Friday, September 18, 2009

Rocket Phonics - A Review


Product: Rocket Phonics

Price: $160 (or 3 payments of $53.34)

Where to buy: Rocket Phonics

Brief Overview:

Rocket Phonics is a game-based, multi-sensory, accelerated reading program that takes a child from beginning reading to 5th grade in 2 years or less (preschoolers can take longer). The program was designed by Stephen Guffanti, MD and his wife Maureen, a former teacher. It is designed for ages 4-10 and requires very little prep time for the parent/teacher. This is a non-consumable workbook, so it may be used with more than one child.

In-Depth Look:

I am using this program with my 7 year old daughter.    Up till this point, we had not used an “official” reading curriculum. Instead we had used a hodge-podge of resources and methods and, for the past few months, an online phonics/reading program. My daughter had a good understanding of most phonics rules and could read most simple words. But when she would hit words that she couldn’t figure out, she would become frustrated, not wanting to read anything that she couldn’t read perfectly, first-try. She had yet to gain the confidence to know that if she just kept trying, she would figure it out and it would be worth it.
When I explained our situation to Maureen Guffanti (president of Rocket Phonics), she felt positive that the program would be of help to my daughter. So, I was more than thrilled when we were chosen to use and review the program over the next year.

When we received the package and opened the box, I felt like a kid at Christmas. This wasn’t your ordinary reading curriculum with a teacher’s manual, student workbook and a few readers thrown in.  

Check out all that you will get:

Each Rocket Phonics kit comes with:

  • 2 big Rocket Phonics readers
    • Two sets of Play & Read symbol cards
    • Bingo chips
    • Rocket Peeker
    • Bingo sheets and Word lists for testing
    • New! Big-movement games for preschoolers and active learners -- and bonuses, below

As a special gift with your purchase you will receive three free bonuses valued at over $100 .
Free Bonus Gift #1: Free 28 bonus gifts: With your purchase, you’ll receive by email free each week for 28 weeks a bonus gift to your kit. New! Now included: Spelling Strategy multi-sensory, developed by spelling specialists, and nearly foolproof! Also, 12 Writing Lessons, perfect for kindergarten or first grade. You and your child will be thrilled with each week’s additional stories, riddles, games, beginning reading tips and more. There's extra practice for each grade level! ($69.95 value)
Free Bonus Gift #2: Two Rocket Phonics
Treasure Hunts: The rhyming clues are written both with and without Rocket Phonics’ unique helpers, so very early readers can read beyond their grade levels to figure out clues and find the treasure. Your children will love these. Prizes, such as sticky hands, kazoos, etc., are all included and ready for fun.
($16.95 value)
Free Bonus Gift #3: Rocket Phonics Word-Find Treasure Hunt and the Rocket Phonics Phrase Game: Your child will delight in finding and reading one word or phrase at a time with these games emailed to
you. ($19.95 value)

The first step in the program is teaching your child the ITA (initial teaching alphabet). Rocket Phonics created an ITA of 36 symbols made from single letters or two-letter combinations, each representing a unique sound. Rocket Phonics offers a variety of ways to teach and review the sounds, including Bingo, Go Fish and Letter Leap. My daughter knew most of these already, so we were able to progress through it quickly with just a few reviews. She enjoyed playing Go Fish by asking for sounds, instead of letters.

The next step is to begin segmentation (separating the sounds of words, such as identifying the last sound in a word) and to start blending sounds. For example, you might say “I am thinking of a word with three sounds: /m/ /o/ /m/. What is the word?” The book reminds us that rhythm and rhyme are important helps in building phonemic awareness and encourages us to use it with our children. It helps keep it silly and fun, but has huge benefits in the long run. My 10 year old wanted to get in on the “build-a-rhyme” game. In this oral game, you start with a rime like “at” and just keep adding.

I sat on a hat.
The hat is now flat.
Imagine that. A flat hat.

As your child progresses, they continue blending and are soon blending real words. The kit includes a really neat gadget called the “rocket peeker”. A child uses it to see one word at a time, so they do not get overwhelmed by seeing a page full of words at once. My 7yo appreciated this, because it helped her to focus on one thing at a time. I think she does get overwhelmed when she sees a whole page of reading words and tends to panic before she even tries. Again, the program helps to keep it fun and to hold your child’s interest by making it more than just a bunch of words. On one page, your child may read one word at a time, finding each item in a picture. On another, it might show a picture and then several phrases that your child reads to find the one that fits.

The program continues to progress to non-phonetic words using word helpers. Letters that follow the ITA are printed in blue. The ones that don’t are printed in black, with the correct sound underneath. This way, the child sees the correct spelling and yet, can still read words that don’t “follow the rules”. This sets the child up for success, instead of frustration. But, it also exposes them to the correct spelling for future use so that you don’t have to re-teach it later.

Once reading has progressed a little, the child can look forward to a treasure hunt, with clues such as “under the table”. The kit even includes prizes to award at the end of the hunt. I don’t know of any other reading program that does that. My daughter has been looking forward to it since she saw the prizes in the box.

I am very pleased with this program. I have seen my daughter’s confidence,
speed and accuracy improve in just a short time. We plan to continue using it through the remainder of the school year, at which point I am confident that my daughter’s reading level will have improved dramatically. 

Here are some informing quotes for you.
"There isn't a better phonics program around than Dr. Guffanti's Rocket Phonics. Follow these simple exercises and you will watch a miracle unfold before your eyes."-- John Taylor Gatto, Best Selling Author and New York State Teacher of the Year
"No one who did more than one (Rocket Phonics) lesson failed to improve his or her skills." Professor James Catterall, UCLA Graduate School of Education

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