Review: Super Simple ABCsA simple-to-use course to introduce phonics to very young learners
Super Simple Phonics is a course designed for teaching the sounds of English to very young learners, in order to prepare them for reading in English.
The aim of the course according to its website is “to instill confidence in young learners by making the alphabet as easy-to-teach and easy-to-learn as possible”. There are plenty of materials in the course to present and practise each letter, including flashcards, songs, games and worksheets. The variety of English used is American English.
The Student’s Book is available in both upper and lower case.
What is the difference between the two books?
Super Simple ABCs Upper Case is, according to the publishers, suitable for “Small fingers. Limited vocabularies. Developing motor skills. Short attention spans.” It is therefore ideal for very young learners who have trouble using a pencil. The activities in the book are completed using crayons and the letters are large, making it possible for the children to trace the letter with their finger before writing. Each page is devoted to a letter of the alphabet and has several opportunities to practise its formation, as well as the chance to colour pictures of the vocabulary.
Super Simple ABCs Lower Case can either be used as a follow up to this, or to start with for slightly older learners. Like the upper case book, each page has a different letter, but this time learners are given ample opportunity to perfect the formation of the letter, both within “bubble letters” and between lines. Both books have stickers for each item of vocabulary that the children have to find at the back of the book and place on each page.
Each letter in the course has two items of vocabulary in each book. For example, for the letter ‘A’ in the first book the words APPLE and ALLIGATOR are presented, and in the second book ANT and AMBULANCE. The vocabulary is common words that the children should have come across and understand. On the CD ROM you will find flashcards that you can print out for each word that appears in the course. It would be nicer if the flashcards already came ready printed and laminated, because currently you have to print out and laminate all 104 cards yourself. However, having everything on one handy CD ROM is ideal for those classrooms that have space issues, and means you can use an interactive whiteboard instead of or as well as flashcards. On the CD ROM you will also find mini-cards (which can again be printed out and given to students), games and very comprehensive Teacher’s Notes. The Teacher’s Notes give plenty of ideas on how to use the materials, including sample lesson plans and an archive of gestures to use when presenting the vocabulary.
The Audio CD contains one song for each letter of the alphabet, using the vocabulary from the Upper Case book. The songs are actually chants with a well- known tune as backing music e.g. If You’re Happy and You Know It (Clap Your Hands). The CD comes with the lyrics printed inside the cover, which is helpful for the teacher. The songs are accompanied by simple, easy to remember gestures, which you will find illustrated on the CD ROM.
One of the positives of the CD is that there are karaoke versions of the songs. This means that if the children get bored with chanting, or you find they prefer singing, you can play the karaoke track and sing along with the tune. I would say, nevertheless, that the songs can be slightly repetitive and older children may find them a bit too childish.
I particularly liked the big bright posters, as they will brighten up any classroom and are made of durable paper. Along with the flashcards, they provide you with plenty of extra games and activities with which to reinforce the letters and vocabulary.
Something I feel is missing from the course is the lack of combinations of letters such as ch, sh, th, oo, ou etc which do appear in other phonics courses. If we want to teach our learners to read in English, it is just as important to teach these sounds as it is to teach individual letter sounds. On the whole, though, this course is very well presented and its contents are ideal for young children. The components are large enough for children to handle and the activities require little supervision, making it suitable for both classroom and home use. No experience of teaching reading or phonics is required, due to the extensive teacher’s notes. As the name suggests, it is super-simple to teach and learn from!