Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Primary Arts of Language: Reading & Writing Program Review

The Primary Arts of Language: Reading Program
Pure genius! Well, I'm biased because I love everything from Institute for Excellence in Writing, also known as IEW.  The PAL curriculum is divided into a reading and writing package.  They can be used together or separately.  By the time I finished going through the materials, I felt empowered.  I was given every tool necessary to make this program a success.  I am definitely an auditory/visual learner so the DVD included with the program was extremely helpful.  I believe that when you approach a curriculum truly understanding the big picture, you are better equipped to teach. Before I opened the teacher manuals, I watched the DVD over and over again.  The MP3 talks included on the DVD were my own personal teacher training program.  I listened intently to master teacher Anna Ingham, author of the Blended Sight-Sound Program of Learning, upon which the Primary Arts of Language: Reading Complete Package is based.  Ms. Ingham reminded me of an old-school teacher, filled with love, wisdom and tips to make teaching and learning more fun.  A curriculum that educates the teacher, as opposed to just supplying a script, is much more valuable in the long run.

The PAL Reading Complete Package ($69) includes: 

  •     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

The program is designed for K-2nd grade level.  Parents are encouraged to make the program their own.  LionHeart already knew how to read and write his letters and numbers, so we used that portion of the curriculum for review.  He loved the silly letter stories.  The stories for letters I and letter E were very helpful as they assisted him in distinguishing the letters and sounds he would often mix up.  We skimmed the content areas we had already covered and focused on those we had not. 

The Primary Arts of Language: Reading program uses poetry as the core and is broken up into four stages:
  •  Foundations - the teacher lays the foundation with the child for how the program will work
  • Activity Time - when the child moves around freely choosing the games and activities that have been prepared to review and master concepts
  • Discovery- working independently to decode words
  • Library-the child begins reading books, putting to work all of those skills 

File Folder Games

Anna Ingham says a child needs to experience something at least 55 times before it is mastered.  If I try doing something that many times with LionHeart, it better be fun! The program injects fun through the use of file folder games to review and practice concepts.  PAL-Reading recommends that you create the file folder games as you need them. I decided to dedicate a weekend to getting everything together and made all of the games ahead of time.

Discovery Cards

This program blends phonics with sight word memorization.  Word attack skills must be mastered before a student can delve into Discovery.  During this phase, students use their skills to sound out or "discover" words that have not been introduced.  Thanks to the Dollar Tree I was able to colorfully organize each level of Discovery cards so that LionHeart will be able to easily work through the levels and return the cards neatly to their place.

Journal Work

LionHeart always wants to know how his learning is connected to his life, otherwise he resists.  He is constantly asking the "why do I have to do this" question.  PAL immediately shows how speech, letters, words and writing are connected through daily journal writing.  Initially when we did the journal writing exercise, he was not very interested, so I allowed him to dictate while I wrote.  By the fourth time, he saw this as an opportunity to put his words and his voice on paper.  Now he loves it.  Just today he asked me if he could "write a book."  I was stunned! He went from not wanting to write to wanting to write a book about his favorite video game.

Poetry Memorization

As I mentioned, poetry is a core component of the program.  The simple use of poems that are read over and over, each time focusing on different phonemes, is purely magical.  By the time a student has memorized the poem from repeated exposure, he has also mastered the phonemes and learned to read it effortlessly. I use the focus poem as a part of our copy work, which helps with spelling and punctuation.  LionHeart does not like to read the same books over and over again, so the use of poetry is perfect for him.  He loves the rhyme and flow of poetry.  Poetry memorization is built-in goal setting, which is important to little boys who happen to love video games. Children love to work and play with a goal in mind.  Being able to recite the poem from memory gives LionHeart something to work towards.  Memorizing a poem, while learning new words and grammatical concepts, is a huge achievement.  LionHeart was so proud to be able to recite the poem by heart and ready to tackle the next one.

Poem In Your Pocket

A completely unexpected benefit of using this program is that LionHeart has developed a love of poetry.  During National Poetry Month we walked into one of our neighborhood libraries during a poetry reading.  When the host asked if anyone had a poem he would like to recite, LionHeart jumped at the chance.  He proudly recited September.  The crowd loved it!  Poem In Your Pocket is an actual celebration that takes place each year.  This year it was April 24th.

I felt the same way as Jill Pike, creator of this program, when teaching my youngest to read.  He struggled and I panicked.  My oldest asked to be taught to read.  I used Hooked on Phonics and after the 2nd grade program, he skyrocketed to 5th grade reading level and never looked back.  But for my youngest it has been very different.  Knowing that Ms. Pike has spent years studying reading programs and that her own children struggled with various forms of dyslexia makes me confident that this Orton Gillingham-based program will speak to a myriad of needs.

Primary Arts of Language: Writing Program


The Writing package includes ($69):


  •  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)


    Bonus e-audio downloads:

  •     Units 1 & 2 in the K–2 Classroom MP3 Audio by Shirley George
  •     Unit 3 in the K–2 Classroom MP3 Audio by Shirley George
  •     Preparing the K-2 Writing Environment MP3 Audio by Richelle Palmer

The writing portion of the Primary Arts of Language (PAL) program gets even better.  When I discovered IEW for my older son, I was relieved.  Though I am a writer, I found it difficult to teach how to write without taking over the process myself.  Naturally, I wanted that same kind of foundation for my younger son.  PAL-writing is all that and more.  The program has 3 parts:

  1. Printing lessons and an introduction to story sequence
  2. Copywork, style and continued work on story sequencing
  3. Composition

I love the story sequencing part of the program, which involves identifying the elements of a story.  We complete this exercise in the evening during bedtime reading with the books I choose from the library.  LionHeart enjoys this exercise, especially when I ask him to summarize the story.

The complete PAL-writing package also includes All About Spelling Level One, another outstanding spelling program that appeals to children who are kinesthetic learners and also those who struggle with reading and/or dyslexia.

Storing the Material 

The combined program is a lot of material and can easily become overwhelming without a plan of use and an organized way of storing your materials.

 Switching between two teacher's manuals can be confusing for the teacher.  I'm a visual learner, so I came up with an At-A-Glance schedule for me.  The schedule also benefits LionHeart who always wants to know "am I finished yet?"

To make his notebook extra special, I pasted a photo of LionHeart on the cover.  Now it really is his notebook.  I use one binder to hold both my PAL-Reading and Writing materials, labeling my divider tabs as follows:
  • Lessons
  • Poetry
  • Posters
  • Homophone Clothes Line
  • Reading Practice
  • Printing/Cursive/Story Summaries
  • Copywork
  • Compositions
I'm an organizer, so it's important for me to teach LionHeart how to keep his work organized.

All work in progress is kept on the clipboard until complete.  Once complete, we slip it into the proper place in his binder.  Organizing the binder in this way makes work easily accessible for review.  LionHeart loves to go back over his work and say, "I already know that."

When the work is complete, everything (except for the Discovery Cards) goes into a bin that is stored under LionHeart's desk until the next day of learning.


  1. Monica,

    You are brilliant! And Ayinde did a fantastic job.


  2. Thanks so much Cat. I'm happy that I discovered his love of poetry.