Friday, August 26, 2016

There Is So Much You Can Do with Can Do Cubes

I love, love, love practical, hands-on tools for literacy and learning and appreciate them even more when they are solidly made with beautiful natural materials. Thus, I was delighted by the opportunity to review Can Do Cubes from (just2ducks LLC).
What Comes in a Can Do Cubes Package?

I was thrilled when my Can Do Cubes arrived, and I realized how well packaged the cubes are and just how many helpful goodies came with them.  In one sturdy cardboard box, I found:

  • 1 Tray of 27 Cubes in Stage 1 which present the simple alphabetic code:  These finely polished, laser-engraved, 1-inch wooden blocks contain one spelling for each of the 44 different sounds that make up the English language.  Six number one cubes include the letters t, p, s, n, i, and a.  Three number two contain c, c, ck, e, h, and r.  Three number three contain m, d, g, o, u, and l.  Three number four contain f, b, ai, j, oa, and ie. Three number five cube contain ee, or, z, w, ng, and nk.  Three number six cubes contain v, oo, y, x, ch, and sh. Three number seven cubes contain th, qu, ou, oi, ue, and er,.  And, three number eight cubes contain ar, ve, se, ce, ge, and y.  As children learn the sounds on each numbered set of cubes, they quickly begin reading and writing a growing number of words using a synthetic phonics approach.  (Synthetic phonics is basically learning to decode and encode words using the smallest sounds a word can be broken into.  So, for example: th-a-t as opposed to t-h-a-t and c-oa-t as opposed to c-o-a-t).

  • 1 Tray of 30 Cubes plus 2 cubes connected with a string to represent split digraph sounds in Stage 2 which present the more complex alphabetic code:  These cubes show variations of the 44 different spelling sounds, capital letters, double letters, punctuation, and split digraph cubes.  Twenty blocks containing spelling variations have one sound per block.  (See the middle block a the beginning of the video above to see how that works.) There are also blocks with double letters (ss, ff, mm, ll, rr, zz, ertc.), blocks with the capital letters, punctuation blocks and blocks connected with string to use for split vowel digraphs (a-e, e-e, i-e, o-e, and u-e).
  • Two Handbooks (one for Stage 1 and one for Stage 2):  These small spiral-bound booklets are chock-full of great information, that take parents through how to use Can Do Cubes with those who are not yet reading, those learning the alphabetic code,  and those that are ready for more advanced phonetic learning including vowel phonemes, split digraphs, consonant phonemes, double consonants, capital letters and punctuation.  A wide variety of games and activities are included, as are plenty of examples, which makes using the cubes easy and effective.
  • a DVD with an Interactive Demonstration for Sounding Out Letter/Sounds Presented by Debbie Hepplewhite, who is a synthetic phonics consultant:  This DVD also offers segments demonstrating how to teach using Can Do Cubes, explaining why synthetic phonics work, and more.  Plus, if you pop it into a computer, you can access PDF files of handbooks and charts in case your paper copies get lost or ruined. 

  • Three Wall Charts:  Two are At-a-Glance Word Charts for Stage One cubes which offer new phoneme/words to be presented and show which cubes will be used with each new set of phonemes and one is a Synthetic Phonics Overview Chart, which contains phonemes that are heard, the simple code for the sound, and the complex code graphemes used for that sound.  
  • A CD of the Teacher’s Guide and Template Book:  The CD contains a complete workbook in pdf format with teaching instructions for Phonological Awareness, Phonemic Awareness, the Alphabetic Principle, Blending, Segmenting,Dictation, Handwriting, and High Frequency Words.

Better still, because the box was not too large, I was able to easily carry all the materials from our learning shelves, to other rooms in our home, to blankets outside, to our minivan, and even into waiting areas at appointments, so my children and I could use our Can Do Cubes wherever we happened to be going.  For me - someone for whom "home"schooling may be a misnomer - this was an unexpected bonus. 

Most multi-part, hands-on tools get cumbersome to carry about and keep organized, and, so, they get relegated to home use only.  The fact that Can Do Cubes are packaged so conveniently allowed me to keep them on hand sometimes even when we were out and about this summer.  Hoorah!

How Did We Use Our Cubes?

The beauty of Can Do Cubes is that they can be used in so many ways.  They are designed to be used seamlessly with the Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar curriculum that I reviewed the other day, but also can be used equally well as an independent literacy tool or as a complement to almost any phonics program, spelling curriculum, or early literacy efforts.

The first time one of my children and I used our Can Do Cubes, we simply explored them as a stand-alone tool.  I had brought them along with us on a day when one child was at summer camp and another child ended up hurting her leg and, thus, needed to hang with me inside.  So, we pulled up some floor space at a visitor center and simply explored the cubes - reading and spelling simple words with them.
After that, my youngest and middle child sometimes used the cubes in conjunction with Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar lessons.  All three of my children and I also used our Can Do Cubes for a variety of games. And, my children used them independently to work on spelling.

All of us appreciated how well-made the blocks are - smooth and sturdy, feeling good in our hands - and how easy they make segmenting and blending sounds.  The video below gives an idea of how this works.


Why I'd Recommend Can Do Cubes

Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar Review
I truly appreciate the thought that went into designing Can Do Cubes and am excited to continue enjoying them with my children's phonics, spelling, reading, and writing work.  I also know that our Can Do Cubes will be finding their way into my tutoring bag as so many struggling learners that I work with appreciate concrete tools for kinesthetic learning. 

It's amazing how beautifully made synthetic phonics blocks can energize learning.

Can Do Cubes are simple, yet engaging - perfect for tactile learners since the engraved letters can be felt.  They also work well for kinesthetic learners, who will enjoy manipulating the blocks to segment and blend.

Because the cubes are made of polished wood (as opposed to obnoxiously colored plastic), they would work well in Montessori-inspired homeschools and classrooms.  

Because Can Do Cubes focus on synthetic phonics, they are, in my opinion, so much more helpful than typical movable alphabets, magnetic letters, etc.  They can truly help developing readers and spellers unlock improved literacy skills.  I am witnessing that happen in our home as I weave the use of Can Do Cubes in with our other literacy endeavors - and even our catechism ones.  (Note the word in the image above, which was spelled after we had been doing some First Reconciliation and First Holy Communion Prep.  He was so proud of making a four letter word all by himself without anyone giving a suggested word to spell.)

Learn More

Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar Review

You can head on over to (just2ducks LLC) to find loads more information, some helpful Parent and Teacher Resource Freebies, and information about Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar, which I reviewed the other day.

You can also find (just2ducks LLC) on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Can Do Cubes

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