Astronauts to Zippers (A to Z) is a multi-sensory language arts program for all learning styles. It features catchy alphabet songs, cute readers, handwriting lessons, grammar lessons, and of course phonics lessons. A to Z is designed for children who have not yet begun to read. It is a complete language arts program. All you need are a CD player for the songs, pencils, and crayons. The Primary Kit comes neatly packaged in a reusable cardboard box and includes the following items: Levels 1-3, 3 teacher guides, 3 student worktexts, 54 storybooks, 571 word/sentence cards, 61 "banana" cards, 2 bingo games with chips, 3 card games, 2 wall charts, and 1 audio CD. All cards and games are printed on lightweight cardstock, and you may want to consider the suggestion of the author to have them laminated ($30 at my local print shop to do all sheets and cards).
Because A to Z is a newer program, I decided to compare it to two well-known, long-standing phonics programs: Saxon Phonics and Sing, Spell, Read, and Write. The following chart is the result of my research. I went to all three websites, talked with Dr. Jane of Astronauts to Zippers, and used my personal experience from four years of homeschooling with Saxon Phonics.
|Astronauts to Zippers
||Sing, Spell, Read, & Write
|Information from the author, A to Z website, and personal experience with the curriculum
||Information from A to Z author and SSRW website; no personal experience
||Information from Saxon website and personal experience with the curriculum
|Provides an alphabet song that teaches both the letter sound and name
||Uses an alphabet song to teach letter sounds
|Has three association objects for each letter
||Has one association object for each letter
||Has one association object for each letter
|Teaches students to blend letter-sounds to pronounce words and read text in the second lesson
||Teaches all 26 basic letter sounds before teaching students to use blended letter sounds to pronounce words or read text
from simple word types (e.g., cat, sit) to more complex words beginning in the 11th lesson
|Introduces and teaches letters in an order that enables student to use mastered letter sounds to decode and pronounce real words
||Introduces and teaches letters in alphabetical order
||Introduces high-utility letter
sounds early in the
curriculum (e.g., /m/, /s/, /a/, /r/)
|First storybook in Lesson 3
||Introduces first storybook following at least a month of phonics
||First storybook comes after Lesson 6
|Provides lessons on listening, following directions, and concept development
|2 levels needed
Primary kit is $139.20
Elementary Kit is $129.20
Buy both and save $40 for a cost of $229.98
|2 levels available. Price is from CBD for Kindergarten and Level 1
|3 levels needed - Prices are from the publisher.
First Grade $129.50
Second Grade $124.50
|Requires 20 to 45 minutes of parent interaction per day
||Requires 30 to 60 minutes of parent interaction per day
||Requires 60 to 90 minutes of parent interaction per day
|Complete handwriting program
||Complete handwriting program
||Not a complete handwriting program
|Complete spelling program
||Complete spelling program
||Incorporates spelling to reinforce word analysis. I felt that my daughters needed additional spelling instruction after 3 years of Saxon Phonics
|Mastery of one lesson before moving on to next lesson
||Unable to get this information
||Mastery not expected; student will review previous lessons over and over
A typical lesson at our house works like this: "Daniel, get the phonics box." "Okay, Mom." I open the box and take out the teacher's manual, audio CD, student workbook, and word cards. In less than five minutes we are working on a lesson. The teacher's manual provides complete instructions for teaching the lesson. It is less scripted than Saxon Phonics, but this is not a drawback--I always felt that Saxon Phonics was a bit rigid. A typical lesson begins with singing along with the CD and reviewing previous material followed by new instructions. Handwriting instruction is clear and easy to follow. The letter style in A to Z is Zaner-Bloser (ball and stick). If you prefer another letter style, skip the handwriting instruction and use a different program. Instructions for writing a lowercase h (Level 1, Lesson 12) are: "Remember that the top line is the ceiling, the middle line is the rail, and the bottom line is the floor. To write the lowercase h, put your pencil on the ceiling and go straight down to the floor. Without picking up your pencil, go back up almost to the rail, curve around, touch the rail, and then go back straight down to the floor." Most days we finish A to Z in less than 30 minutes. This is a definite plus for me--I have three other children who need my help.
I really like Astronauts to Zippers! It is easy to teach, thorough, and visually appealing. Daniel balked at singing with the audio CD at first, but after I got him to just listen to the songs while we pointed to each letter on the letter chart, he began to sing along. Daniel is not very interested in reading. He would rather play, so we are taking two to three days for each lesson, something that Dr. Jane encourages when students are not ready to move on. Her program focuses on mastery of the material and assumes the student knows Lesson 8 before moving on to Lesson 9. After using A to Z for three months I can definitely say I like it much better than Saxon Phonics and will recommend it to anyone who asks about a phonics program. I especially like the exercises on following directions.
Astronauts to Zippers is a good value for your primary language arts needs. I would like to see the games printed on a heavier cardstock so that they will hold up to daily use without being laminated. I can't think of another thing I would change about the program. We have been thoroughly satisfied.