Friday, April 16, 2010

Explode the Code Blends Phonics and Fun

My mother taught first grade for a million years. In her career, she saw trends in pedagogy come and go, including whole word reading, context support, invented spelling, etc. She was a firm believer in the phonics method, and even hoarded old textbooks, saved phonics-based readers from dumpsters, and rebelled against her school system in order to continue teaching first graders to read with phonics. She believed that all other methods were, to use her word, "bunk."

I know my mother would have loved Explode the Code. It is not flashy, and it is not slick == it is solid, reliable, old-school phonics and it will teach your child to read. In this it reminds me of the Bob Books -- also hand drawn, also based on progressive phonics, also reliable as dirt. Now, for those who love learning on the computer, there's even an online version of Explode the Code, which translates the excellent phonics foundation to a fun, flash-based learning environment. Using the web site independently or together with the workbooks, it's a win win. Go here to explore this new online phonics curriculum.

My daughter Sadie has been struggling with reading for years. She is now six, but since she was four she knew all her letters and the sounds they make. She had the tools, the knowledge, to read first grade material, and yet she would look at a word and say "I can't read." This was extremely frustrating for me as a teacher. I am a book person, my older child is a strong reader, how could this be happening? I'm still not sure exactly what's going on in Sadie's head when she says "I can't read." I think it might have to do with her persistent suspicion that if she learns to read we'll send her to college.
Explode the Code workbooks and online games have been miraculous for her. The repetition, the spiralling returns to familiar material, the very very slow steps forward accompanied by many iterations of the words the child can confidently do, have made it absolutely impossible for her to tell herself she can't read. She can. It's undeniable. The words she knows with Explode the Code she knows inside out, upside down, backwards, and sideways. When she looks at me, shocked, and says, "I can read that!" it's amazing! Explode the Code works for us, and if you have a brand new reader that needs the confidence that comes from practice, I bet it will work for you too!


  1. Love these too! I remember when G told me he didn't want to learn to read 'cause then I wouldn't read to him anymore. Awwww. With reassurance, Bob Books & Dolch list his reading took off. We use ETC to reinforce phonics and independent work.

  2. Anonymous5:59 AM

    I remember asking Sadie if she was going to be a good cook when she grow up and she said a firm no. Surprised, I wanted to know why. Answer? "I'll always be my mother's baby."

  3. Hey there, great post! Have fun teaching has just released a new Alphabet DVD. Alphabet DVD