I had to buy this one right away, because we have been working on "I Spy" activities with Kal-El every day.
"I Spy" is one of the very early language activities in the Montessori primary curriculum. Here is a video showing a real Montessori teacher demonstrating an "I Spy" activity. If you are interested, the teacher's name is Tami Elliot and she has put many, many videos of the different Montessori activities up on that site.
Basically you can play "I Spy" anytime, anywhere. In our school room I set out objects or pictures that include the sounds we are currently working on. We also do it every night when we read books before bed, when waiting at the doctor's office, etc., It helps "train the child to hear the component sounds in all spoken words" (Gettman, 132). The game can be played with initial sounds, middle sounds, or ending sounds. Kal-El is currently working on initial sounds.
I thought I Spy books would be a great resource for this activity because there are a lot of objects on each page to make it easy to find words that began with the phonograms we were working on. We checked out a ton of I Spy books from the library. The regular I Spy books were too advanced for Kal-El, but the "I Spy Little" series was really good. They put much fewer objects on the page, and for when the child is reading alone, the book has little pictures of objects to search for in the big pictures. However, with fewer objects on the page I was having trouble finding enough things for him to look for that contained the right letter sound. This is where the "I Spy Phonics Fun Boxset" solved my problem.
The set includes 12 books, 16 flashcards, and a parent letter. Most of the books cover two letters of the alphabet. The books focus on the most common letter-sounds relationships for the consonants and the short sounds for the vowels. These are the same 26 phonograms that are taught in early Montessori language activities. (This means I am teaching him "a" as in "apple" not "a" as in "angel" right now, and the books match with that). The first page of each book is for the parent. I reviews the letter sounds that will be used, how to pronounce them, gives a handy list of "sight" words for the book, and a list of "challenge" words. The books themselves are like the "I Spy Little" series with a manageable amount of objects on each page, and pictures of some suggested things to look for on the adjacent page. They do everything in lowercase, which is helpful if you are doing Montessori properly and teaching lowercase. The put every example of that letter sound in the words in red. So, if you were doing the letter "I" you might look for an insect and a pig. As you can see, they do initial sounds, middle sounds, and where they can, ending sounds. After the pages with pictures to search they have pages that ask you to spy actual words with the letter in. For example, "I spy two words that start with the letter J." They list (with a picture for pre-readers) jack, jelly bean, and hat.
This new box set has made our evening "I Spy" activities nearly brainless for me. I just set out the books that contain the sounds that we are currently working on. I keep a magnetic board in the two rooms we most commonly read in. On that board I use some magnetic letters and post the letters we are currently working on so my husband knows what to focus on when he is reading with the boys.
Kal-El really likes this game and is constantly asking what sounds words start with. From my answering his questions, he has already learned a lot more letters than are up on his magnet boards.
I am using the word order recommended at My Montessori Journey so that I can use the "word drawer" materials she has kindly uploaded. The first four letters are r a m f, which have proved difficult for Kal-El. I think f is a bit hard to hear. I'm not altogether sure he even says r properly. He also likes to get his hand on the magnetic boards I have and try to make words out of the sounds. Unfortunately, so far the only real word that can be made is farm. Letters that seemed to be a lot easier were C or K, S, H, and J. J was actually the easiest.
As I said in my last post however, we have really picked up the pace since I switched from object boxes to just photographs and books. The objects were just too distracting.