Homeschool Spelling Programs- Is There Anything Different Out There?
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I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that most homeschool spelling programs are very similar. The way in which the skills are presented and practiced are almost always the same. The student gets his list at the beginning of the week, a skill is taught, and then there are a series of predictable activities the child does throughout the week in hopes he will remember the words for the test on Friday. Not all children are successful with this instructional method.
Good Spellers Versus Bad Spellers
Most people believe there are either good spellers or bad spellers and there’s not much you can do about it. I once heard someone say that the only difference between a good speller and a bad speller is that a good speller will look up a word he doesn’t know how to spell and a bad speller won’t.
But do we have to accept that and think there is no help for those who don’t spell well? I believe it is true that some are more naturally inclined than others but it’s not because of their lack of ability but more because of the way in which they learn. I think there is a little more to it than a desire to look up a word and that everyone has the opportunity to become a better speller, if not a great speller, with the right tools.
Learning Styles Play a Big Part
Wouldn’t it be great if we all learned the same way? It would make life so much easier. Unfortunately, that’s not the case and I guess the world would be a boring place if it were. There are four primary ways of learning and the majority of spelling curricula out there are only geared towards the visual and auditory learners. I believe this one track method of teaching spelling has a lot do with children struggling in this subject.
Most programs teach in this manner because spelling is so visually and auditorily dominant. Other learning styles aren’t usually taken into consideration. Children are asked to write their words three times each and to take a practice test. Perhaps there is a word search included or maybe even a crossword puzzle. There might be some oral practice and sometimes, if you are lucky, some games or an activity such as trying to make pictures out of the words to help with meanings are used.
To the traditional learner, these are very effective and nothing else is needed. To the tactile or kinesthetic learner, there is confusion and frustration as to why he can’t seem to learn a simple list of spelling words. To learn more about , Read my article Different Learning Styles in Children- Does It Affect Your Homeschool to learn more.
A Different Approach
It’s important to find a spelling program that caters to your child’s specific learning modality. After some observation, if you are still unsure of which way he learns best, All About Spelling* has you covered because it has a multisensory approach that incorporates the three main pathways. This is beneficial because the more senses that are involved, the more paths to the brain are produced, and in return, the more learning that takes place.
All About Spelling is based on the Orton-Gillingham method, which breaks the 26 letters of the alphabet into different phonograms. These phonograms are taught along with rules to make spelling easier. A CD comes with the program to help learn the correct pronunciations of these phonograms. I found this to be very helpful!
All of the common spelling patterns will be taught by the middle of level seven. The rest of that level is used to teach Greek and Latin word roots which enable the child to spell many other words. By the end of the seventh level, your child will have reached the high school level and be able to spell 97% of the words in the English language and he will have the tools to decipher the other 3%.
Everything is taught in a very specific order. The skills build upon one another as the student progresses, therefore increasing mastery. An important aspect of this curriculum is the strategies students learn to help them figure out unfamiliar words. This is something that isn’t always taught in other methods.
There is consistent review built into the lessons along with the reinforcement of the words through dictation. In level one, children will start out with two-word phrases that are dictated to them. As they progress, they will work into full sentences that get longer as more words have been learned.
The writing exercises, which also strengthens the newly learned skills, are kept short. The child can use his imagination to make up sentences for the provided words and in level seven, he will actually create his own writing prompts.
One of the things I like best about this program is how hands-on it is, which of course is the third learning style that is missing from other programs. Colored tiles are moved around while spelling and sounding out words. This one activity encompasses all three learning pathways at the same time by speaking, seeing, and touching each tile.
If your child does not enjoy the tile exercise, the author gives suggestions for catering the activities to your child’s specific needs, as well as many other tips to make this as individualized as possible.
There are word sort activities which make the child think as he analyzes words and puts them in the correct group. I especially liked the rule book which emphasizes the “silent e” rule. As the student comes across a word throughout the lessons that introduces one of the many jobs of “silent e”, he must find the correct rule in the book and add the word to that list. There is also an “I Before E” and “Make It Plural” book as well. These make great reference tools!
A fun memorable activity is the “jail” used for the rule breakers. As the child discovers words that don’t follow the traditional rules, he gets to put the word card into a jail made out of card stock. This is another great hands-on activity making these words more meaningful and easier to learn.
The program is very well thought out and super organized. You get all the cards, tiles, magnets, and index file dividers necessary to set it up. It also has a teacher’s manual with step by step daily instructions to follow.
It definitely requires some time to cut out all the tiles and adhere the magnets to them in order to get the whiteboard (not included) set up. Also, all the drill cards that will be placed into an index card file box (not included) will need to be cut apart and organized. However, once that is done, the program doesn’t require a lot of prep work for the parent to do each day. You can literally open up the book and teach.
What About the Child with a Learning Disability?
The Orton-Gillingham method which the All About Spelling program is centered around is generally used to teach children with dyslexia. It was developed by Dr. Samuel T. Orton, who studied children with language processing disorders, and his student Anna Gillingham. They combined their efforts and published the first manual in 1935. It has been extremely successful in teaching children how to read and spell.
If you have a child who really struggles with this subject, this program is definitely worth trying. It takes the mystery out of spelling because of the straightforward method and how it condenses the sounds into phonograms. As progress is made through the building blocks of skills, children with learning disabilities will learn quickly.
I want to mention though just because this method is great for dyslexic children, does not mean it is only meant for them. All children will benefit from having material taught through several pathways. It’s just an added benefit that it works so well for learning disabled students.
My Personal Results
I have been using All About Spelling* for seven years now with two of my children. I have used every single level that is available. One of my children has gone through the complete system while the other is only two-thirds of the way through. I have been extremely happy with the results. I can honestly say that it is very effective and has had a huge impact on their ability to spell.
My son, who has gone through the entire program, is a kinesthetic learner and is also dyslexic. Spelling was a real challenge when he was younger. I tried several different programs, all were presented in the traditional manner, and they were a disaster. It wasn’t until I discovered All About Spelling that things started to change. He has just graduated from high school and has a much better grasp of spelling than a lot of adults. Is he a perfect speller? No, but I feel confident that he is much better off than he would have been had we not found this program. He now has strategies he can use when he does come across a word he isn’t sure how to spell.
My daughter, who is only to level four, also appeared as if spelling may be an issue for her. Having already used All About Spelling*, I started her as soon as she was old enough and she is now spelling several grades above level and we avoided all the frustration. No doubt it was due to this program.
We have truly enjoyed this program and I believe others will find it a relief to discover something that actually works where other homeschool spelling programs haven’t. And you as the teacher might be surprised to learn a thing or two along the way as well!
What homeschool spelling programs have you used? What were your results? Let me know in the comments below.
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