Can Do Cubes are a fun set of wooden manipulative blocks from jollyliteracy.com, a division of just2ducks LLC and the makers of the phonics program I reviewed earlier this week. I’m thrilled to be able to bring you a review of the Can Do Cubes as well! I used the phonics program mostly with my daughter, but since my son is further ahead in his phonics understanding, I knew that the Can Do Cubes would be better utilized with my son. We used them mostly independently of the phonics program, and I’m sure that you can use these cubes with almost any phonics program you’re using!
The way these cubes work is that there are 6 phonograms per cube. The most commonly used phonograms – s, a, t, i, p, n – are on the first cube, and there are six cubes. After those initial phonograms, there are three cubes with each of the next 7 sets of phonograms, for a total of 27 cubes in the simple set. The second tier of cubes consists of lesser common phonograms, digraphs and blends, capital letters, punctuation, double letter sets, and vowel dipthong cubes. The entire box includes 59 cubes.
It also comes with Part 1 and Part 2 instruction books, an audio CD, and two posters to help with using the cubes. I read the instruction books and for our stage in the phonics lineup we mostly used the Word Chart poster and the Level 1 cubes. After some work with my dyslexic 6th grader, I think we will probably be able to begin using these cubes with him as well.
The instruction books explain very basically the phonics approach used and the sequence of letters. My son has already learned the sounds for all of the individual letters, including the long and short sounds of all the vowels, and the fact that some special consonants make more than one sound as well. So, he’s learned phonics with a different methodology than the one used and presented with these cubes and the Jolly Phonics program, and is already blending words and doing some reading.
What we decided to do, was jump right into having Caleb start spelling. He’s basically ready to start first grade, but all along he’s just been learning sounds and learning to blend for reading; he’s never really done any spelling. I knew he’d be good at it, but I cannot explain to you how excited he’s become about the fact that he can actually SPELL! He loves doing his spelling with these cubes, and I love having the word list that builds on itself.
I’ve found this approach for him to work wonders. The simple fact is that the word list chart, which makes words using only the phonograms the students have already learned using the Jolly Phonics approach, has been monumental in building Caleb’s confidence with spelling. He started out spelling words using just three letters – S, A, and T. Then we added the letter I, and then the letter P, and at that point he was spelling several words! The list itself, for each added phonogram, starts with simple 2 or 3 letter words and builds up to the harder 4 and 5 letter words. It gives a word, and then later down the list it will also give the plural for that same word.
Probably the most difficult thing for him at this point is differentiating when a word uses an E and when it’s the short I – and that’s probably largely due to our (my) accent. I’m from Texas, y’all! I thought it would be hard for him to understand when the /k/ phonogram is spelled C, K, or CK, but I simply told him that CK is how it’s spelled at the end of a word, and if it’s at the beginning or middle of the word it depends on if the next letter is a vowel or not. When the next letter is a vowel, the C would have a soft sound /s/, so it has to be a K. That seems to have worked, and he fully understands the /k/ phonogram, when I was a little worried and not sure how to help him.
I recorded one of our spelling sessions for you, to show you how the word lists work and so you can see best how we’re using it. I do pronounce the word for him clearly. I’ll slow it down and emphasize the sounds if I need to. I often have him pronounce the word, because he’ll usually catch his own mistakes if he’s looking at the word he spelled while he says the correct word. Sometimes, I have him sound out what he has and compare it to what he’s supposed to be spelling to see if it’s a match. Watch here!
Isn’t he the cutest? If you didn’t catch it in there, at one point he tells me, “This is fun, Mommy!” It’s just after I’ve given him the word “mat,” the fourth word in the list. I think that speaks for itself!
This set is so versatile, and I’m sure you could use it with any phonics or spelling program. It’s not exactly what’s in the Jolly Phonics program, either; some of the later phonograms are out of order and the Word List chart doesn’t continue to line up with the order of the lessons. But, those cubes are still in there on the Level 2 of the box, and you do eventually catch those last one or two phonograms on the chart for spelling practice purposes.
The wooden blocks are sturdy. (My kids have already written on them and had to erase and clean off writing!) And of course, as you can tell in our video, we’re enjoying using them. I’m sure we’ll continue using them for months and even years to come. You can connect with Jolly Literacy on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, and don’t forget to check out the rest of the Crew reviews!