What Is Reading Horizons?
Reading Horizons is a K-adult phonics program that provides instruction in (the) 42 Sounds (of the Alphabet), (the) Five Phonetic Rules, and a two-step decoding system and may be taught by teachers or well-trained paraprofessionals. The program lends itself to flexible use in multiple situations: as a supplement to a school’s core reading program, as extra support to students who are reading below grade level, for ESL students, and as a remediation tool for older students reading below grade level. The goal of the program is for students to learn the phonic elements to mastery so that they will become fluent readers and spellers. The program is published in two formats; one for elementary students and one for older students. The content is the same for both versions, differing only in more age-appropriate material. Also integrated into the program is instruction in spelling, vocabulary, grammar, sentence structure, and dictionary skills.
Program materials for Reading Horizons are teacher friendly and use language that is clear and concise. Included in the Teacher’s Kit are two highly detailed Teacher’s Manuals with a scope and sequence; helpful tips on instruction; how to set up the room for successful teaching and behavior management; Reverse Listening Cards; 13 posters with sounds of the alphabet, Most Common Words, and the Five Phonetic Skills; two flipcharts; an Enrichment CD; and an appendix, containing reinforcing games and activities, mastery checks, and other materials pertinent to instruction. There is a software component to the program: one for elementary students and another for older students, which is purchased separately. Even though the software portion of the program is optional, it is recommended, since it offers students another avenue of extra practice.
How Is Reading Horizons aligned with Reading First?
Reading Horizons contains several pedagogical features helpful for all readers and for struggling readers in particular. Instruction is explicit, systematic, and follows a logical sequence. Basic foundational skills are learned first, and gradually, more-complex skills and strategies are introduced. Information is broken into small manageable units, builds cumulatively, and is then reviewed on a frequent basis. Students receive immediate corrective feedback.
Oral phonemic awareness does not occur separately, but rather, is woven into phonics instruction such that the student moves seamlessly back and forth between the two. The interactive nature of instruction is intended to constantly stimulate students’ phonological and orthographic memories in order to secure an understanding of the alphabetic principle. The alphabet is learned in groups of four consonants and one vowel (each). With the teacher and the students at the board, the teacher presents one of the four consonants, introducing its name and sound using a visual, oral, and written demonstration. Students respond by repeating the teacher’s demonstration. Dictation lessons for individual sounds, phonic elements, words, nonsense words, and sentences follow. This responsive process continues throughout all lessons as more phonic elements are gradually layered onto the instructional sequence. Once students have learned the letters and sounds of the alphabet, they are taught Blends, long and short vowel variations, r-controlled vowels, Digraphs, diphthongs, the sounds of y, decoding, multi-syllabic words, and exceptions.
The program’s system of decoding is accomplished through a marking system intended to aid in pronunciation, spelling, and breaking words into syllables. Diacritical markings enable (students) to recognize spelling sequences they’ve been taught. To assist in decoding words, Five Phonetic Skills are taught to help students understand why a word is pronounced in a certain manner. Students are taught to analyze irregular words. They learn that although these words may contain vowels that do not follow a regular phonetic pattern and/or pronunciation, such words may begin and/or end with a regular letter-sound correspondence.
Vocabulary is taught immediately within the Reading Horizons program, and this includes phonetically regular and irregular high frequency words as well. Once CVC words are built, students learn their (meanings and) any multiple meanings, and the words are used in a sentence. When learning to decode words with affixes, students are taught the (meanings) of the prefixes and suffixes.
Strengths & Weaknesses
Strengths of Reading Horizons:
- The design of the program enables teachers to strengthen their understanding of the underlying phonetic structure of our language.
- Instruction is explicit, systematic, and builds cumulatively, progressing from simpler skills to more complex.
- Through the use of simple diacritical markings, students learn to decode one-syllable and multi-syllabic words by analyzing the internal structure of the word.
- Once a strong foundation of most common sounds and spelling patterns has been built, students are taught to be flexible when decoding words with variant vowel spelling patterns and with variant pronunciations.
- The speech-to-print connection is reinforced by listening, seeing, saying, and then printing the letter, letter patterns, and/or words.
- Instruction is highly interactive and multi sensory, which can increase student motivation and time on task.
- Materials are organized, highly detailed, and teacher friendly.
Weaknesses of Reading Horizons: None were noted.