The Right Track Reading program was written by a mom who successfully taught her own children to read using a systematic, phonics-based program. Seeing the need for a solid phonics program for struggling readers, she decided to write Right Track Reading Lessons and Back on the Right Track Reading Lessons.
Her method includes direct instruction that teaches all sounds in a deliberately planned sequence. In other words, she never assumes children will automatically make letter/sound connections. So many programs today teach something quickly and expect children to be able to transfer that learning to other similar skills. Children fall behind when they aren't able to make the rule connections. On the other hand, this program teaches the r-controlled vowels (like "ar" and "er") and each of the vowel combinations like "ai," "ou," and "ea") specifically. If you can hear a sound or see a combination of letters, Ms. Gagen teaches it!
The program is perfect for homeschoolers since it was developed to be used as a one-on-one tutoring program. Four to five days a week, you and your child are expected to spend between 20 to 30 minutes on the lessons. Some lessons may take longer than one day to complete and thatís okay. The author is only concerned that the lessons are completed in order since there is a very specific plan of progression.
In order to complete the lessons, there are a few materials you need to make. Never fear, though. Clear directions with pictures are included. Using index cards, you will make a set of sound cards, and using poster board, you will create a word-making template. Also, using inexpensive bathroom tiles, you'll make a set of sound tiles. All of the materials are excellent manipulatives that reinforce the lessons perfectly. Detailed instructions for using the manipulatives are given within the lessons.
A general principle for this program is that you correct errors immediately so that nothing is ever learned incorrectly. The plan also suggests things like speaking in "kid terms," pronouncing all sounds correctly yourself, constantly reinforcing left to right reading, and always writing in block print (as words are typically seen in books.) For the parent, there is a sound pronunciation table to be sure you are saying each word or sound correctly.
Before getting into the lessons, there is a section of pre-reading activities that you could use with young children or as warm ups for children just beginning to read. Then it's on to the lessons. There are 102 very clear, scripted lessons in Right Track Reading Lessons. In Lesson 1, children are learning sounds, writing letters, using manipulatives, and reading simple words like at, am, and mat. By Lesson 6, children are reading sentences. Here's an example of what a child should be able to read by Lesson 34: "Mom said we must not drop the eggs. The eggs will crack if we drop them." And by Lesson 102, a word list including dexterity, prescribe, increased, participate, implement, and more should be able to easily be read!
At the end of the book, there is an eight-page section of spelling strategies and patterns. The book has no frills. It's printed only in black ink with no pictures, but that actually helps keep the child focused on the task at hand.
Because of the manipulatives, the program reaches visual, auditory, tactile (hands-on), and even, to some extent, kinesthetic learners. Because the parent must be involved in the teaching and initial preparation of the manipulatives, this program might not appeal to every family. But for those looking for an intensive, systematic, purposeful reading program that will take children from literally nothing to about a 2nd or 3rd grade reading level in a year, this program is excellent!
Back on the Right Track Reading Lessons is meant more for older students or even adults who are struggling readers. Using a similar format, the lessons aim to move students from struggling to proficient readers. Extra skills focused on in this book include multi-syllable words, fluency, and expanded vocabulary.
There is a section that teaches you how to evaluate the reader for the skills they need, how to make a plan for them, and how to explain the plan to the student. With 45 to 60-minute lessons, five days a week, this book uses the same systematic plan as the first book. Some of the same manipulatives are used too. There are only 77 lessons in this book, but they include much more information per lesson.
In the back of the book, you'll find information sections for guided reading, building fluency, developing reading comprehension, and expanding vocabulary. There are also 31 spelling lessons, but they are not as fleshed out as the reading lessons. Evaluation checklists and forms for pronunciation and spelling patterns are included as well.
These books can lead your children into a full understanding and ability to read (and spell). I have been so impressed, this is becoming my new reading curriculum!