Hmm, the phonics program I use with my own kid? Not the phonics I used to teach to other kids?
I opted for a full-fledged intro-to-reading system instead of a book and CD, namely Frontline Phonics.
IMHO, it’s the hands-down single best phonics program out there for young children. It doesn’t come cheap (US$300 new - I found a used set for far less), but it’s outstanding and ideal for young learners.
There are two levels. The first comes with alphabet cards, picture flash cards, punch-out alphabet characters, a music CD, a how-to video, a lesson manual, three “pre books,” and two sets of ten books (blue and red). The second has blending cards and two more sets of ten books (green and yellow). The first letters taught are MAPST - that means that after teaching five letters, you can dig right into the books – once one is mastered, then you move on to the next one, and so on. There’s also a bonus material booklet with suggested additional activities for each letter. There’s a review lesson every five letters, and once you finish all the letters, there’s a vowel song and long vowel lessons.
The system recommends three lessons a week and daily practice. Here’s how a typical lesson works. Every lesson begins by listening to the CD alphabet song as you rifle through the picture flashcards (cute characters), then a quick review of the last few letters and sounds. Then you introduce the new letter by showing the letter card and saying its sound, then play the letter song as you point to the vocabulary words and pictures in the lesson manual. Next, you tell the story about the flash card character. Wrap up by doing the worksheet (child points to the picture that begins with the new letter) then give the child the punch-out letter character to keep at the end (major motivator for the little ones). Whole thing takes about fifteen minutes, and that’s for a new lesson - on off days you just spend 5-10 minutes a day reading together.
I have some quibbles with Frontline. Although the new lesson plans are great and easy to follow, there isn’t bonus material for every letter, and some of the activities are pretty lame. But if you have a little experience, you can think your way around these. Besides, the music and cuteness aspects more than make up for any deficiencies.
My daughter started on Frontline Phonics when she was 3. It was slow going in the beginning, especially when it came to blending, but I kept at it anyway. Sometimes I only did two new lessons per week, but we never missed a day of practice (it’s a Suzuki thing). Now she’s 4 and we’re just about finished with the first level. She can read the first twenty books on her own, and has taken to sounding out words she sees elsewhere (and suddenly shouting with glee when she sees a word she recognizes on a street sign). The whole experience has been fun and motivational, and she even knows most of the songs on the CD by heart. In fact, I even worked phonics into her bedtime routine. Since we’re done with all the lessons, we blend and sound out a few words together, she reads one of the phonics book to me, then I read a story to her.
BTW, there are parents who sing the praises of Hooked on Phonics, one version of which (tapes instead of CDs) is available here at Costco. Yuck. Just not appropriate for the little guys, especially with all the lists of words, teaching the whole alphabet before reading, etc. Maybe once the child already has a foundation, but certainly not as the foundation. Actually, that seems to be the general consensus. See here and here.