If you have small children, you probably own one or two sets of classic wooden alphabet blocks. They are fantastic for teaching letters, blending sounds and making words. But if these are the only blocks in your repertoire let me tell you about the Can Do Cubes for Synthetic phonics from jollyliteracy.com (by just2ducks LLC). They truly go a step beyond the traditional approach.
What are Can Do Cubes
Can Do Cubes for Synthetic Phonics are 57 wooden blocks with laser engraved letters. Instead of concentrating on letters of the alphabet, Can Do Cubes focus on alphabet code: 42 smallest identifiable sounds (phonemes) of speech. For example, “bee” is not taught as b-e-e but as b-ee. “Then” is not t-h-e-n, but th-e-n.
For review, I received the Can Do Cubes Starter Set which includes:
- 1 Tray of 27 Cubes in Stage 1 which present the simple alphabetic code: showing one spelling for each of 44 sounds that make up English language
- 1 Tray of 30 Cubes which represent the complex alphabet code: 175+ spelling variations of for those same 44 sounds. This tray also contains 2 cubes connected with a string to represent split digraph sounds
- Handbook For Stage 1 and for Stage 2
- DVD With Interactive Demonstration of Sounding Out of Letter/Sounds Presented by Debbie Hepplewhite, who is a synthetic phonics consultant
- Phonics Chart
- Word Chart
- Online Templates and Worksheets in PDF Format for printing
The letter names are not a priority. Instead the emphasis is on letter sounds.
During Stage 1 kids are introduced to Simple Alphabetic Code (corresponds to tray 1). The focus is on learning spelling version of 42 letter(s)-sound correspondence. The emphasis is on:
- Sounding out and blending
- Segmenting to understand the sound to letter(s) correspondence
During Stage 2 kids are introduced to Complex Alphabet Code (corresponds to tray 2). Here the focus is on 175+ spelling variations of the English writing system for the 44+ sounds of speech. The recommendation is to not use “word families” and instead offer plenty of opportunity to practice blending-segmenting consonant blends. For example, “dge,” “tch,” “ck,” “que,”….
How we used Can Do Cubes
I am grateful that the set came with extensive instructions because I couldn’t even begin to think where to start until I watched the instructional DVD. Before you start, it’s also necessary to read through the teacher/parent handbooks, so you can understand what is meant by alphabet code and why each cube is designed the way it is. For example, instead of just including letter k cube and letter c cube, this set includes a cube with three spelling variations of the sound /k/. E.g. k-i-t, c-a-t, d-u-ck.
Some of the specific things we did with cubes:
- Practice sounds/words from Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar books.
- Practice words from kids other reading materials.
- I asked kids to practice specific words that gave them trouble.
- I gave kids a few cubes and asked to come up with words.
- We played games. Some games came from the handbook and others we made up. Our favorite was Guess the Word. I would come up with the word and give kids clues, “it’s a color, it makes me think of sun, etc” and they had to spell the mystery word.
What we thought
An addition of quality hands-on materials always makes learning more fun! As probably most kids, my children are not too keen on working on spelling but cubes made it more enjoyable. I think the size of the cubes is perfect for little fingers and makes manipulating them fun.
The beauty of Can Do Cubes is that they can be used on their own as well as part of any reading program. We mostly used the set along with Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar program (that I reviewed a few days ago) just because they compliment each other nicely. But Can Do Cubes are very versatile. My Star Wars obsessed 8-year old really enjoyed using the cubes with his Star Wars workbooks.
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Other Schoolhouse Review Crew members reviewed this product. You can read their reviews by clicking the image above.