Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Primary Arts of Language: Reading and Writing

So I’m just going to start off with the fact that I was ecstatic when I found out that I was being given the opportunity to review Primary Arts of Language, the K-2nd Reading and Writing curriculum published by Institute for Excellence in Writing.  As you know, we are in that learning to read stage with Elliott, who is 5 and in Kindergarten, so this couldn't have come at a better time.

Jill Pike, the author of Primary Arts of Language (PAL), has taken an integrated approach when she created both the Reading and Writing programs.  The two programs are independent of each other, and can be used separately, but they are designed to be used together to develop the four arts of language--listening, reading, writing and speaking.

Primary Arts of Language: Reading

What's Included?
With the full Reading program ($69.00) you receive a Teacher's Manual, a book of Phonetic Games, and the Phonetic Farm Folder with Stickers.  Then you receive the DVD-ROM that includes the instructional video, Student Files (you can purchase a separate physical book if you wish) and supplementary audio files.

There is a lot of material, and a lot of work on the part of the teacher.  It is imperative to spend a few hours to go through the instructional material on the DVD-ROM, read the introduction in the teacher's manual, and even study a few lessons to make sure you understand the philosophy of the program and how to present it.  Coming from someone who hates prep-work, I do think it's worth it!

Using PAL Reading
The program uses poetry as the core of the program.  It's important to include poetry as part of our homeschool, and this program already has it built in for me.  Since the same poem is used consecutively for several lessons, it's great for memory work and recitation.

The Lessons
The lesson plans are detailed and well laid out.  Each section in the lesson plan walks you through how to present new phonograms and sight words, how to integrate the Writing program, and how to play the games.

Each lesson also includes End of Day activities to review the daily lesson.  We alter these into a sort of show-and-tell for daddy. Elliott loves showing off his new stickers in the Phonetic Farm folder and "teaching" dad the new sounds!

Student Files
I am not really a fan of worksheets at this age, but I will say these are age appropriate since they are mostly coloring, cutting and pasting, so I don't mind them in moderation.  However, they are basically all the same, and are presented in every lesson.  I can tell that Elliott sometimes find them repetitive, so sometimes we skip them or find other ways to review the concepts.  Children who need predictability would probably thrive with having their work in the same format daily.

practicing color words

The Phonetic Games
These are simple file folder games.  They are designed so that the children can start playing several of them immediately.  They can play them with a partner or independently to develop mastery.  The first several games were review, but Iron Man has still enjoyed them, and he loves when a new game is introduced!

Coloring Mugs to look like our dog Bailey

Beginning Consonants

Feeding the Creature

Our Experience
So far Elliott is enjoying our reading lessons.  Reading had been stop-and-go for us before starting Primary Arts of Language.  The various approaches I was taking just weren't interesting to him.  He was making progress on his own though, so I never pushed the other programs.  This approach is very different from what we were doing, so maybe that's a good thing, because not only is he continuing to make steady progress, but he is also more confident now!

discussing homophones

I like that the program covers reading from many angles and does not hold back on introducing more challenging concepts, but with so much information being presented at any given time, I feel it's best to build in a review day occasionally.  We call it "Game Day" to make it more special, and it's a great time to just relax, play a few of the file folder games, have fun and build confidence.

Primary Arts of Language:  Writing

What's Included?
The complete Writing program ($89.00) includes the Teacher's Manual, All About Spelling Level 1 by Marie Rippel and the All About Spelling Basic Interactive Kit.  Of course the DVD-ROM has the instructional video, Student Files (which again can be ordered as a hard copy) and supplementary audio.

Again, I highly suggest preparing with the instructional material, and reading through the teacher's manual before diving in. 

Using PAL Writing
Class Journal
Each day you write in a journal--we use a basic spiral notebook.  We just include a few sentences in each entry, but it's a great opportunity to cover many things.  We talk about the calendar when we date our entry, as well as capitalization and punctuation.  We look for phonics rules we've learned, and we buddy read our entry, so that he can read the words he knows.

The handwriting practice starts very simply with only 2-3 letters at a time.  You are also encouraged to do more informal exercises such as using a dry-erase board, forming letters with play-doh and writing in the air.  Elliott already knows his letters, their sounds and how to write them, but since he actually taught himself to write we are going through the early lessons to review proper formation of letters.

Story Summaries
I do appreciate the fact that the program also includes literature and narration.  The ultimate goal of the story summary chart is the same goal I have for our narration, so it fits well with how we were already doing things in our home.

Our Experience
Aside from the implementation of the daily journal, everything else up to this point has been review, or variations of things we were already doing in our homeschool, so I have not had to spend as much work doing these lessons.  I do think we will spend more time devoted to this program once we progress further into it and begin working on All About Spelling and the composition portion.

My Overall Impressions
There is a good bit of prep-work involved with the large number of pages that need to be printed and organized.  I usually prep about 1 week's worth of material for both reading and writing over the weekend so I've reviewed the lessons and everything is ready.  Everything is kept in a basket next to my chair, and we have basic supplies (pencils, crayons, scissors, glue) on Elliott's side.  There's a lot of  "stuff" needed for each lesson, so having everything ready before we start is essential to keeping the flow and minimizing our work time.

As for the daily time commitment, I personally found their suggested schedule too long.  As written, it would take almost two hours using their minimum time recommendations, just for language arts.  My philosophy (I lean Charlotte Mason), is that a formal Kindergarten schedule should not go over an hour, all subjects combined.  Both programs, however, are very flexible and encourage making it meet the needs of your child, so I don't feel guilty adjusting it to fit our needs.

All said and done, we are really enjoying Primary Arts of Language, and I do find it thorough.

If you are interested, I highly suggest visiting the Primary Arts of Language website for more information than I could ever hope to include in one review. There is even a webinar, so be sure to pencil in some time for it!

We're loving it so far, but if you want to read more reviews, be sure to check out what other crew reviewers think.

Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS review crew, I received a complimentary copy of the Primary Arts of Language Reading and Writing programs.  All opinions are based on our personal experience and were not influenced in any way.


  1. I'm so jealous! This review opportunity was one time where I was kind of sad to be Canadian! It looks every bit as great as I thought it would be - I think I'll have to bite the bullet and buy it for next term.

  2. I love reading your review! We just bought this curriculum and so far love it! However, I have been feeling guilty about not following it to a T. My daughter has done 5 lessons and she loves the games. I plan on starting my 4 years old too on this one too. Thanks!

    1. Thanks for reading! You should never feel guilty for not following a curriculum exactly as written...just do what works best for each child. So glad your daughter enjoys it, and hopefully your next child will as well!