Know When to Start
Some young children who have finished Foundations may benefit from a break before starting Essentials. Essentials is designed for ages 8 to adult - and the lessons feel much more "grown-up" than Foundations. For more information, see Taking a Break Between Foundations and Essentials. If you think your student is ready for Essentials now, go for it, but be sure to set a reasonable pace, play games frequently, and keep things active and fun.
Use the Placement Test
Have your student complete the Essentials Placement Test (also available as a PDF). Essentials has three levels of spelling lists and applications to choose from in each lesson (A, B, and C) to provide each student's appropriate level of difficulty. Many students coming from Foundations use the Level B activities in Essentials, but some will decide to start with Level A. The Placement Test is there to help you find the right fit.
Read the Essentials Introduction
Read through the Essentials Teacher's Manual introduction to become more comfortable teaching Essentials. Essentials is structured differently than Foundations. It has a different emphasis and feel. The focus in Essentials shifts to thinking critically about spelling. Students are also introduced to new parts of speech, grammar concepts, and vocabulary.
Understand the 5 Parts of a Unit
Each Essentials unit is divided into five parts. Each part is designed to be taught in a day or two (or whatever works for you).
- Part 1 - For students who have completed Foundations, Part 1 of each unit will be primarily a review, at least in the early units. You may consider quickly moving through the lessons whenever concepts are familiar.
- Parts 2-4 - These sections are where you will spend most of your time. This part of the unit will include new spelling analysis, grammar concepts, and vocabulary instruction.
- Part 5 - This part of the lesson reviews and assesses the mastery of all the concepts taught in the unit.
Adjust the Pace
For young students, consider the developmentally appropriate time to spend on lessons. It may be helpful:
- To set a timer and stop instruction when it goes off.
- Break the units into smaller segments as needed to respect the child's age, ability, and attention span.
- If breaking up the unit parts, start the day with a game and review the new concepts. After the short review, begin where you left off.
- Play the games often. Young children need to move and engage with what they are learning.
Consider Waiting on Grammar
Grammar instruction is included in Part 3 of each Essentials unit. However, grammar may be too abstract and complex for a young child. If you find that this is the case, consider skipping it the first time you go through Essentials.
If skipping grammar instruction, play additional spelling and phonogram games to make up for the lost spelling practice. Add in the grammar when reviewing Essentials a second time with a more advanced spelling list. See further guidance on skipping the grammar in the Essentials 1-7 Teacher's Guide introduction.
For younger students, the Essentials Reader is an excellent option for reading comprehension, particularly for those who are still developing reading fluency. Students who have completed Foundations and have all of the tools to decode words should be given many opportunities to read a wide variety of age-appropriate text to build reading fluency.