I’m going to put up a few pictures from the book Dancing Bears: Fast Track. This program has been a gift from God for my probably dyslexic son. He is my happy, hard-working, lego-loving, very literal boy who has hit every roadblock on the road to reading. We’ve used Spell to Write And Read, Visualizing and Verbalizing, and various readers and method books from Don Potter’s website. All have helped, but for the physical act of sitting down to read Dancing Bears stands alone. You can see our copy is much used.
I can’t put my finger on it, but there is some magic in those pages. They appear simple and (except for the stories) boring. Sometime suggested it is the cursor, a notched card used to reveal one part of a word at a time. I think that is part of it, and anyone could make one in a few minutes. I’ve added it to the second picture.
This is the end of one of the story sections. You can see the check marks on each line, indicating my son successfully read that line. I also tick the bottom corner of the page when we finish it. This page focuses on -igh, -tch, and -dge, with both words and sentences.
This is a word building page So the child reads ‘force’, then ‘enforce’, and finally ‘enforcement’. My son really likes these pages. It also has practice sentences. I’ve put the cursor over enforcement in one of the sentences. The cursor prevents the child from guessing by word shape and helps them decode from left to right. Moving it at the right speed is an art.
Except for the story sections and the fluency reading, I control the cursor. You can see the fluency section on the right page at the bottom. I believe the teacher is supposed to control the cursor on this section but it was difficult for me to keep time and move the cursor fast enough, but not too fast, for my son. Things improved when I let him move the cursor. I also found I needed to be a stickler on time and not mark the sentence if he was close to 10 seconds – he needed to be at or below that mark.
At the top of the right side are the cloze sentences. The child reads the words below the sentence, then the sentence itself, filling in the right word. If everything is correct the child gets to circle the correct word. And that is ALL the writing the child has to do. Which was a relief for my son after Spell to Write and Read.
Is Dancing Bears going to work for your child? I don’t know. I do know that I ignored this program, despite reading many reviews of it working for kids just like my son, because it looked so simple. Oh, did I mention that Dancing Bears only takes 10 minutes per day? I was skeptical because it seemed too easy and too cheap. I expected to end up using the expensive but thorough Barton system, and bought Dancing Bears as a cheap last ditch effort to avoid what was reported to be a program that took years to complete. I hope this post can help another mom evaluate this under-known program. As for us, we are almost done with Fast Track, and will then start Book C. I’ve promised my son his choice of bowling or a 3-D movie as a party when he finishes Fast Track.
As a friendly heads-up, some find the stories to be distasteful. My son likes them and we think they are funny (we have odd humor here – I’ll blame his Dad :D). But you can see the whole book if you click “see inside”. Some people use another reader, such as McGuffey. This page explains the different starting books for Dancing Bears, since there are a few options depending on the age and ability of your child.