Teach America to Read and Spell

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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. Theauthor'saim 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.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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Great Saltmine & Hifwip
by Frank Rogers
3rd edition from Teach America to Read & Spell
for Kindergarten
in Miscellaneous Phonics (Location: PHO-MISC)