The Proof is in the Pudding
My Experience with the Workbooks
My son is a fast learner. He works through material quickly and gets bored easily. He is a very verbal child, so I knew that he would be able to learn from a phonics-based literacy program best. That is what caught my eye about ETC. I purchased Explode the Code Book 1, not really knowing if it would be too difficult or too easy for him. After all, they do offer a “Get Ready for the Code" 3 book series which is designed for K-1 students. Explode the Code is for grades K- 4, and “Beyond the Code" is for grades 2-4. This was a bit confusing for me, but I know my son, and I was fairly certain that the ETC series was the right fit.
The first lesson in ETC book 1 is a consonant pretest, which is really helpful. Seeing the results of my son's test confirmed that this was a good fit for him. Each lesson is broken down into different activities, and each covers a different sound. For example, lesson one covers the short “a" sound. Each lesson starts out with a quick review, followed by phonemic awareness activities, which I have found helpful to use as a quick assessment of my son’s understanding. This part of the lesson allows you to hear from your child if they really understand the sounds of a word, which is what phonemic awareness is all about.
The lesson moves on to phonics, which is the sound-symbol relationship necessary for decoding words. Then there is vocabulary, student workbook pages, (about 8 in each lesson) a comprehension section, a fluency section, writing practice, and differentiating instruction which includes a challenge, an ELL lesson, and computer based reinforcement.
We have not tried the online activities, mainly because there is so much else to do in each lesson that it just doesn’t seem necessary. We do one lesson per week, and we do school 4-5 days a week. I suppose that you could do an entire lesson in one day, however, I don’t see that it’s designed that way, especially for a kindergarten or first grade student. We spend about 30 minutes a day on ETC, which seems to be just about right for us. My son’s favorite parts are the phonemic awareness activities and the phonics skills lessons. His least favorite is the workbook, mainly because he is a 5 year old boy and he would rather be doing something that did not involve sitting in a chair at a table!
All in all, I’m very pleased with Explode the Code, and at this point I don’t see any reason to switch curriculums. My son is able to read full sentences on his own, after only 10 weeks of working with ETC. I would definitely recommend Explode the Code; however, you need to know your child. This is not a “one size fits all" curriculum. As I said before, my son is very verbal and it is easy for him to understand the letter-sound relationship. I can see my middle child may having difficulty with this program, as that skill does not come as easily for him.