There’s nothing better than placing a reading book in front of a student and hearing the words, “Ooohhh this looks like a good one!” Or you begin a lesson and a 13 year old boy says, “So when are we going to read the book?”
These are some of the responses I’ve been getting from my students when using the new reading books from PhonicBooks.
So I’m going to share with you the two new series that are a hit with my students and some of the hands-on reading and spelling ideas that we’ve been doing.
The Rescue Series is another range of catch up readers for students aged 8 – 14 years. It follows the story of Erin who is babysitting her baby brother, Jack, when the kids run into a bit of trouble. The books follow the adventures that Erin and her brother have.
These books are beautifully illustrated and will capture the attention of even the most reluctant reader. Believe it or not, it’s my 13 year old boy that is the one that wants to read this series! He says, “they are just such a good adventure!”
There are 10 books in this series with each book having a different sound focus. The phonic progression is as follows:
Book 1: A Great Holiday – /ae/, spellings: ay, a-e, ai, a, ea, ey.
Book 2: The Search Begins – /ee/, spellings: ee, ea, y, e, ie, e-e, ei.
Book 3: Rainbow Fish – /oe/, spellings: ow, oa, oe, o-e, o.
Book 4: On with the Search – /er/, spellings: er, ir, ur, or, ear.
Book 5: A Long Way Down – /ow/, spellings: ow, ou & /oi/, spellings: oy, oi.
Book 6: A Gruesome Monster – /oo/, spellings: oo, ue, u-e, ew, ou, u.
Book 7: Time is Running Out – /ie/, spellings: igh, ie, i-e, i, y.
Book 8: An Awful Planet – /or/, spellings: or, ore, a, aw, ae, au, ar, al , ough.
Book 9: No Time to Spare – /air/, spellings: air, are, ear, ere, eir.
Book 10: Dark Times – /ar/, spellings: ar, a, al, au, ear.
There is also a workbook to accompany the reading books. This offers activities based on the phonic focus in each of the books. Some of the workbook activities include:
- Blending & segmenting to build words;
- Reading & sorting words into the correct spellings;
- Chunking 2 syllable words;
- Timed reading;
- Comprehension activities;
- Punctuation exercises and developing vocabulary; and
- Stepping stones games.
How I use the books
I’ve been using the Rescue series with a pair of students, a boy and girl in grades 7 & 8. These two children are behind in their reading and spelling so come for weekly tutoring sessions.
During each session I like to have time for the students to read in context and put into practice the strategies that we have been using during a tutoring session. We’ve read a couple of the other PhonicBooks series: Alba and Totem, so I thought this one would be a hit as well.
And as you’ve read the boy loves the book…..the girl on the other hand has not been so captivated. She would prefer to let the boy do all the reading, but I think that has more to do with her confidence with reading aloud in front of other people, rather than if she actually likes the books or not.
Magpie Books and Magpie Walls
I’ve also started using the books to help my students build their vocabulary as well as their grammar. I was introduced to the concept of a magpie book at a recent professional development that I attended. These are books or walls where you collect words/phrases/ideas and store them away to be used at a later date. A bit like how magpies collect interesting looking things to take back to their nest!
So in the back of the student’s books we’ve started our magpie book. At various times I’ll set a different task for the magpie book and use the reading book to assist. It could be that we have been looking at nouns and adjectives, so we look in the reading book for a good example of a sentence that uses adjectives. We write this sentence in our magpie book. Then for a homework task students need to rewrite the sentence using their own adjectives in the sentence.
At other times the students will just write down words and phrases that they like. Then during a tutoring session when we’re completing silly sentences we refer to our magpie book for ideas and better words to use.
This concept can then also be used to build a magpie wall in the classroom. Students add to the wall the phrases/words and ideas that will help them build better sentences.
Below is a pic of the start of our magpie wall at my tutoring clinic. We were reading one of the Totem Books and saw this sentence, “A massive pig beast came thrashing between the trees.” My student thought this sentence was pretty cool so it’s the first one added to our wall.
I’m also going to add categories to the wall to show the different parts, e.g. there will be headings for: sentences, verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs etc. As we find words and phrases we like from the books we read, we’ll write them on the sentence strips and add them to our magpie wall.
What I like
Well I think the best part of this series are the amazing illustrations. They are so bright and colorful, but here are some of the other reasons I like this series:
- The sound focus follows a similar progression to the Sounds-Write program;
- It includes words in the beginning that follow the sound focus of the book and that students can practice reading;
- The vocabulary section – each book introduces new vocabulary. This section explains what the words mean in the context of the book;
- How it splits multisyllabic words into syllables at the bottom of each page. My students regularly refer to these to help reed the longer words; and
- The illustrations of course!
Dandelion Readers Level 4
The Dandelion Readers are a set of books that introduce alternative spellings for more vowel and consonant sounds. These are particularly great as they look at some of those very tricky sounds/spellings and suffixes. The books are not part of a series, so you can pick and choose the book to suit the lesson that you are teaching. I also use these books alongside the Rescue series for activities like seeking the sound, which I’ll explain more about below.
There are 14 books in this set with each book having a different sound focus. The phonic progression is as follows:
Book 1: Toad and Newt – /ue/, spellings: ue, ew, u, u-e.
Book 2: Fred Gets in Trouble – /u/, spellings: u, ou, o.
Book 3: Australia – /o/, spellings: o, a, ou, au.
Book 4: Five Excited Mice – /s/, spellings: s, ss, se, c, ce, st, sc.
Book 5: Carrots and Celery – spelling: c, /s/ and /k/.
Book 6: The Camel – /l/, spellings: l, ll, il, al, el, le, ol.
Book 7: The Ginger Cat – /j/, spellings: j, g, ge, dge.
Book 8: George – spelling: g, /j/ and /g/.
Book 9: Steph, the Elephant – /f/, spellings: f, ff, gh, ph.
Book 10: A Grand Adventure – /cher/, suffix ‘ture.’
Book 11: The Inspection – /shun/, suffix ‘tion’
Book 12: Viv’s Profession – /shun/, suffixes ‘ssion’ ‘cian.’
Book 13: The Treasure Hunt – /zher/, suffix ‘sure’
Book 14: Alien Invasion – /zhun/, suffix ‘sion’
Again there is also a workbook to accompany the reading books. This offers activities based on the phonic focus in each of the books. Some of the workbook activities include:
- Blending words;
- Reading word cards;
- Sorting words;
- Chunking 2 syllable words;
- Reading comprehension;
- Punctuation exercises;
- Writing stories;
- Time reading;
- Dictation; and
- Stepping stones games.
How I use the books
I use these books to focus in on a particular sound/spelling that we’ve been learning. This week I read Book 6 – The Camel with a group of students. I had introduced them to the 7 ways to spell the /l/ sound: l, ll, el, il, al, le, ol.
We had completed some word building and sorting activities during the lesson, we also made some of our own word puzzles to be used at home for practice. We then had a read of the book. First we looked at the reading practice page and realized that there were some more words with the ‘ol’ spelling of the /l/ sound. We could only think of petrol, but the book also had idol and symbol.
The students took it in turns to read the book. There were a couple of tricky words in the books that they stumbled on, but they were able to decode them using the strategies that we had been practicing during sessions. At the end of the book there are some questions for discussion. These are great as I asked them straight after reading so it was a good way to reflect on what we had read.
I will again use this book for our next tutoring session to get the students to seek the sound. I will read the text and students will call out when they hear a word with the target sound /l/. They will then write that word in their books and next to the word write the way the sound is spelled in that word. For example, the first page in the book reads:
The students would call out the words: April, saddle, camel, signal, camel and clambered. Then they would write these words in their book:
April – il
saddle – le
camel – el
signal – al
camel – el
clambered – l
We also use the idea of seek the sound for follow up home activities. The workbook provides short snippets from the reading book. Students first complete the activity, which is to find the untruths. Then I attach an instruction card that has a different little mini task for each night. Students read the text, find the different spellings for the sound, sort the words, use the words to write a sentence and then write a better sentence by including adjectives, verbs, adverbs or nouns. See the picture below.
What I like
This is level 4 in the Dandelion Readers, the other 3 sets are just as useful as they all target different sounds and the spellings. This set takes it to the next level for those students who are ready to progress. I also like:
- That it is not a series so that I can pick and choose the book I need;
- The accompanying activities in the workbook as they are comprehensive and there is a great variety;
- The questions at the end of the book. A great way to quickly assess if students have understood what we read;
- The reading practice page where students can blend the sounds to read the words; and
- The back of the book includes a couple of reading games.
If you’d like to find out more about the Dandelion Readers, Level 4 then head over to PhonicBooks to read more. You’re able to click on each of the books from the series to view a sample of pages from the book.
Disclosure: I was sent a complimentary copy of the books to review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.