When my big kiddo (now a 4th grader) started first grade at age six, I was at a loss. I’d never used a formal curriculum and wasn’t sure we needed it. Honestly, when I received a recommendation from our Visions teacher for Sing Spell Read Write, I thought yeah, right!
But after successfully completing the Level 1 program with Lucas, who’s now a voracious reader at age nine, I decided to use the same resource with my upcoming kindergartener. Here’s everything I love (and don’t) about Sing Spell Read Write.
Curriculum Breakdown: What is Sing Spell Read Write?
Sing Spell Read Write is a language arts curriculum (a complete one, according to our school/the state standards). Our workbooks are circa 1990, but Pearson has the 2004 edition listed on their website.
There are four level options (per Pearson) but from there it gets complicated. Inside our Raceway Book, for example, five levels are listed: Pre-K, K, and Levels 1-3.
Let me simplify it for you though! You really need the workbooks and teacher’s edition. Most of the games are tear-outs from the book, and the extras in the kit (IE containers for holding letter cards) just created trash at my house.
How Sing Spell Read Write Works
Ok, so how do you use this resource?
Starting at Level 1, the curriculum involves a “raceway” workbook and visual. As the kids work through the 36 steps (lessons) to learn to read, they move their static-cling car along the poster. My kids weren’t into that, but yours might be more enthusiastic!
Working through each step involves learning songs, playing games, doing coloring and writing activities, taking spelling tests (later on), and reading books (different sets of readers for each level).
Sing the Songs (Or At Least Learn to Speak Them)
Kids start with SSRW by learning the songs that go with the curriculum. You can listen to the CD, but it only took a few repeats of the song for us to learn it… Then my kids begged me to turn it off!
Each letter of the alphabet has a picture and word associated with it (D doll, for example) and the song rhymes. Every book we have has this illustration in it, and with the Level 1 kit, we also received a “placemat” poster.
The song covers the short vowel sounds, and there’s another song for those you can learn separately (also printed in the workbooks). Honestly, there’s an entire CD of songs, and my kids never used them! Of course, for auditory learners, the CD is a clear benefit.
It’s also great for ESL (English Second Language) learners since there are many opportunities to model and repeat the letter sounds.
Even though we don’t do the CD anymore, my kindergartener already knows his letter sounds from me going over the song so many times.
Work in the Workbooks
Every level has its own workbooks, and they start with matching pictures to their letter sounds, cutting and pasting, and tracing. There’s a lot of repetition, so no matter where you start, there’s not much opportunity to get behind.
Play the Games
SSRW involves both bookwork and “games” that require kids to sound out letter blends. One of the first activities in Level 1 (the Raceway Book) is the Ferris Wheel (there’s a song, too).
Kids take their Ferris wheel “tickets” and move them around the wheel, sounding out the letter combinations (“beginning blends”).
There are also bingo-like games and other exercises for getting kids to apply the skills they’re learning. My kids aren’t really interested in “games” like this, but it’s worth a try if your kids struggle with the bookwork.
SSRW Curriculum Components
First, understand that SSRW is a kit. You need the student workbooks, teacher’s edition, readers, an assessment booklet, and other resources (word games, charts, and a music CD).
Our kit came as a bundle from Rainbow Resource and included a “goodie bag.” Check out the product page for SSRW on Rainbow Resource, though, and you can grab most of the resources separately.
Here are the workbooks (in order). You’ll likely use two for each grade, but there’s no hard-and-fast schedule.
- All Aboard (K-1)
- On Track (K-2)
- Off We Go (PreK-1)
- Raceway Book (PreK-1) *this one has the “36 steps to learn to read,” what I consider the “meat” of the curriculum
- Grand Tour I (2-3)
- Grand Tour II (2-3)
There are four sets of readers, too:
- Phonetic Storybook Readers K (set of 6)
- Phonetic Storybook Readers PreK-1 (set of 17) (goes with Raceway)
- Phonetic Storybook Readers Level 2 (set of 17) (goes with Grand Tour)
- Phonetic Storybook Readers Level 3 (set of 17) (goes with Grand Tour II)
It is possible to skip some of the supplement materials and still teach your kiddo to read. As a new homeschooling mom with my then-first-grader, though, I stuck to the books. These days, I pick and choose our materials, even combining multiple curriculums to suit my kids’ needs.
You can skip the assessments, though I sometimes find them helpful for gauging where we’re at.
What I Love About Sing Spell Read Write
Here are all the great things about SSRW, in no particular order:
1. You can start at nearly any level and still cover the basics. This is especially great for kids who need “remedial” help with ELA.
2. There are hands-on cutting and pasting and coloring activities built in. A must for younger kids and more fun than “school” for bigger kids.
3. Each reader establishes “rule breakers” (sight words) and explains how to pronounce them. Easier than explaining that English just has super wacky rules and nothing ever makes sense, ever.
4. The songs are catchy and give kids tools to self-correct. My kiddos both sing them all the time.
5. Activities are varied (not the same thing every day). At the same time, the “meat” of the curriculum is repeated at each level.
6. Parent preparation is practically nil (except for learning the songs, too, and tearing out resources).
What I Don’t Love About Sing Spell Read Write
And the negatives, again, in no particular order.
1. You need the instructor’s manual, even if you don’t follow it step by step. There are pronunciation guides, tips, and directions. But it’s so hard to find! Apparently there’s also a Kindergarten instructor’s manual (not available separately at all). Rainbow Resource doesn’t carry any instructor edition on its own, and the Level 1 book is infrequently available elsewhere online. Amazon does have it (Sing, Spell, Read and Write, Instructor’s Manual, Level 1), but good luck finding a new or Prime edition.
2. The songs aren’t ideal for kids who are too “mature” for the likes of Raffie or Mickey Mouse. They’re also not always enunciated well or loud enough to make the letter sounds clear.
3. There’s a bit of discussion on “rule breakers” (sight words), but not a lot of practice with word lists like Dolch sight words. If your kiddo is like my kindergartener, they’ll love a Sight Words Magnetic Fishing Game for that, though.
We have this game and love it!
4. The readers are super expensive. The workbooks are cheap (ten to 15 bucks), but even the set of K-level readers are $50 (and it’s six books!). In many cases, the packaged kits are worth it if you must have the readers. Personally, we’re skipping the K ones and going right to the Level 1 left over from my big kid.
Where to Get Sing Spell Read Write
Although Amazon has bits and pieces of the curriculum (like workbooks), Rainbow Resource has brand-new books and full kits.
They even have a Sing, Spell, Read & Write Kindergarten and Level 1 Combo Kit, Homeschool Edition that will cover your ELA from kindergarten to second grade!
Bottom Line: SSRW Gets a Thumbs Up!
I loved Sing Spell Read Write with my first child because it gives ample teacher guidance (with some wiggle room) and helped my first grader achieve small successes almost daily.
We went from him just knowing the alphabet song and being able to write his name to reading “real” books by the end of first grade. And my younger son picked up the SSRW song (through osmosis?!) before he was even four.
He’s excited to start his new books for kindergarten, and I am, too! Yes, there are drawbacks, but overall, SSRW gets a big thumbs up from this family.
What about you? What curriculum does your family use for kiddos learning to read? Share in the comments!