I am a pretty big fan of Letterland and this was shared in 2 of my previous posts here. When Dumpling was younger, we did try out some of the other phonics systems but we ended up with Letterland. Letterland is a synthetic phonics program which teaches letter sounds (rather than the names of the letters) and slowly building up to blending and spelling. We really love the program and here are some of the reasons why:
1) Stories based approach
Young children do have amazing absorbent minds but for a child to be able to remember well, it helps that it is interesting and fun. This phonics program, in my opinion, does just that. All the letters in it are assigned characters in a fictional land called “Letterland”. Each character then makes a sound which is also the starting sound of their names. For e.g. Golden Girl goes “guh guh guh” (the children are taught the hard sound first). While a lot of other phonics programs teach this, Letterland follows this through to digraphs. For e.g. “Sh” makes the sound “Shhhhh” because Sammy Snake’s (letter S) hissing sounds gave Harry Hat man a headache. So Harry Hat man turned around and puts a finger to his lips and says “shhhh”. Likewise, “Ch” has its own story too – Clever Cat’s nose was tickled by Harry Hat Man’s hat and so she makes the “Ch ch ch” sound instead of its "c c c" sound.
I personally thought that these stories are not only smart but also very engaging for young children.
2) Home support materials
What worked very well for Dumpling was the song based approach: each letter has two songs (one on handwriting and one on letter sounds). The songs are short and catchy and in no time, Dumpling is singing to it.
Importantly, for the homelearning parent, the program also offers guidebooks for the teacher. This is great for new homeschooling parent who is clueless as to how to explain, what to do, etc. Here is a sample lesson on clever cat. So as a homeschooling parent, all we need to do is read it prior, prepare the additional materials needed (listed for each letter too) and make copies of the big picture cards.
3) Handwriting & letters recognition
Related to (2), the program not only teaches sounds but also handwriting and letter recognition. Even Upper and Lower case has its own story so the child is able to recognize that “d” and “D” are the same! This is taught very effectively through its CD Rom, Living ABC. I have previously blogged a bit about it here too to share how I used the program.
Some parents have also provided feedback on the child only recognizing the characters and not the letter shapes. I have also shared what I did to prevent that in the same link above.
4) The Queen’s English
Of course, there are many other programs out there which are good too but I wanted to have an UK phonics based system simply because that is what is being used here in Singapore. Some of the other US based programs or even DVD shows use American pronunciation and these could sound quite different from what we use locally.
5) Creative fun
Lastly, this program has a lot of fun craft ideas so it is almost like a total approach. For a young child, such craft and physical activities enable them to remember even better as it is simply so much fun! This is one of the activities from its craft book on Uppy Umbrella for a quick look. Here is another cooking activity for Munching Mike.
For homeschooling and home learning parents, this allows you to have the resources to almost teach letter systematically as each letter can be introduced on a daily basis with such creative and fun approach.