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The Word Machine by Chris Ellis

The 2-volume "The Word Machine" DVDs is one of the best investments I have ever made for my children’s education.  For under S$40, my children (3 yo and 9 yo) had hours of fun in the car while learning phonics at the same time without even knowing they were doing so.  Of course, my 9 yo already knows phonics, but it didn’t stop him getting glued to every episode.

Actually, the Word Machine itself is the weakest part of the DVD.  The animated character does not add much to the story, and its simulated voice makes it difficult to hear and understand (at least to me).  However, this is minor compared to the immense creativity of the publisher and whoever created the series.  Aidan Cook, the main character in the series, is funny and lovable, and brings to life each and every one of the 25 5-minute episodes.  My kids love the Mean Mum character he plays!  Here’re part of the lyrics:

"Don’t put mud in my mug, mum,
Leave it in the jug, mum…"

I can’t remember the rest, but it is really cute how my 3yo daughter could sing the entire song while giggling all the way.  And another favorite is the "Acro-flat" which was introduced in Chapter 4 "Rhyme Time":

"The Cat sat on the Mat,
Which belongs to the Acrobat,
Without his flat Mat
He came down with a splat
And now he’s an Acro-flat
Now he’s an Acro-flat"

Doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it is funny and serves to explain the concept.

And some of the other stories are simply beautiful, such as the Swan Twin.

5 minutes is all it takes to present each specific concept in phonics, and perfect for the short trips around town.  The presentation is narrative, and supported by graphics, animation, real-word action, rhyme, wordplay, onset and rime, and song.  The rhymes and songs were particularly catchy and funny, making it impossible for viewers of all ages not to sing along with them.  The episodes are:

  1. The Big, Big Book: Initial single letter phonemes
  2. Finish It Off: Final single letter phonemes
  3. Look for the H!: Initial ch, sh
  4. Rhyme Time: Onset and rime
  5. The Big Bog Bug: CVC words with short vowel a
  6. Get a Pet!: CVC words with short vowel e
  7. The Fix-it Kid: CVC words with short vowel i
  8. The Mop Top Lot: CVC words with short vowel o
  9. Mum’s the Word: CVC words with short vowel u
  10. The Friendly Enders: Words ending in ff, ll, ss, ck, ng
  11. The Consonants: CCVC words beginning bl, cl, fl, gl, pl, sl
  12. The Crab and Frog: CCVC words beginning br, cr, dr, fr, gr, pr, tr
  13. The Swan Twin: CCVC words beginning sw, tw
  14. Snap and Spell: CCVC words beginning sc, sk, sm, sn, sp, st
  15. Join the Q: CCVC words beginning qu, squ
  16. The Triple Blenders: CCCVC words beginning scr, spl, spr, str
  17. The Giant Vest: Words ending sc, sk, sp, st
  18. The Blend Camp: Words ending mp, nd, nk, nt, nch
  19. Good as Gold: Words ending ld, lp, lk, it, lth
  20. My Messy Loft: Words ending ct, ft, pt, xt
  21. The Green Queens and the Dream Team: Long vowel phoneme ‘ee’
  22. The Tale of a Tail: Long vowel phoneme ‘ai’
  23. Five Wide Mice: Long vowel phoneme ‘ie’
  24. The Joke Zone: Long vowel phoneme ‘oa’
  25. Choose That Tune: Long vowel phoneme ‘oo’

This set of DVDs is also useful for parents who are looking to teach their children phonics by themselves, but do not know how.  The series is well structured, describing in detail vowels and consonants, word blending, etc.  You will get lots of ideas on how to follow up with each 5-min lesson.

The DVDs can be purchased from places like Popular Bookstore, Carrefour, and even Giant.  They are also available quite cheaply from the BB Shop online store.

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