Great Saltmine & Hifwip

Great Saltmine & Hifwip

Vertical Phonics Reading Program

by Frank Rogers
3rd Edition, ©1993, ISBN: 9780961669126
Curriculum Bundle
Current Retail Price: $45.50
Not in stock

This was a favorite curriculum of ours for many years, but at this point it is unavailable.

The Great Saltmine & Hifwip Reading Program by Teach America to Read and Spell (TATRAS) is a comprehensive phonics, reading, writing, and spelling program that equips parents to teach their child to unlock language. It uses direct vertical phonics to teach reading and includes writing and spelling in a simple, straightforward daily instructional routine. The author's aim is for both parent and child to find learning to read a joyful experience and for children to love reading. The course (which includes an exercise book, pencils, teacher’s manual and instructional DVD) is self-contained so you don’t need to buy anything beyond the initial starter kit.

How Does This Work?

TATRAS implements direct phonics—children learn to read by sounding out (decoding) words using phonograms, not by memorizing lists of “sight words.” The vertical approach teaches all the sounds of a phonogram at once; children then “try” each sound in order until a recognized word is recalled from oral vocabulary. For example, the letter “a” is taught as /a/, /ay/ and /aw/, a being the most common use of “a” and so on. This method instills confidence because children will encounter no unknown sound possibilities, and creates more leeway when choosing readers.

The Great Saltmine & Hifwip Reading Manual teaches reading through memorization of phonogram sounds to “automaticity.” This means the child knows the sounds of each phonogram so well they can say them automatically on sight. A variety of charts and timed drills provide plenty of practice. Once a child knows at least 8 phonograms to automaticity (based on how many phonograms they can say in a minute), they begin decoding words from eight sets of primary and advanced word lists.

Saltmine is an acronym of the first eight phonograms and Hifwip stands for “High Frequency Words in Print.” The phonograms have been chosen so children learn first the combinations that occur most frequently in the 3,000 MOO (Most Often Occurring in print) words. Consequently by the time they learn the twentieth phonogram a child can decode most of what they will see in print in their lifetime. The 68 phonograms and 12 simple rules integrated with the daily word lists allow a child to read all the MOO words and decode any other English word.

The 8 sets of word lists are chosen from the MOO words. By the time a child has completed the course they will know 837 of the words encountered most frequently. Developing the phonogram and word lists in this way leaves less than 3% of the MOO words as “irregular” and every exception is included in the eight word sets. As far as we know, this is lowest percentage of irregular words in any available phonics program, and the only one that teaches the irregular words as part of the learned word lists.

Writing and dictation round out the daily learning routine. Once your child has begun decoding words you can teach them to write letters. Beginning writing materials (pad, pencil, pencil gripper) are included in the kit with detailed instructions for teaching printing found in the manual and on the DVD. The kit includes a “finger clock” tool to help kids naturally form letters.

Dictation begins with kids spelling phonograms they already know. This eventually develops into spelling words dictated from the lists. The word lists from the manual serve as spelling instruction long after the child has already completed his phonics training and is reading independently. There are no cumbersome lists of rules to memorize and possible spelling difficulties are addressed in the manual for the parent’s use.

The simple daily routine of phonogram practice, decoding, dictation, and writing produces confident readers with excellent comprehension and spelling skills. The goal of TATRAS is to help parents give their children the ability to love reading. It was developed by Frank Rogers because he was concerned for that young people were losing their ability and love of reading because American education has lost its foundation in direct phonics. He produced these materials for parents to easily and joyfully teach their child to read before 

starting school, giving them the head start they need for successful education.

Our Honest Opinion:

The TATRAS method allows students to proceed quickly to reading real stories—as soon as just 20 phonograms are known, in fact. Teaching students all the sounds of each phonogram at once and learning the most often occurring sounds first allows them to read “regular” words instead of being limited to lists and readers that have known sounds in them. Kids work directly with phonograms and sounds—there are no special symbols to learn, no long lists of rules and very few exceptions so the student can quickly read real books. Life is story and the sooner a child connects reading to stories, the more enthusiastic he will be.

The natural, routine, parent-and-child approach is particularly attractive. There is no cumbersome lesson preparation or planning. You simply follow a daily routine starting with just 5 minutes at a time and build as your child is able. It’s very one-on-one, can easily be fit into day to day life, and progresses at whatever speed you and your child need to enjoy the process. Also, the material is presented so thoroughly and in such a simple and non-threatening way that it is easy for the first time teacher to begin. The DVD clearly explains the various steps to teaching reading, writing and spelling and any concepts needed for teaching are given in the manual–right down to how to print the date. Personal assistance from the author is available by phone or email if at any time the process is “not fun” as Mr. Rogers says reading always should be!


  1. Twelve-page Penny Primer. A beginning reader's most important lesson. It is included as part of the Penny Primer Starter Set and is used to teach to beginning readers the sounds represented by the first eight letters and to show them how to decode the first 43 words of the S&H manual.
  2. ADVD audio/visual presentation showing parents how to use the materials in the S&H package.
  3. 48-page Saltmine & Hifwip Manual.
  4. Flash cards, for phonograms in Penny Primer, and 'Gram rack (in which to place the flash cards for a child's first lessons in decoding and spelling.)
  5. TwoPhonogram Wall Charts (17" x 29"). Second wall chart may be used to cut out phonograms for flashcards (paste to 3x5 note cards.)
  6. Three-ring Loose-leaf Binder.
  7. Finger Clock Card (Letter template on which child learns to trace letters). (Gray, 5" x 7")
  8. Word Card Sheet. (Provides word flash cards (uses only words used in the Penny Primer.)
  9. Wide Lined Primary Pad. (For beginning dictation.)
  10. An Interlined Exercise Book. (For advanced dictation.)
  11. Slot Card. (Used with some students to isolate words.)
  12. Reading Record Sheets. (Yellow, 1 for each student)
  13. Pencils. (One #2 black, one red) and a pencil gripper.

Caution: The small pencil gripper is not a toy and could possibly be swallowed by a toddler. Take care to keep them away from infants and toddlers. Keep the grippers on the #2 pencil.


* "Saltmine" represents the first eight letters TATRAS teaches (s, a, l, t, m, i, n, e). "Hifwip" is an acronym for "High Frequency Words in Print."

** TATRAS, Teach America to Read & Spell®, is the name of the company publishing The Great Saltmine & Hifwip Direct Phonics Reading Program.

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  Excellent Materials!
Mystie Winckler of WA, 3/19/2011
My mom taught 6 of her children to read with this method and I have so far taught 2 with it. It is a simple and straight-forward "vertical" phonics method where you memorize all the sounds of each letter and letter combination (phonogram, like th) at one time. The program includes more phonograms than many other programs, resulting in there being far fewer words that "break the rules" of the system.

The pages can seem intimidating at first if you just start by opening it up and browsing; there is a lot of information on each page! However, the DVD lays it all out and demonstrates a lesson in action. It is not glitzy, colorful, or visually appealing, but it gets the job done and done amazingly well.

The author believes in a more laid-back, slow approach; he recommends starting reading lessons at 6 years old. While both my children who are reading so far began to read when they were 5, this program is primarily for students who are ready to read. It will not likely work to push a young student to read early. The materials and method will give the student the tools needed to sound out phonograms, but then you wait for the ability to blend those sounds to "click." There is not drill or practice included to urge or cultivate that blending ability. I taught my children the phonograms before they could blend, then once that skill developed, they were both reading with ease and progressed very quickly. The author also includes tips for using this material remedially for older students who are not reading well.

The script and routine laid out is basic, quick, and easy to implement. However, this program works easily as a framework for those who would prefer to wing it. I never really followed the author's lesson outline, but instead used the charts for phonogram drill, then used Bob books and other early reader books for the blending and reading practice. The books were more enjoyable and motivating to my children than the word lists provided. There is a chart with all the sounds on one page that I reviewed myself so that I knew all the sounds (67 phonograms) and rules (12 phonic rules), then I taught many of them on-the-fly as we encountered words along the way.

This is an excellent program, with clear instructions for rules-oriented people and with straight-forward material for improvising types. I commend it without reservation.