Dandelion Launchers

The introduction of synthetic phonics has meant lots of schools are having to ditch or alter their old reading schemes in readiness for September 2014. If you’re among those looking for new materials, Dandelion Launchers is an exciting new synthetic phonics reading scheme that’s worthy of consideration.

The scheme is the brainchild of three reading and dyslexia specialists and offers a library of vibrant, high-quality books that make an ideal first phonics reading series. It’s also available for matched-funding, having received the DfE’s mark of approval.

The creators, Clair Baker (illustrator), Wendy Tweedie and Tamar Reis-Frankfort are practising teachers who developed the scheme for pupils at the Bloomfield Learning Centre in London. Designed for use with emergent readers (ages 3-6), the resource is divided into 10 units, each of which comprises four bright, colourful and instantly engaging books.

The Dandelion Launchers scheme is designed to complement existing systematic phonics programmes, such as Letters & Sounds. Each book and unit demonstrates clear phonetic progression, introducing just a few letters at a time to ensure children have a thorough and secure understanding of these before moving on. Unit 1, for example, introduces five sounds (s, a, t, i, m) and all of the text contained within the four books consists purely of CVC words, creating many opportunities to develop word-building skills. 

Each page has one line of decodable text that is typed very clearly on a cream background to make it stand out. High frequency words are introduced gradually throughout the whole reading scheme so that children get plenty of practice at identifying and reading them.

The full progression of skills covered in units 1-10 are as follows:

Unit 1: s, a, t, i, m - CVC
Unit 2: n, o, p - CVC
Unit 3: b, c, g, h - CVC
Unit 4: d, e, f, v - CVC
Unit 5: k, l, r, u - CVC
Unit 6: j, w, z - CVC
Unit 7: x,y, ff, ll, ss, zz - CVC
Unit 8: VCC / CVCC
Unit 9: CCVC
Unit 10: CCVCC

To support teachers or LSAs working in a group-reading environment, clear instructions are provided at the front of each book – these are also useful to parents if the books are sent home.

A page of games features at the end of each book, which gives children the chance to play consolidating activities. Early units focus on games such as snap and phonics bingo, but from unit 4 onwards there is also a ‘post box game’ in which children have to sound and and decode words before deciding whether they are real or nonsense. This is a simple, highly effective activity that could help prepare children for their Year 1 Phonics Check. 

When a child is ready to progress, he or she can move onto Dandelion Readers – books designed with 5-8 year olds in mind that introduce digraphs and more complex reading skills. Illustrated with a combination of photographs and cartoons, they’re eye-catching and create many opportunities for developing speech and language; they make a fantastic resource for encouraging discussion with EAL children.

Also available is a Reading and Writing workbook with a range of photocopiable activities. This includes further reading sheets, handwriting practice for each of the sounds introduced, matching skills (e.g. lower case to upper case letters) and many other activities that are ideal for LSAs or SEN teachers to use with children who require extra support.

Our Verdict

Clear reading progress

Dandelion Launchers is an excellent resource that beautifully complements schemes such as Letters & Sounds. Pupils are engaged when using it and the structured approach enables clear and secure progression. A must for the EYFS/KS1 classroom.

Pie Corbett