learned, library books are used to encourage the joy of reading, not to teach the basics of phonetic reading, writing, & spelling.

3. The SOW reading program is separate from the SOW literature, which concentrates on Biblical & moral lessons for the non or instructional readers. Most Christian reading programs make the mistake of trying to teach Scripture & moral lessons while teaching the student to read, write, & spell.  When starting to learn phonemes, it is not possible to produce a Biblical or moral story with just these family words such as bat, fat, cat, rat, sat, bat, at, hat, pat, mat. Therefore, until all phonemes are learned correctly & blending into groups of family words, the stories will reflect only the family words learned such as, “The rat pat the cat on the mat.” See the SOW literature list of books, poems, etc..

4. The SOW suggested skill texts and workbooks are used to teach and reinforce reading, spelling, writing, and English skills such as recall and identify words, blending, analyzing context, comprehension, sequencing, matching, inferring, critical thinking, sentence structuring, applying rules, etc..   Most reading programs are missing some or most of these essential skills to be successful readers, writers, & spellers.

5.  In the SOW, for each unit or lesson, the student is required to orally blend learned consonant & vowel sounds to make a family of words such oil, boil, coil, toil, soil, foil. These words are used to create a story for practicing silent & oral reading. The student is reading by the first day & becomes efficient by the time all phonemes are learned.

6. The SOW has a set of skill level worksheets (SLW) that uses the family word groups to teach the students to write the words from dictation correctly;  phonetically write the words with the phonetic rule that applies;  write sentences using English rules for correct structure & grammar; print each family word according to correct space, height, & slant.

7. The SOW encourages the student to write each family word by tracing or copying the words using manuscript print, only. We believe; the student should write the words exactly how he reads the words in books, magazines, newspapers, texts, etc. . Other types of writing such as italics,
calligraphy, cursive etc. should be taught after the student learns to read well.

8. The recommended SOW readers have no pictures, therefore the student is forced to read and draw conclusions from what he is reading, not from the pictures. He is required to draw pictures and/or write words, phrases or sentences to communicate sequencing & story context.

9. The SOW teaches phonic rules with phonetic spelling which make better readers, spellers, and writers. For example…”i comes before e, except after c”.

10. The SOW has four step by step phonic lessons:

a. Consonant sounds: The student will learn consonants by matching capital and small letters, placing them in alphabetical order, identifying each letter’s sound, writing all the letters, and recalling each letter’s name; besides worksheets, fun resources and activities are used to reinforce these skills. These kindergarten skills have specific hands on resources selected for this lesson.

b. Short vowel sounds: Short vowels are introduced one at a time orally in which the student is taught to blend consonant & vowel sounds to make a word….such as b-a-t= bat.  Specific phonics worksheets, spelling and writing activities are given to reinforce what the student is learning. The student will learn other words correlating with each sound learned such as bat, cat, fat, sat, etc.. These set of words are called family words. Using the Merrill readers & skill texts, MCP workbooks,  and SOW skill level worksheets in writing, spelling, & English, the instructional student is able to read successfully and easily on the first day. After the student has finished his first reader and work text, he is able to be self taught because of the simple and methodical way the material is introduced. Only about 15 minutes a day of guidance and teaching is needed.

c. More vowel sounds, blends & digraphs: Long vowels and other vowel sounds with consonant digraphs & blends are introduced, and word families are learned by blending the phonic sounds to make words such as boil, coil, toil, oil, etc..

d. Advanced Phonics: This lesson is for the older or mature student, who needs drilling in phonetic sounds & blending to become a better speller, reader, & writer.

Note: The only disadvantage to using this recommended resource, Merrill Reading Program, is the difficulty of purchasing the teacher editions.  BUT, we believe; the lessons are explanatory and easy for the teacher to use without the teacher editions.

For those, who desire to purchase the Merrill teacher editions, the publishing company requires the home school family to send in verification from your  verification in with your order.

Compared to some reading programs, the Merrill Linguistic Reading Program seems costly for 7 readers @ $25.00 (soft cover)  – $50.00 (hard cover) each & skill texts (consumable) for about $20.00 each.
Remember…This program also includes English, spelling and writing. So there is no need to purchase each of these separate texts, making this a very affordable, if not less expensive program than most.

Hint: For those on a tight budget, like we were, we purchased only the readers and skill texts, as needed. After all of your children have learned to read, you can sell the readers.

Truthfully, I am concerned by the many homeschoolers, who are opting for less expensive  and incomplete reading programs to teach their children to read. This is one area of home schooling that should not be compromised. Many of these reading programs…

-lack reinforcement in reading skills such as sequencing, comprehension, identifying, recalling, critical thinking, etc.

-require a separate spelling, English, and writing program, frustrating the student with too much busy work and conflicting methods on how to read.

-introduce sounds too fast expecting more memorizing than needed.

-need  teacher participation and guidance at all times making the curriculum too hard for the student to independently learn and too time consuming for the teacher.

We believe; many homeschoolers burn out because of the reading curriculum choices made.

The combination of the  Merrill Linguistic readers & skill texts, the Modern Curriculum Press (MCP) workooks, & the SOW Reading Skill Level worksheets is worth the cost to have such an easy, thorough, and fool proof method of learning how to read.


*Those, who have used other programs, and switched to this program, found it easy to use and very thorough to teach ANY student (exceptions to blind, deaf, and severely mentally disabled) how to read.

*As a special education and elementary teacher, I used this program in the public school, easily and successfully.

*Personally, I found it difficult to teach my oldest son to read using other methods, but when I switched to using the Merrill Linguistic Readers and skill texts along with the Modern Curriculum Press (MCP) workbooks, & SOW skill level worksheets & activities, he quickly learned how to read along with all my other children. Some of them moved through the program quicker than others depending on their God given abilities. They all read fluently by the 4th grade any text including the Bible. The method and resources were easy to use with multiple aged children and successful with various learning abilities and disabilities.

These are the specific readers, skill texts & MCP workbooks in their suggested grade levels that the SOW recommends …

  • K… See SOW Resource List
  • Grade 1…I CAN, DIG IN, CATCH ON  & MCP-A

Note: The SOW Skill Level worksheets  are included in the K-5th Skill level worksheets to be purchased separately. The Merrill Reading Program is not found on their website and can not be ordered from their website.

See suggested websites…

Merrill Linguistic Readers & Skill texts

Modern Curriculum Press: A-C

Phonics Pathways: Clear Steps  for Easy Reading and Perfect Spelling …  (A new resource)

All three of these resources will give you (teacher/parent) the confidence needed to teach reading, writing, spelling, English, and phonics the SOW way!

Other SOW blog articles pertaining to topic… http://sowcurriculum.com/blog/?p=143

If you have more questions, please contact me… merle@sowcurriculum.com
May God Bless, Merle Reece

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