The Five Minute Box isn’t really a box. It’s a little suitcase for ‘any destination’ teaching of multi-sensory phonics. Airport security scanners would be excited by the contents so let’s take a look inside and see what’s got the X-ray machine dancing about.
You will find keyword cards and boards, a sounds board, plastic letters, handwriting formation boards, a number formation board, whiteboard and pen, record of achievement booklets, an instruction guide, a resource book and a CD ROM. The materials aren’t anything new but having them in one place as an ‘open and teach’ kit is a winner.
The CD ROM contains an introduction and commentary by the author and a few training demonstrations of the Five Minute Box in use.
The examples are very helpful and give you some good solid practical pointers about how to bring into play the bits and pieces, but I wish more had been included. The accompanying resource book contains similar hints about using the box, scripts from the CD clips, a step aside spelling programme, spelling list and individual record for keyword card use. Again, I think teachers would benefit from a few more ideas and activities being included here.
Five Minute Box time is designed to be part of classroom provision in Reception and Year 1 for use as a business-like short, sharp blast of one-to-one phonics practise minus the chit-chat.
Although five minutes is the recommended time for phonics carpet bombing I wouldn’t get too hung up about teaching for longer as many children need it. Although designed for use with individual children I would see no problem using the materials in twos or threes but no more than that. Children value personal tuition but corporate peer learning is precious time too so a bit of both wouldn’t go amiss.
The kit has obvious uses for pinpointing strengths and weaknesses and is ideal for early ‘stop the rot’ intervention to prevent damaging labels being planted on children before they hit Y2 and beyond. It is also just the job for late intervention too for the thousands of children without English as their first language. I’ve used it with some Year 6 Polish learners, for example, and their progress is obvious, but this is not a magic box and there is no secret formula at work here helping children achieve. You still need to use it with other multi-sensory resources so that they interact and work successfully together.
There is no doubt that the Five Minute Box would be an excellent piece of literacy luggage to help children on their phonics journey, although as some of the contents could be self-made you’ll have to balance the £99.95 price tag against your free time.
The Five Minute Box has a sort of ‘education to go’ feel to it for busy learners always on the move. I can see it being widely used in the Foundation Stage and it would be perfect for home use given deep pockets.