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Coding Revisions

Essentially, the modifications suggested here amount to making four changes to the curriculum laid out in The Writing Road to Reading. They are: 1) revising the coding of certain sounds; 2) modifying the phonograms; 3) eliminating certain rules that are no longer needed after the revision; and, optionally, 4) replacing syllables with chunks in the multisyllable coding.

Revision #1: An Easier to Understand Coding ProcessOn the next few pages I'll explain the modifications and the reasons for making them so that you can decide whether to implement them.

Several changes are made here to Ms. Spalding's process for coding the sounds in words. The result improves the consistency of the coding process while reducing the confusion, as you will soon see. We will discuss underlining, double underlining and numbering.

Use the Single Underline Only for Digraphs

In The Writing Road to Reading (WRTR) single underlining is used for three different purposes and double underlining is used for two. Here, each type of underlining is reduced to only one purpose each. Given that this is one of the most confusing aspects of the original curriculum, often the topic of discussion board threads, this is a significant improvement.

Ms. Spalding used single underlines to: 1) indicate digraphs as in check or then; 2) indicate both the vowel digraph and the intervening letter in a word like h o m e; and 3) indicate the second sound of a single vowel letter in words such as me and radio.

In the OnTrack Reading Homeschooling Program, only the first usage of the single underline is retained. You teach your child to use it only to indicate a digraph. The vowel sound in a word like home will be taught as a digraph (a split o-e spelling) so home will be coded as home. And the second sound of a single vowel letter will be coded the same way third and fourth sounds are already coded in the WRTR, that is, with a tiny number "2" above the letter.

Use the Double Underline Only for Extraneous Letters

In WRTR the double underline is used to indicate either an extraneous or a misleading letter, that is, one that can't be explained within the context of the recognized system of coding. An example of an extraneous letter is the "o" in people or the "w" in two. Both of these words have those extraneous letters double-underlined in WRTR. That same procedure will be used in this modified version. If the letter is truly extraneous, like the "w" in two, just double underline it. If however, it represents a sound, but is a misleading spelling for that sound, like the "f" in of for instance, after double underlining the "f," write a small letter "v" under the double underline to indicate the actual sound in the word.

Now, in WRTR the double underline is also used to mark all of the various words that have an ending "e" in them. To make matters even more complex, Ms. Spalding created five "rules" to explain each ending "e" and numbers each according to which rule governs its appearance. And to add to that confusion, rule 5 is the "no job e" rule, indicating that the "e" in those words is just an extraneous letter, so your child might wonder why it's numbered at all, since that's the precise purpose of the unnumbered double underline.

The approach taken in here is quite straightforward. In all but the rule 5 case, each of those ending "e" situations can be handled by making the "e" part of an ending digraph representing a consonant sound. And in the rule 5 case (the no-job-e case) the double underline alone is sufficient. All that is required is to teach a few easy-to-learn ending digraphs such as ge (hinge), ce (since), le (simple), ve (have), and ne (gone).

The Peculiar Words one and once

The words one and once are the only common words that lack a letter for a sound. They both clearly start with /w/ sounds, but their spellings lack a representation for the /w/ sound. The way I've always coded them for a child is to draw a double underline under the space in front of the word, then write a little "w" under the double underline, indicating that the space is an unusual (indeed, very unusual) spelling of the /w/ sound. This treatment makes the unusual nature of these two words obvious, since your child will never use it with any other words.

Use Numbers Only to Indicate the Sound of a Letter or Digraph

In WRTR, numbers are used for two purposes. Placed above a letter or digraph, they indicate that it represents the second, third or even fourth sound of that phonogram. And, as discussed just above, the numbers 1 through 5 are also utilized for indicating which particular rule governs the placement of a final "e" in a word. However, the second sound of single vowel letters is underlined, rather than numbered, and the second sound of the phonograms c and g are left unnumbered, relying instead upon rules for determining their pronunciation.Numbering of the five jobs for the "ending-e" will not be necessary

In the OnTrack Reading Homeschooling Program, all phonograms are numbered unless they represent their first sound. The second sounds of the phonograms a, e, i, o and  u are numbered with a 2, as are the second sounds of the phonograms c and g. Thus the usage of numbers is consistent throughout.

Summing Up

These modifications make coding especially easy and intuitive. The complex rule of "e" with its five explanations is dropped, replaced mostly with easy-to-learn ending digraphs that are, in reality, phonograms anyway. And each method of coding has one, and only one, purpose: single underlining for digraphs; double underlining for extraneous or misleading letters; and numbering for second, third and fourth vowel sound options.

Ms. Spalding's developed an excellent curriculum, but as you can see after reading the above modifications, she did make things unnecessarily confusing when it came to coding the sounds in words. 

The next page, Phonogram Revisions, covers modifications of the phonograms. Some existing phonograms have sounds added or dropped, and some new ones are created as well.