Essentials FAQs

Essentials systematically teaches how written English works, and so it can be used for anyone age seven to adult who has not been taught this material, who wants to get better at spelling, or who wants to gain a more complete understanding of how written English works.

For students reading at grade level, it is an excellent spelling, grammar, vocabulary building, and basic composition program for upper elementary grades. For students of any age who are struggling with reading or spelling, it is also a powerful, effective remedial program. The lessons are thorough but streamlined in content with a variety of optional exercises to choose from, so that the pacing and style of the program can be adjusted to the age and needs of the student. The games and practice activities are fun but not babyish in order to engage and respect the intellectual level of older students. To read ideas for pacing the program, see Sample Schedules for Essentials.

No, it does not include handwriting instruction. If the student needs handwriting instruction, we recommend our Rhythm of Handwriting program, designed to complement Essentials or serve as a stand-alone writing course.
No, Essentials is not a literature program. The lessons build a strong foundation of basic literacy skills and accurate linguistic knowledge, teaching students the tools they need to decode and encode English words and think critically about their meaning and why they are written the way they are, in order to equip them for success in reading and spelling throughout life. In addition to teaching the linguistic tools of written English, the lessons also teach morphology (how roots and affixes work together in English words) and basic grammar in order to further strengthen students' ability to comprehend English on a word and sentence level.

If a student is reading at or close to grade level already, Essentials should be paired with a literature program of your choice. If a student is struggling with basic literacy skills, instruction should include the optional Essentials Reader, which provides engaging, phonogram-controlled reading passages for each of the first 24 lessons that are designed to build the confidence and meet the interests and intellectual level of older students. Since struggling readers are often discouraged and frustrated with reading, you may want to consider allowing these students to study literature through audio books, reading aloud, and discussion for a time, limiting required reading to the Essentials Reader until they gain the confidence and decoding skills to want to read other grade-level texts successfully. We find that for most struggling readers this begins to happen somewhere between lessons 20 and 30 of Essentials.

Essentials and Foundations are designed to meet the needs of different ages, and a student old enough to start Essentials does not need complete Foundations first. Essentials starts at the beginning and builds very systematically, guiding students to become strong readers and spellers as they learn, apply, practice, and master all the phonograms and spelling rules. Most students under age seven or eight will be happier starting in Foundations, while most older students prefer the style and pacing of Essentials lessons.

For students who have completed Foundations, Essentials is an excellent next step. Students review the phonograms, spelling rules, and linguistic concepts they have learned, and they begin to focus much more on spelling mastery in the application of these tools. They also learn the remaining spelling rules, new morphology and language tools that further strengthen vocabulary and comprehension, and foundational grammar concepts such as the parts of speech. In other words, they both deepen their mastery of what they have already learned and continue to build new understanding of English on that foundation.

In our new 2nd edition of Essentials, three levels of spelling lists, grammar practice, and vocabulary instruction in each lesson make it easy to customize the level of difficulty for the individual student, so it works particularly well for students who already completed Foundations. For those teaching the 1st edition of Essentials, we recommend use of the optional Advanced Spelling Lists for Essentials as a supplement or replacement to the lists in the book for any student continuing from Foundations.

For more information on the differences between the two levels, see Do We Want Essentials or Foundations? on the Logic of English Blog.

Almost anything!

When students have learned all the linguistic tools they need to read and spell English words, what is most important is that they use them - in reading widely, in continuing to analyze new words for how the rules are applied in the spelling, in writing, in continuing to learn about how morphology shapes our language. There are many good ways to do this! Read our blog post What Next After Essentials? for some suggestions.

Our new Essentials 2nd edition provides three levels of spelling lists and vocabulary instruction within one curriculum, so you can easily re-teach the concepts for greater mastery and application in more challenging words for a second and even third year.

Yes, both are indispensible to the program! The Teacher's Manual (539 pages) contains the actual lessons, guiding you through what you teach for each part, as well as a wealth of teacher resources and guidance on how to teach Essentials successfully. The Student Workbook (480 pages) contains the student response portions, sample words, game boards, and other resources for hundreds of the exercises, practice activities, and games. You can see samples from each here.
Yes! The flexibility of Essentials lessons and the broad applicability of the content make it easy to differentiate and adapt. This is especially the case in the 2nd edition, which has three levels of instruction.

Essentials 1st edition

Part 1 of the lessons can be taught to everyone. Choose to do optional activities together or choose the best ones for each student. In Part 2, dictate and analyze the words from the spelling list in the teacher's manual for younger students; substitute or supplement from the alternate Advanced Lists on our website for older students with a larger vocabulary or students who can already spell many of the words in the main lists. Teach Part 3 together, supplementing the grammar, dictation, and composition activities with words from the Advanced Lists for older students if desired in order to give additional practice with these words. It is also fine to skip parts of Part 3 with younger students if they are finding the concepts are too abstract; in this case, we recommend replacing them with additional phonogram and spelling games to help them gain further mastery of the concepts from Parts 1 and 2.
Learn about the parts of the lessons here.

Essentials 2nd edition

While the core language concepts in Essentials are applicable to all students, three levels of application allow those teaching 2nd edition to customize instruction and practice for the ages and abilities of different students and to teach different ages together. Parts of the lesson marked "All" should be completed together, while parts marked for level A, B, and C provide differentiated spelling words, grammar practice, and vocabulary instruction. A Placement Test in the 2nd edition Teacher's Guide helps you find the right starting point for each student.
Learn more about Essentials 2nd edition.

All the books for Essentials are available in both; which will work better depends on your situation and preferences. If you will be using the books on paper and are located in the 48 contiguous states in the U.S., you will probably find it simpler and more cost-effective to buy printed books (the teacher's manual and one workbook come to over 1,000 pages, which is a lot of home printing). If you will need to pay for international shipping or will be using the materials at least partly on a mobile device, the digital versions may be for you.

The Teacher's Manual and Game Book are available with a single-user license; student consumables are available with a Single-Family License, for private home use, and an Annual Classroom License, for printing copies for multiple students in a school, tutoring, or co-op setting. To learn more about digital versions and the PDF licenses, click here.

Essentials second edition is a major revision and expansion of the program, including three levels of spelling lists, grammar practice, and vocabulary instruction in each lesson.

The much larger second edition is in two volumes. Volume 1 was released in December 2015. Volume 2, which corresponds to the second half of the first edition, is scheduled for release in 2017.

First edition Teacher's Manuals are available while supplies last. They are discounted at a special closeout price, all sales final. Workbooks are available digitally. We will continue to make Essentials 1st edition available in PDF format after we sell out of the printed books.

A discounted Upgrade Set package is available for those who already purchased the first edition, have most of the materials already, and need only the new books and two new supplements to switch to the new version.

Learn more about what's new in the 2nd edition!

Yes. Printed first edition Teacher's Manuals are available while supplies last. The 1st edition Teacher's Manual is discounted at a special closeout price, all sales final. The workbooks are now available in a digital format only. After we sell out of printed books, we will continue to make Essentials 1st edition Teacher's Manuals and Student Workbooks available in PDF format so that anyone who would prefer to continue using the 1st edition may do so.

The other supplements used with the 1st Edition of Essentials, such as flash cards and reference charts, are used with the 2nd edition of Essentials as well and will continue to be available on our webstore.

Learn more about what's new in the 2nd edition!

In most cases, yes!

New materials you will need: 2nd edition Teacher's Guide and Student Workbook (first and second edition books are not compatible); updated Spelling Analysis Card; new Morpheme Cards. These are available in a discounted Upgrade Set.

No upgrade needed: Most Essentials supplements work perfectly with both the first and the second edition. There is no reason to upgrade Basic Phonogram Flash Cards, Grammar Cards, Phonogram Game Tiles, and Phonogram Game Cards.

Possible upgrade: Some supplements are now in a more recent version, with some changes that provide clarification or new information. It is still possible to use the earlier products, but some may find it worthwhile to update. These include:

  • Spelling Rule Flash Cards, 3rd edition: addition of Rule 31.1, 31.2, and 31.3, about schwa. You can add these to your existing set with index cards unless you would prefer to purchase a new set. (These three new cards are also included for free in the Upgrade Set.)
  • Phonogram and Spelling Rule Quick Reference: this was updated in March of 2014. Those who purchased it before then may find it worthwhile to order an updated copy, but it is also possible to use the older one.
  • Advanced Phonogram Flash Cards: we added 13 new advanced phonograms to this set in 2015. Those who have a student who will be using level C in Essentials 2nd edition (the most advanced level of spelling and vocabulary instruction) may benefit from having the updated set. You can also use index cards to add the new phonograms to your existing set.
  • Spelling Journal: this was updated in April 2014 to include hints and rules for where different spellings may be used.

Volume 2 is the second half of Essentials 2nd Edition. To see the Phonograms, Spelling Rules, Grammar, and other concepts taught in each Volume, see the Essentials Scope and Sequence.

Volume 2 is still in development. We do not yet have an exact release date but expect to have it available later in 2017. For information on Volume 2 and updates on the progress, see the Essentials 2nd Edition, Volume 2 page.


This indicates to the teacher that all the phonograms in this word are saying their first and most common sounds. Most spelling words in the earliest Essentials lessons use their first sounds only and do not need to be marked.

When Logic of English students learn phonograms, they memorize their sounds in order of frequency, so the first sound of the phonogram is the most common. With single-letter vowels, the first sound is the short sound, and a single-letter vowel always says its short sound unless something in its position or relationship to other phonograms in the word causes it to say one of its other sounds. Students learn the rules about what can cause vowels to say their other sounds over the course of the Essentials lessons. Until students learn about using the other sounds of a phonogram, the spelling lists only include words that use the first sound.

In Spelling Analysis, students and teachers discuss the phonograms in the words and why they are saying what they are saying, marking multi-letter phonograms and each phonogram that is saying one of its less common sounds.

A detailed guide to the process of dictating and analyzing spelling words begins on page Intro 42 of the Essentials Teacher's Manual.
He shouldn't, until you tell him.

While the spelling rules greatly narrow the number of choices a student must consider in determining how to spell a particular sound, sometimes more than one spelling is permitted by the rules. In the case of EE and EA, for example, no rule dictates which may be used (in fact, we often have homophones differentiated by two different spellings of the same sound, such as 'peek' and 'peak' or 'toe' and 'tow').

Whenever there is more than one permitted option, the teacher must always cue the student on which phonogram to use during the process of spelling dictation and analysis. The student cannot be expected to know. The purpose of Spelling Analysis and the spelling lists in Essentials is to teach spelling, not to test it, and whenever information beyond the spelling rules and phonograms is needed to guide the student in choosing which phonogram to use, the teacher should provide it.

A detailed guide to the process of dictating and analyzing spelling words, including how and when you should cue which phonogram to use, begins on page Intro42 of the Essentials Teacher's Manual. To see the process modeled, see Spelling List 3 on our videos page. (We also sell a bookmark-sized reference card you can keep on hand to guide you through the steps.)

Once a student has learned the spelling of a word, the Spelling Journal provides a place to record difficult words and keep track of the different ways of spelling a sound. Games in the Phonogram and Spelling Game Book provide various opportunities for practice. Essentials lessons also guide students in understanding which of the permitted spellings of a sound are more common in different places within words. For example, Lesson 2 guides students in discovering where CK may not be used, where it may, and where it is the most common spelling of the sound /k/. However, keep in mind that it takes time and practice to master a tricky spelling; if a student doesn't remember, simply prompt him again with the same cues from spelling dictation.
This is a great question, because it gets at the heart of what a phonogram is.

First, a key for those new to the LOE phonograms:
  • The phonogram EA says three sounds: /ē/ as in lean, /ĕ/ as in bread, and /ā/ as in steak.
  • The phonogram R says /r/ as in run and errand.
  • The phonogram EAR says /er/ as in search.

Now, for the question.

In words like "learn" and "earn" and "search," the letters EAR are working together to say /er/. This is a unique sound made by these letters working together; the vowel is different from what EA says in any other context. So it is its own phonogram.

In the words "bear" and "wear," EA says its third sound, /ā/, and R says /r/. The word "ear" contains two phonograms: the phonogram EA says /ē/, and R says /r/. We see the same combination in "near" and "fear." Students don't need to learn an additional sound of the phonogram EAR to decode these words correctly, because they already know the sounds of EA and R.

A multi-letter phonogram is a group of letters working together to say a unique sound that they wouldn't say otherwise. The same letters can sometimes function as separate phonograms, saying their individual sounds, when adjacent to each other. The fact that a phonogram exists and makes a unique sound doesn't mean that every instance of those letters is that phonogram.

While we are asked most often about EA+R, other letter combinations also appear sometimes as a multi-letter phonogram and sometimes as separate phonograms. Consider "ferret," "hothead," "reality," and "enthusiasm."

Note: There is in fact one other unique sound of EAR, but it is so uncommon that we do not teach it as a basic sound of the phonogram. EAR says /ar/ only in the very old English words "heart," "hearth," "hearken," and their derivatives.

Some people teaching Logic of English, particularly those speaking British English, have also asked about teaching EAR as a distinct R-controlled long-vowel, as in "wear" or "hear." This is because the R alters the shape of the long /ē/ or long /ā/ sound in our mouths, in some dialects particularly. We find that the vowel sound is similar enough that students can read and spell words with EA+R correctly without learning the combination as a separate R-controlled phonogram, but it is fine to teach it that way if you prefer.

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