Don Potter’s February E-Letter

by | Intensive Phonics | 3 comments

Dear Friends of Phonics-First,

January has been particularly good for phonics. Our web site has received a total of 56,326 hits for the month! This is a record! There was a total of 4,904 visits. The KBytes is also respectible: 1,217,084.

Florence Akin’s 1913 Word Mastery leads the hits with an encouraging 12,532 hits for the month! One father informed me that he taught his 15 year old daughter and 10 year old son to read with Word Mastery. He said he had spent a lot of money, but this free program did the trick! Word Mastery is also the object of an uncoming PhD thesis, Teaching 21 Century Children to Read with Early 20th Century Methods. This is my first file to break 10,000 hits in a single month. In the free market, the good drives out the bad. Personal experience tells me that in public education, the bad often drives out the good. Don’t hold your beath for No Child Left Behind and Reading First to end illiteracy by 2014. On the other hand, this little book could do the job!

The 1936 Hegge-Kirk-Kirk Remedial Reading Drills got 3,939 hits. A friend in Florida is using this with high school students with reading problems. He claims this is THE SOLUTION! Rudolf Flesch used them to teach Johnny.

Next comes Charles Walcutt’s Through the Phonics Barrier with 2,040 hits. There are several files that go with the program. I also have mp3 files you can use to teach anyone to read. Just have them look at the document while I teach them. Let’s put those new i-pods and mp3 players to work for literacy.

Hazel Loring’s Reading Made Easy with Blend Phonics for First Grade got 1,228 hits. This little book is very important because of the insights into “directional guidance.” Loring received the Watson Washburn Education Award in 1982.

Hattyar’s Literacy in America got 1,121 hits. This is a major work deserving of careful study.

How to Teach Phonics (1916) by Lyda Williams got 567 hits. They knew how to teach phonics in 1916!

Alpha-Phonics Phonograms got 534 hits. By the way, Sam Blumenfeld has just come out with a revised edition of his classic intensive phonics program Alpha-Phonics. I am using it with some of my students. If you would like to purchase a copy, send a check for $29.95 plus $3.50 shipping and handling (total: $33.45) to Sam Blumenfeld, 73 Bishops Forest Drive, Waltham, MA 02452. Please mention the donpotter web site on your order. My Alpha-Phonics Phonograms couples the exquisite power of the Orton Phonograms with the orthographic logic of Sam’s intensive phonics. (There are two audio files for those needing help in reproducing the individual speech sounds.)

M. K. Henry’s Organizing Reading Instruction got 469 hits. Here is my pick for teaching the Anglo-Saxon, Latin and Greek levels of English. I use this once students have mastered the basic phonics. Raymond Lauria calls this the fifth-level of word processing difficulty where indirect word processing procedures need to be taught.

Webster’s 1908 Elementary Spellingbook (Bluebacked Speller) got 431 hits. No one who studied this book was illiterate! If you want to go deeper, read Geraldine Rodgers’ essay, “Why Noah Webster’s Way Was the Right Way.”

The Alphabet Code by Charlie Richardson got 386 hits. I have a audio file for teachers who need it.

My Natural Phonics Primer with Blend Phonics is my attempt to produce materials to teach Rudolf Flesch’s Exercises with Hazel Loring’s Blend Phonics techniques. I flatter myself that I was somewhat successful, but will let you be the judge – try it. You will find that it is also an in-depth analysis of Flesch’s method. I am using Flesch’s Exercises with several students right now. The students rapid progress continue to boggle my mind. I use Flesch’s 72 Exercises in my private reading remediation practice. I always love to have the parents sit in during the tutoring sessions so they can share in the joy of seeing their children rapidly overcome their reading disabilities with Flesch’s five-step program.

Pat Groff’s Reading Competency Test, 256 hits. This is my pdf file of the test. I have made it more user friendly by adding a heading for student information, and I have labeled the sections of the test.

Sam Blumenfield’s bombshell article on Ed Miller’s research into the cause of dyslexia got 252 hits.

My Foundation for Phonics got 251 hits. This is my chart presentation of Rudolf Flesch’s analysis of the 44 English speech sounds (phonemes). If there were no English phonics reading programs on earth, you could easily create one with the knowledge on this chart and a dictionary. I also feature Flesch’s natural five-steps to reading.

Perhaps some of you remember the old Open Court reading program. My kids learned with it – and did they ever learn! I figure they are among the best readers in the State of Texas (or the USA). The new Open Court is a totally different program. If you liked the old one, check out its true successor: School Phonics. This program has to be the most FUN program for teaching reading. It is actually very inexpensive. It will teach first-graders to read by midterm. The will know more phonics than most third-graders. It is a rich, rich program. It is also excellent for remedial courses. I think it would be especially good for ESL. The program teaches from the 44 speech sounds to all the spellings of those sounds. It starts with the long vowels because they are easier to use to teach blending.

Thanks to everyone who has helped make this a great month for phonics-first.

Don Potter, 12061 W. Hoffman, Odessa, TX 79764


  1. Marion Ebersole

    Good afternoon Don. I’m working with the 6th grade reading this year and we need some type of Phonics program. Everything that Marcia (the teacher) finds on the web is for very young children. Do you think that the School Phonics would be the way to go?? Thanks, Marion

  2. Heidi Kemp

    Hi Don

    I have The Original Blue Back Speller and would love to use it. How do you plan the lessons? I would love a guide to use of this book.


    Heidi, There is a chapter in our book Teaching the Trivium which outlines some suggestions on how to use the speller. Also, Don Potter may have that article on his website. Laurie

  3. Don Potter

    Dear Marion,

    School Phonics is excellent. Once you have the Teacher’s Manual and Flashcards, all you will ever need is the two student workbooks and the little phonics fan. It is actually quite inexpensive. One of the best things about the program is that it is FUN. Everything is basically in the two workbooks, and the Teacher’s Manual.

    Don Potter


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