Thoughts on “Explode the Code”

We’ve been using Explode the Code for a year now so I wanted to write some thoughts on our experience with it.

I started Mira on Explode the Code 1 when she was 4 years old.  I contemplated purchasing Get Ready for the Code but as I flipped through the book I felt she would do better by going right into Book 1.  We had previously dabbled with Sing, Spell, Read & Write and I felt she was already beyond the primer book.  As it is she’s been plowing through her ETC books and will be starting her official Kindergarten year with Explode the Code 3.

I purchased the Teacher’s Guide for books 1 and 2 but in hindsight I would have saved my money and just stuck with the workbooks.  They are self-explanatory and it’s very easy to come up with additional practice and game ideas if you so desire.

The workbooks are just that- very “workbookey”.  I was a bit unsure about starting them up so early with Mira because they looked rather boring: the pages are black and white with simple cartoon illustrations.  But I suppose that’s the allure of them because Mira loves to laugh at the “armless” rat pictures and their depiction of someone “hunting”.  Their sentences are silly and keep Mira chuckling.   Mira was eager to practice writing and ETC workbooks allowed her to fill that desire. They are a great way to practice writing skills while learning phonics.

If you are starting ETC with a younger child keep in mind the books can get a bit repetitive.  We generally do 2 pages a day.  I try to leave it to one writing page and one reading page.  Sometimes I have to skip a page and come back in order to get that specific line-up. Since Mira is still young I don’t like doing more than one page of writing.  Some days we may do three or even four pages of ETC if Mira is really focused and wants to continue, but if I add pages it is almost always just the reading ones.  I suppose if Mira wrote quicker we would easily be able to do more pages at a time but she is meticulous when it comes to her writing and really takes her time on each individual letter.  As her natural speed increases I envision doing 4 pages at a time.  A normal ETC lesson takes 5-10 minutes.

Mira is able to grab her workbook and work on her pages with minimal guidance or assistance from me.  That’s a plus as it allows me some time to work with my younger kids. The workbooks also work great when paired with The Ordinary Parents Guide To Teaching Reading and Marie Rippel’s All About Spelling (I will be posting my thoughts on these two programs sometime in the near future.)

Update- further ETC posts here.

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2 Responses to Thoughts on “Explode the Code”

  1. Aditty Stebbins says:

    Hi I have some questions on your explode the code and AAS since I noticed you use both. Do you feel they compliment each other or will you prefer one from the other? Also did you start with AAR and if not what program did you use for teaching your daughter to read. Lastly my daughter is starting K this upcoming year. I purchased Timberdoodle Curriculum for PreK so there were really no spelling/ reading preparedness books. So I feel we are a bit behind into where she should be so what level do you suggest we start in AAS and ETC? For writying we are going to start handwritting without tears. Thank you so much

    • Kristen says:

      Hello Aditty,

      I love the complimentary nature of All About Spelling and Explode The Code together. If I had to do one over the other I would choose AAS as it is more of a full curriculum. I honestly use ETC more as a review for what we’ve been learning in AAS. Awhile back I decided I would try to make a spreadsheet to show where each ETC book fit in relationship to AAS but it just proved too much work for me. I no longer try to match them up but use them each separately and where one starts a new rule the other will inevitably follow and then that one is review. It just worked out easier for me this way.

      I like ETC because it’s cheap and yet productive busy-work. I can give my daughter a few pages to do and she does that while I can work with her younger sisters for the 10 minutes or so one something else. Also, when she hit ETC 4 (or maybe it was 5- I can’t quite remember and it’s already packed away) she started doing her ETC in cursive. When she had completed her cursive instruction ETC worked out to be a great way to get daily writing review on top of a phonics/spelling review.

      As for reading programs my 4 year old is currently doing All About Reading. It wasn’t available when I was teaching my oldest so for her I used a varying set of materials that I had cobbled together. My favorite of those were some old Sing, Spell, Read, and Write workbooks I had picked up at a used-curriculum sale. I also heavily utilize Starfall.com with all my kiddos.

      AAR isn’t necessarily “necessary”- like I mentioned before, I worked out something comparable to use with my oldest- but there is something to be said about having everything laid out and prepared for you. In that regard I am enjoying AAR. You can see some more posts on Stella’s progress with it here.

      As for where to start- that really depends on if you want to go the All About Spelling route or begin with All About Reading. In either case I would start with Level 1. If your daughter is already confident with letter recognition and sounds, and understands rhyming I would probably go straight to All About Spelling. If not, I would start with All About Reading first.

      I would also begin Explode the Code from the beginning as it gradually builds up to more writing.

      I hope that helps. Please let me know if you have any other questions!

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