We just finished up reviewing a set of Can Do Cubes for jollyliteracy.com (a just2ducks LLC company). Can Do Cubes are wooden blocks with a letter or letters on them that are designed to help children learn phonics and phonemic awareness through various hands-on exploration activities.
The letter sounds for each level are as follows for Stage 1 (27 cubes): Cube 1-s, a, t, i, p, n; Cube 2-c, ck, e, h, r; Cube 3- m, d, g, o, u, l; Cube 4-f, b, ai, j, oa, ie; Cube 5-ee, or, z, w, ng, nk; Cube 6-v, oo, y, x, ch, sh; Cube 7-th, qu, ou, oi, ue, er; Cube 8-ar, ve, se, ce, ge,y. Stage 2 has 30 cubes (some with sounds and combinations, others are alphabetic with capital letters and an alphabet cube with letters as a mirror image) and a set of two cubes connected with a string that can be twisted and turned to make vowel combinations. The cubes are also marked in a very small font that shows what the stages or groupings are, so when the cubes get mixed up, they can be identified and returned to their proper place in the cardboard tray. The blocks are designed to be used in a stand alone application or with a complete curriculum.
To complete our review, we received:
A complete set of Can Do Cubes with a cardboard student tray for Stage One and a cardboard student tray for Stage Two.
A DVD with full pronunciation guidance, instruction books, and word charts: The DVD has sections for playing the program, program subjects, sounding out (these are read in a British accent), and extras. You can watch an introduction to the cubes, a teaching demonstration, the phonemes sounded out, an introduction to synthetic phonics, and how to apply the system to Stage One and Stage Two. The extra link has the weblink, pdf instructions (of the hard copies provided in the box), and credits and thanks.
A CD of the Teacher's Guide and Template Book-The CD contains a complete workbook and workbooks broken into sections 1-4 (1-Phonological Awareness, Phonemic Awareness, & the Alphabetic Principle; 2-Blending; 3-Segmenting; 4-Dictation, Handwriting, & High Frequency Words). These books have teaching instructions and phonics worksheets for the child to use as he uses the cubes.
Home Edition-Stage One: The simple alphabetic code booklet: This spiral bound booklet explains the early processes of acquiring language and literacy, the alphabetic code, letter and sound correspondence, tips for supporting the beginning stages of reading and writing, and explanations of the processes involved in teaching early literacy.
Stage Two Enjoying Synthetic Phonics: A multisensory approach booklet: This spiral bound booklet delves into the more complex facets of the alphabetic code. Some of the things it addresses are vowel phonemes, split digraphs, consonant phonemes, double consonants, and capital letters and punctuation. There are reading and spelling activities and games provided: as well as, word lists for the word parts.
Two At a Glance Word Charts for Stage One cubes: These charts provide the new phoneme/word to be presented and which cubes your child will need to work on with the new set of phonemes.
Synthetic Phonics Overview Chart: This chart contains the phonemes that are heard, the simple code for the sound and the complex code graphemes used for that sound, and teaching points.
To begin, you will want to review the information provided. We found that the Stage One booklet and the demonstration video were especially important for getting started.
When we moved onto level 5, I found that the pronunciations were helpful as well, especially with the combinations of "ng" and "nk."
It is recommended when sitting down with your child for the first time to start with Cube 1 and teach all of the sounds, one sound per school day. The sounds should be reviewed daily. After the first cube is introduced and mostly mastered, you can begin using the template for activities and the provided worksheets. Each new cube will be introduced in the same way.
Since Li has had experience with learning many letter sounds and some combinations of letters. I chose to use the cubes to see what sounds he already knew. I used the blocks to show him the letter or combination of letters and asked him to tell me the sound that the letter or combination made. When we got to a block that had sounds that he didn't know, we began teaching from that block using the recommended method. He made it to the 4th set of blocks and knew all of the single letters, but didn't no the "ai," the "ie," or the "oa" combination. So he already knew the sounds for s, a, t, i, p, n, c, ck, e, h, r, m, d, g, o, u, l, f, b, and j. In the fifth set, there are some I'm sure that he knows as well; however, I didn't want to go on until he worked on the new sounds. We would love to see a placement test, so you could start where your child needs to begin and not reteach things your child may already know; however, we were able to use the blocks in the method I described to test the same things.
Since the two vowel combinations in set 4 are the ones that he didn't know. I decided that I would teach him the rule of when two vowels are together the first one is the one we generally hear and it says it's own name. He very quickly picked up on this. There is a cute song we know that helped him remember this rule as well.
After determining where his needs were, I decided blending was the perfect skill to work on with him. I printed off that workbook (2-Blending). We used the charts and the activity pages to practice blending and making words.
There are additional activities that are suggested through out the workbooks. In addition to the workbook pages, we tried out some of those too:
~Cube Sort: I gave Li cubes and asked him to sort them. Once sorted, I asked him how he chose to sort them.
~Shake the Container: Jo-Jo set this up. She put cubes in a container. Then shook them up. When a cube is removed, the child says one or all of the sounds.
~ Make a Word: I set out cubes that I selected and told Li to make a word. You can have your child make as many words as he can or tell him what word you want to make and have him help you. This was not exactly the word I expected him to make, but he knew exactly the word he had spelled. :)
~Egg Hunt: Ceesa placed cubes into plastic eggs. After they are set up, you are to hide the eggs and have your child hunt for them. Have him identify one or more of the sounds on the eggs as he finds them.
Li really seems to enjoy using the blocks and building words. I love that these cubes are wooden blocks instead of a plastic material. We are planning to continue working with the blocks throughout the school year, so that Li can continue learning about letter and sound relationships. Once Li is ready, we will move on to book 3 and continue building on what he knows about how words work and the sounds that letters and groups of letters make.
Wishing you homeschool blessings,
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