My Favorite Reasons To Use Foundations

A teacher who uses Essentials wanted to introduce our Foundations curriculum to his colleagues in K-2. He asked us if we would share our favorite reasons to use Foundations. Here are mine!

Things I love about Foundations...

Foundations respects how children learn and where they are developmentally. It meets them at the very beginning in the way it introduces new skills, and it takes them a lot farther than many programs seem to think they are capable of.

A good example of this is in teaching children to test, feel, and identify voiced and unvoiced sounds, and to distinguish vowel sounds from consonant sounds, auditorily and kinesthetically. They do this in the first half of Foundations A!

It builds in a careful progression that allows students to build success on success, equipped with all the tools they need to complete each new challenge, rather than expecting them to make intuitive leaps.

For example, instead of starting with the advanced phonemic awareness skill of rhyming, students start by playing with compound words, progress to blending and segmenting multi-syllable words, and start identifying initial, ending, and medial sounds. They develop a strong understanding of the reality that words are made of sounds and develop the ability to identify and manipulate these sounds within words. With this foundation laid, rhyming (for example) is easy, and students are equipped with a crucial underlying skill for decoding.

The same step-by-step building comes into play as they learn the phonograms and spelling rules; students aren’t expected to read “is” correctly until they’ve been taught that S says /s/ and /z/, or to read “have” correctly until they learn that one reason for a silent E is that English words don’t end in V.

It fosters students’ curiosity and confidence about language by answering their questions and teaching them why English words are written and pronounced the way they are. Rather than telling students not to ask questions and to simply memorize and guess, Foundations engages their critical thinking skills. Students develop the understanding that English makes sense and that they have the tools and ability to understand it.

It is linguistically accurate and equips students to read any word. High-frequency words are taught in the context of accurate phonics instruction, rather than separately as non-decodable units that must be memorized by sight. So while students frequently practice reading these words in order to grow in fluency with them, they first learn why they are spelled the way they are — which simultaneously equips them to decode thousands of additional words.

By the end of A, students are reading 87 high-frequency words with some fluency and have the tools to read hundreds of others. By the end of B, they have been explicitly taught the spelling of 120 new words and are developing fluency in decoding nearly three hundred other high-frequency words. However, rather than learning these words as sight words by rote, they have used tools for decoding that enable them to read thousands of other words — including knowledge of 21 multi-letter phonograms, 2 reasons for a silent E, why we say schwa in words like “a,” “the,” “of,” and “was," and 4 other spelling rules. And by the end of C, they've learned all the phonograms and spelling rules needed to decode 98% of the words in English, and had lots of practice decoding hundreds of new high-frequency words.

It is complete and integrated. Handwriting strokes and letters, phonemic awareness, linguistically accurate phonics, decoding, encoding, and reading comprehension are carefully interwoven, strengthening and building on each other.

It builds toward mastery through varied practice; no kill and drill or rote memorization. Students practice all the skills — phonograms, handwriting strokes, blending and segmenting words, decoding, spelling — through meaningful, comprehension-related activities and playful, engaging, age-appropriate games, and they practice them a lot. Students might have to segment a word and the teacher blends it and finds the object in the room, or the teacher might segment an action and students would blend it and then do it. In the A readers, instead of guessing at words from the pictures, students read the words themselves and then find the correct picture to match the page, strengthening comprehension while building decoding skills.

Instruction is consistently multi-sensory, supporting students’ learning in all areas and reinforcing weakness while building on strength. Many lessons and games are highly kinesthetic and active, engaging kids’ whole bodies and their attention.

It is fun! Students love it, and teachers and parents do too. Sometimes we even hear about kids who formerly dreaded language arts lessons who say they want to keep playing the phonogram or reading games, or even practicing writing, when it’s time for the lesson to end.

I got very excited writing this, so thanks for the great question! I hope it helps.


Learn more

To find out more about Foundations, check out:

The phonograms and spelling rules that explain the spelling of 98% of English words are taught in Logic of English curriculum and in Uncovering the Logic of English: A Common-Sense Approach to Reading, Spelling, and Literacy.