Monday, February 28, 2011

TOS Review: I See Sam

Having now taught four kids to read, I think I can safely say that I've "been around the block a few times" when it comes to reading programs.  As with most things, my first was very easy when it came to reading.  I think he pretty much taught himself.  But with the other three, I've had to employ a variety of different programs and techniques to get them from hesitantly sounding out short-vowel three-letter words onto easily reading anything they pick up.

One of my biggest frustration is finding good practice books that they can use to hone their newly-emerging skills.  The typical "I can read" books you find (generally sporting the latest pop-culture cartoon character) don't seem to have any rhyme or reason to the word content, and a level 1 book can be as difficult for the new reader as a level 4 book sometimes.  

That's why I found myself pleasantly surprised by I See Sam, the reading program from Academic Success for all Learners.  Now, I must admit up front that we did not use I See Sam by following the instructions that came with it.  I went through the kit and studied the suggested uses, and decided to use the materials a little differently. For one thing, when we first got the kit, my youngest - who turned 5 in October - was already beginning to read using Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, and she was doing very well with that particular book.  As much as I want to use and do a good job reviewing the curriculum we receive, I don't feel I can move my child off something that's working so well, just to try something out.  So I decided to supplement 100 Easy Lessons with the materials we got.

These were the perfect practice books for her.  They were simple enough that she was able to easily sound out the words she didn't already know, but not so simple that they seemed like "fake" books to her (which is how she describes the Bob Books).  She was eager to try out each one, and I had to limit her to two per day.  Every day when dad got home, she would rush to meet him and drag him over to sit down and "listen to me read this book!"  She felt a great sense of accomplishment as the books she could read "all by myself" piled up.  At the same time she was gaining valuable reading experience, she was actually honing her skills.  

I also gave her the word cards to use for copy practice.  I'd have her tell me the words, and after she did, she would take 2-3 at a time and make her "spelling list" for the day while the other kids were doing their spelling. This was a huge relief for me, as I'd been trying to include her when we do spelling (at her request) but you can only give a kid "at, cat, hat, bat" so many times before she catches on.  ;)

We received the first four levels of Little Books ($30/level), The Instructors Guide, Motivational Materials, Placement and Assessment Manual ($10), and flashcards sets for all four levels ($15 or download free from the website).  The items can also be purchased as a set (with some extra items) for $160.

Now, the way we used this program worked well for us.  However, I would caution those considering using this as a stand-alone program.  The I See Sam program is very whole-word heavy.  That is, the phonics training is pretty slow, and the child is expected to read the words on sight, rather than sounding them out.  If you follow the program as laid out, the child will go through over three levels of books, and over 1000 pages of "reading", before they are even taught all the letter sounds.  From my experience, children who learn to read using a whole-word method tend to struggle with both spelling and reading down the road.  So while the books worked very well as a supplement to our current reading program, and the cards were a great "spelling" activity for my daughter, I would not choose to use the I See Sam program to teach reading.

Want to know what other crew members thought about I See Sam? Find out here.

Disclaimer: As a member of the 2010-2011 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I received a complimentary set of the I See Sam program in exchange for my fair, honest and unbiased review. No other compensation was received.


  1. We also used 100 Easy Lessons prior to I See Sam, but my son cried every time we did it.
    We are loving I See Sam, but I am teaching it phonetically, not by whole words, and it is working for us.
    I never even realized that it was supposed to be sight word oriented, and then several of the reviews said the same thing.
    I will just teach it my way! Like you did. I am teaching it phonetically, and I let him sound it out.
    I do basically the same thing as 100 Easy Lessons, but just with these books instead!
    Glad you found a way to make it work for you.

  2. For instruction, the research, and other support materials for these books, you should visit the ORIGINIAL developers web site: Open the 'About Us' 'Resources', and 'About Us' links.