September 8, 2010 - All About Spelling
Over the years, I've used a lot of different spelling programs. I've tried Spelling Power, Phonetic Zoo, Sequential Spelling, Barton Reading & Spelling System for Otter (who has some dyslexia-like tendencies) as well as a boat-load of other programs and materials.
Emily was the type of student who could use any spelling program and be successful. She just "got it". I used whatever was convenient and inexpensive and finally dropped spelling all together when she was probably in about the 5th grade. She could just see in her head if a word was correct or not. I was a masterful spelling teacher!
Bear was a bit more difficult. He wasn't the best speller, but he wasn't the worst either. Things that worked great for his sister, didn't work for him. Isn't that typical? I had it all worked out and everything pre-purchased and I had to start over from scratch. OK, so maybe being a great spelling teacher wasn't based on my personal talents with spelling after all. Maybe it was a kid thing. Darn, I guess I couldn't take credit anymore. After dabbling in this and that and not finding a fit, I discovered Phonetic Zoo. It was a hit and Bear finished his spelling career with it and everyone was happy.
Enter Otter on the scene. Spelling chaos. The greatest inventor of invented spelling EVER. He used letters whose sounds were not even in the words!! Silent E's floated at the ends of lonely syllables like duck, for no reason, except that they looked like they might belong there. Mixed up letters. Backwards letters. Things that made me go, "HUH?". You know it's bad when the spell checker on the computer doesn't have any suggestions.
And so began the quest for the perfect spelling program...one that could reach my spelling-challenged child. Nothing worked. Nothing until I researched dyslexia and ordered the Barton Reading & Spelling System. It was like a miracle. An expensive miracle, but one none-the-less. Otter's reading and spelling greatly and improved. However, after awhile, we just couldn't afford the program at about $300 per level. It was eating into my school budget in a big way. We also both had a hard time remembering Barton's spelling rules. I don't know why, but for some reason the way they were presented didn't click with either of our brains. I loved it, but it was time to move on. I did some more research and settled on Sequential Spelling. That program worked and Otter continued to improve, but after about a year of using it, he began to want to know they why's behind what we were learning (Yay logic stage!) and Sequential Spelling just doesn't provide that.
I've finally found a program that is working and meeting our needs in a number of ways: All About Spelling. All About Spelling is a multi-sensory program that can be used with preschoolers through adults. We started it this summer and already Otter has ripped through it, retaining the rules and doing a great job. It's already corrected some simple spelling mistakes he tends to make, because know he knows WHY he has to spell something a certain way. When he forgets, all I have to do is gently prompt him with the rule we've learned and he realizes his mistake right away. The rules stick in a way that the same rules in Barton just didn't. I don't know why that is, but I'm happy about it!
I ordered the starter kit and decided to go ahead and begin with level 1, even though it was going to be really easy, just so we didn't miss anything. I felt good about that too because All About Spelling comes with a 1-year guarantee. If it wasn't right for us, I planned on sending it back. Turns out that was necessary and I was very pleased with it.
The starter kit comes with the main materials you need to teach levels 1-6: laminated letter tiles that you have to cut out (pictured below), magnets for the back of the tiles (in case you want to stick them to a magnet board, and a phonogram CD so you can hear the corrects sounds for the different phonograms (letters and letter combinations you see on the tiles below). We stuck our letter tiles onto a cookie sheet because a big magnet board is out of the budget and imo unnecessary. The cookie sheet works great though! It holds all of our tiles and we just take the selected tiles for a portion of the lesson off and use them on my desk during lesson time. Sometimes, when we aren't in the mood for using the tiles, we write everything on our small lap-sized dry erase board and that works too.
Each level comes with a softbound, glossy covered book that contains a very easy to follow teaching script (complete with illustrations for visual people like me!). It also comes with a package of colored cardstock cards to punch out and use with the program (spelling word cards, lesson concept cards, spelling rules, etc.). The lessons totally hold your hand and don't ever leave you guessing. If you visit the official site you can see some examples like this one for Book 1. Each lesson (or step) is wrapped up with phrases and then sentences for you to dictate that practice the concepts you've learned. Each step has built in review and attempts to teach spelling via all the senses. You can take as long as you need to get through a step. We are moving very quickly right now, but I anticipate slowing down once we get to a higher level and perhaps taking several days or even a week per step (or more!) if needed.
All About Spelling is a great program that we are both enjoying. If you are looking for a spelling program, or if your current curriculum isn't working out, you might want to take a look!