Odessa Christian School 

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Beginning in 2006 until this year (2018) our school was a Total A Beka School. This year the decision was made to switch to Bob Jones University (BJU) for some subjects for some grade levels. The Kindergarten through Second Grade reading program is still A Beka, since it is the strongest phonics reading program available today. 

 Here is a good article on phonics from the A Beka Book website: "Why Not Teach Intensive Phonics" by James A. Chapman. Mr. Chapman's article was written in 1986. Scientific research since Mr. Chapmen wrote this article has made great advances, all of which agrees with the positions taken in his article. Here is the A Beka Philosophy of Education. All A Beka curriculum materials pass through a rigorous process of development to assure effectiveness. I am not aware of any curriculum, private or public, that has passed such stringent quality control.  

Foundation Document 

When I started teaching at OCS in 2006, I made a study of the history of the school and reviewed many of the founding documents. Here is one of those historic documents: Serving Today, Preparing for Tomorrow. I believe it was distributed in 1967 because it mentions the Open Court reading program which was first implemented at the school that year. The first year they used the Phonovisual Method, which I use with my tutoring kids. 

Mr. Potter's Reading Classes 

This year there has been a bit of a change to my work at the school. I will still help students struggling with reading, but most of my work will be in the classrooms instead of my tutoring room. I do independent tutoring for reading after school in my classroom. Call the school or email me for more information. I, also, tutor three days a week for six weeks in the summer. I specialize in helping kids diagnosed with dyslexia. 

Mr. Potter's Approach to Education 

To teach the heart, where lies the gold,

My goal shall always be,

With warm love and true kindness

For all the world to see.

                      By Donald L. Potter 1/1/2014

     A Beka Reading Resources for Parents 

The A Beka Book Reading Handbook is the core Phonics Textbook of the kindergarten through second grade classes at Odessa Christian School. The Reading Handbook is very inexpensive and worth its weight in gold. The first-grade reading books are tightly correlated with the 10 Sections in the Reading Handbook. In fact, the first-grade reading program is so complete that it can be used to teach teens and adults to read. If you have never been trained in teaching reading with phonics, I highly recommend the A Beka Book Basic Sounds CD, which explains the proper enunciation of all the sounds in the Reading Handbook The entire phonics portion of the program is taught in the first 5 Readers, which form the essential core of the program. Here is my detailed Analysis of the A Beka First-Grade Reading Program. It will be of great help to parents of first-graders in our school. Other Christian schools will find it very helpful in gaining a thorough understanding of the program. I have prepared audio instruction for all the lessons in the Handbook for Reading and the first two readers so the slower students will have ample opportunity for the review necessary to keep up with the class. Don Potter's A Beka Basic Sounds document and Basic Sounds mp3 recoding. A Beka Basic Sounds. For step-by-step audio instruction click on  Basic Sounds mp3. I have created flashcards for the first-grade spelling program: A Beka Spelling Cards. A Beka Fluency Drills for the first-grade spelling words. Here is an audio instruction of every page in the Handbook for Reading; Phonics Textbook. These records are good for teachers new to teaching phonics and for students learning to read with phonics. Here is the Student Practice Chart for the Handbook for Reading. Video for Phonics Charts 6, 7, and 8. Video for teaching Kids to read the Kindergarten A Beka Blends. Video for A Beka First Grade Special Sounds. A Beka Special Sound Charts with Pictures: Chart 1, Chart 2, Chart 3, Chart 4, Chart 5, Chart 6, Chart 7. Chart 8, Chart 9, Chart 10, Chart 11, Chart 12, Chart 13. Here are the A  Beka Charts without Key Pictures: Chart 1, Chart 2, Chart 3,  Chart 4, Chart 5, Chart 6, Chart 7, Chart 8, Chart 9, Chart 10, Chart 11, Chart 12, Chart 13. Note that there are not many videos on YouTube teaching Charts 1 through 5: that is because they are no “Special Sounds” on those charts. I suppose A Beka would call them “regular sounds,” including all the single-letter consonants and vowels taught with the first two vowel rules for short and long vowels. Many that are in other phonics programs normally called vowel digraphs are included in the Charts 1 to 5. 

Special Note on the A Beka Phonics' Terminology. It is important to understand that the A Beka phonics programs is geared toward teaching spelling. Spelling is one of the great strengths of the program. Because of this, the organization of the phonics program is a bit different than most other programs that are based on going straight from the 44 English speech sounds (phonemes) to the spellings (graphemes). There are 232 Special Sounds in the A Beka Phonics/Reading/Spelling program. At first I was confused by the term “special sounds” since there are only 44 speech sounds (phonemes) in spoken English. To make matters even more confusing at first, 232 A Beka Special Sounds do not include the single letter consonants, short vowels (in closed syllables ending with a consonant), or long vowels (represented by two vowels, the second silent). Just remember that a “special sound” is a "spelling pattern" and not a separate sound (phoneme). The program works great, but the terminology does not follow standard linguistic terminology. 

A Beka Approach to Handwriting: Cursive First

One thing that distinguishes the A Beka Book approach to writing from most others is the fact that they teach cursive first. My mentor, the late Samuel L. Blumenfeld, told me the whole story. He was having lunch with the founders of the school after a lecture he delivered in which he mentioned his belief that cursive should be taught to first grade. A Beka decided to give it a try for one year starting with kindergarten. The results of the experiment were so encouraging that they retooled the curriculum to teach cursive starting in kindergarten. That is why our students do all their writing in cursive from kindergarten up. I have created several documents explaining how I support our program by teaching the A Beka letter forms with own own methodology based on how I was taught in first grade in 1953. Here is my teacher training video: Fundamentals of Cursive Video. Here is the supporting document: Fundamentals of Cursive. The full course, which teaches 259 words, is called, Shortcut to Cursive. Since I always taught cursive to my public school bilingual students, the transition from my public school class to our private Christian school was an easy step for me. 


Here are the Odessa American articles on our Cursive Handwriting Winners

2016 Cursive is Cool Handwriting Winners
2017 Cursive is Cool Handwriting Winners (This did not get in the Newspaper)
2018 Cursive is Cool Handwriting Winners


Teacher's Day Poem for A Beka Teachers

It was my privilege to work two years under the direction of Mrs. Twyla Greenfield, when she was the Interim Principal at OCS from 2006 to 2008. Mrs. Greenfield had the foresight and good judgment to suggest to the School Board that we switch to the A Beka Book Christian School Curriculum. She promised us that the A Beka Curriculum would make teaching easier and more productive. Out of appreciation for her contribution to the growth and success of the school, I am publishing a poem she gave to all the teachers at the end of her term of principalship. 

Concerning the Value of Teaching Higher Order Thinking Skills

Here is an recent article by Martin Cothran on an important topic in education: The Critical Thinking Skills HOAX. If you find this short article interesting you will want to read, “Critical Thinking: Why Is It So Hard to Teach,” and “The Usefulness of Brief Instruction in Reading Comprehension Strategies" by Daniel T. Willingham. Willlingham is one of the leading cognitive scientists in the field of reading research today. 

OCS Middle School Bible Class

Last year (2017-2018) taught the Life or Christ to the Middle School Bible Class. Below are the Internet some resources we used. 

1.   Life of Christ: James Stalker’s Life of Christ will be our main resource outside of the NT. 
2.    A. T. Robertson’s Harmony of the Gospels
3.    26 Lessons on the Four Gospels by Wallace Wartick. 
4.    Studies in the Life of Christ by J. A. Hulburt 
5.    Stevens  & Burton A Harmony of the Gospels for Historical Study (1896) based on the Revised Version of 1881. 
6.    Studies in the Life of Christ based on the Stevens & Burton Harmony (1896) by H. Burton Sharman. 
7.    A Historical Harmony of the Synoptic Gospels for Historical and Critical Study by E. D. Burton and E. J. Goodspeed
        (1917) based based on the 1901 American Standard Version 
8.    Study Guide to the Four Gospels.
9.    New Testament History: The Christ by Wilbur Fields. 
10.  The Four Fold Gospels by J. W. McGarvey. A commentary on all the Gospels. 

This year (2018-2019) I will blend teaching a Survey of the Old Testament. Here are some resources for my students.

1. Old Testament History by William Smith and Wilbur Fields. 
2. A Brief Outline Of Bible History by B. S. Dean 
3. Sacred History and Geography by Don DeWelt 
4. A Guide to Bible Study by J. W. McGarvey (1879). An old  but helpful guide to Bible study. 


General Reference

1. Manual of Bible Geography: A textbook of Bible History (1887) by J. A. Hulburt. This is an old but very helpful book. 

2. Hulbut’s Teacher-Training Lessons for the Sunday School (1908). A superb book for anyone desiring to teach the Bible.

I suggest that all young people read Simple Trusting Faith by W. Carl Ketcherside. This east-to-read yet profound book will help build your faith in God and His word. 

Don Potter’s Texas History and American History

I will be teaching 7th Grade Texas History and 8th Grade American History. While I will be using old, out of adoption public school books, I will be sure and include ample lessons on the wonderful influence of Christianity on our county and the freedoms we enjoy. I will be including some links here for material that goes with my class.

Holding Fast: Christian Education Across the Centuries. 
The Declaration and Constitution: Their Christian Roots by Kerby Anderson 
American Government and Christianity by Kerby Anderson

Free Supplemental Phonics Programs  

1. Hazel Loring's 1980 Reading Made Easy with Blend Phonics for First Grade explains the powerful blend phonics directional guidance technique. I have produced a Reader to supplement this fantastic phonics program: Blend Phonics Reader. The Reader is especially designed to prevent or cure whole-word dyslexia. We have recently published a set of decodable storybooks that you can download for FREE Blend Phonics Story Books. Here is a Blend Phonics Certificate of Completion. I can do Blend Phonics workshops for public schools, private schools, and home school organizations. You can visit my www.blendphonic.org website for my Nationwide Blend Phonics Educational Reform Campaign. Reading Made Easy with Blend Phonics Plus Blend Phonics Fluency Drills is now available as a beautiful paperback. 

2. Blend Phonics Lessons and Stories. I developed these lessons and stories to add interest to the teaching of Reading Made Easy with Blend Phonics for First Grade. Blend Phonics Lessons and Stories is also available in a nice paperback from Amazon. I have taught first graders to read in as little as one month with this powerful little book! In late December 2017, I published the companion: Blend Phonics Lessons and Stories: Cursive Edition. This is the book use to make sure my kindergarten and first grade students can read and write the A Beka cursive fluently. 

3. Audio instruction and materials for teaching phonics-first: Natural Phonics Primer™. This is my instructional material for teaching Rudolf Flesch's 72 Exercises published in 1955 in Why Johnny Can't Read and what you can do about it. The Exercises were published separately in his 1956 Teaching Johnny to Read. Click on the 1955 title to purchase a copy of Flesch's book. Dr. Flesch's 72 Exercises are especially powerful for curing the most difficult cases of artificially induced whole-word dyslexia. 

4. Back in 1913 Florence Akin publish an excellent phonics program, Word Mastery: For the First Three Grades. Anyone can use this to teach their children to read. It can be used to supplement any good phonics program being used in the classroom. I published this in 2004. It got around 30,000 hits each month when first published. A professor in New Jersey recently earned her Ph.D. teaching this method to kindergarten students. I recently published it with CreateSpace in a beautiful paperback edition: Word Mastery. I also have the same book in a cursive edition: Word Mastery Cursive.  Here is a Recording of Word Mastery, which teaches every section in the bool. 

5. First Readers Anthology. These are 10 progressive phonics readers by Samuel L. Blumenfeld that I have published as a single volume anthology. It is also available in a special cursive edition to help students build fluency in reading cursive. First Readers Anthology: Cursive Edition

6. For those interested in an in-depth study of the issues concerning how reading should be taught, I recommend the following articles by Dr. Samuel Blumenfeld: Can Dyslexia be Artificially Induced in Schools? and Muscue Analysis: Teaching Normal Children to Read Like Defective Children

7. Sound Track to Reading is an advanced, intensive phonics program for teenagers and adults. Here are Audio Instruction  Files  that teach every lesson. 

Read, Write & Type

I generally do not make much use of computer reading programs because I have found traditional approaches to be more effective; but there is one notable exception: Read Write and Type by Dr. Jeannine Herron. I have used the program since 2002 in regular, bilingual, and remedial classrooms. It often is just what my struggling students need to start gaining traction in learning to read. My granddaughter learned to touch type with it in junior high. 

HANDWRITING

It is a little known fact that manuscript handwriting was introduced to the mainstream American classrooms beginning in 1922 when a lady by the name of Marjorie Wise brought it to our shores from England. I have published a small essay by Samuel Blumenfeld with some additions of my own concerning the advantages of teaching cursive first: Cursive First. The A Beka Book company until recently was the only major educational publisher that taught cursive-first. Mr. Blumenfeld tells me that the A Beka Book followed his advice to teach cursive-first, beginning with first-grade. He says they went him one better and tried it experimentally with kindergarten. The experiment proved an overwhelming success so they make it their standard curriculum. Christian schools everywhere will welcome this traditional cursive-first approach to good penmanship. Good instruction in cursive-first will go a long way toward preventing and curing whole-word dyslexia. I speak from experience when I recommend cursive-first because Mrs. Pearl Monroe, my beloved first-grader teacher, taught me cursive-first, just like she did my dad. I have published two FREE cursive programs: Alpha-Phonics Cursive and Shortcut to Cursive. I was taught fluent cursive in 1953 in first-grade, so I speak from first hand experience concerning the advantages of cursive-first. It is interesting that the best dyslexia programs, such as Take Flight and Herman, use cursive only because of its effectiveness in helping dyslexics. I am convinced it is helpful for kids with ADHD. I use my Shortcut to Cursive, mentioned above, with ALL the students new to our school so they can begin doing ALL their work in fluent cursive as soon as possible. I also have a complete but highly abbreviated approach to teaching cursive: Direct Path to Cursive, which dispenses with words but teaches all letter strokes and connecting strokes. Practice words are included as a separate section for real word writing practice. The program has proven VERY successful with all my tutoring students. I have also published Shortcut to Manuscript. I have two YouTube Training videos: Shortcut to Manuscript: Overview and Shortcut to Manuscript for Left Handed Students. Here is my video explaining in detail how I teach cursive: Fundamentals of Cursive

Spanish Language Resources for Parents

Since I teach Spanish from ages four and up, I am always looking for good materials to use with all these ages. A recent publication, Little PIM Fun with Languages, is especially geared for toddlers. It is available in Spanish, French, Chinese, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, and English. Order your copy at Little PIM Fun With Languages

Resources of a General Character

I am delighted that the good folk at A Beka Book have republished Samuel Blumenfeld’s important essay, “Who Killed Excellence.” Every Christian School teacher and homeschool parent needs to read this essay carefully. 

Our Christian Responsibility for the Education of Our Children by Dr. James D. Bales. 

Those interested in promoting private education will appreciate this "Testimony before the House & Senate Committees on the Proposed Department of Education" (1926) by J. Grecham Machen (1881 - 1937). Machen was a stalwart of conservative Christianity. His views on the establishment of the "Department of Education" may come as a surprise to those of us who attended and taught in public schools. I find it very revealing that the private schools across America use textbooks that are superior to those used by the public schools, although the public schools have the tremendous advantage of government financing. Over the years, I have supplemented my textbook adoptions with materials generally used by private schools and homeschool parents because of their obvious superiority. An example of good textbooks available to Christian Schools and home schoolers are those from A Beka Book and Rod and Staff.

Mechen also wrote an important book entitled, Christianity and Liberalism which explains the dangers of placing education in the hands of the government. 

Everyone interested in improving the education of the children of America need to read Samuel Blumenfeld's excellent book, Is Public Education Necessary. This book is an well researched eye-opener. Dr. Blumenfeld is publishing a new book entitled, Crimes of Education, which will be published the first of 2015. 

Dorthy Sayers wrote a very important essay on education, The Lost Tools of Learning, concerning the Trivium. Harvey Bluedorn has published fine material explaining how the Trivium can be applied by what he calls Classical Christian Education.

An Introduction of Classical Education: Guide for Parents (2004) by Christopher A. Perrin M.Div, PhD.  Classical Academic Press. Parents and teachers desiring can take inexpensive teacher training classes in Classic Education at ClassicalU

Credentialed to Destroy: How and Why Education Became a Weapon. by Robin S. Eubanks. A thrilling and informative journey into the real purpose behind today's education, and why private education is so important for the future of America. Also check out her blog: Invisible Serfs Collar

Education, Liberty, and the Bible by Martin G. Selbrede. A Position Paper from The Chalcedon Foundation. 

Education: Free and Compulsory by Murry N. Rothbard the Ludwig von Mises Institute. This book gets to the heart of the matter. 

Here are some great articles concerning Christian Education

Elements of Religious Pedagogy (1909) Fred Lewis Pattee.

Here is the chapter on Education from Barry Goldwater’s seminal The Conscience of a Conservative. While he does not argue for private education, he does explain why Federal meddling in public education is fraught with dangers. I believe private schools should be wary of accepting Federal Aid if they intend to keep their full autonomy. 

How to Be Saved by M. M. Davis. A good basic book on fundamental Bible teaching. 


Page last revised 8/12/2018.