Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Spelling Program That Works

A very old picture, but since I'm talking about the program from which a component is pictured here, I thought it would be appropriate. :)

I have tried many spelling programs since we started homeschooling.  For various reasons, I found that, for my children, the traditional spelling workbook with a list and then several pages of activities just didn't work.  Maybe it's the "why?" factor.  My kids are like me, they don't just want to know how a word is spelled, or how a math computation is done, or how to diagram a sentence....  They want to know why.  Why do I spell chair with an "ai" instead of using a final "e"?  Why are be, me and we not spelled bee, wee, and mee?  I think this made memorizing a list of words difficult for them.  So I started looking for alternatives.   I have actually used a couple of effective programs but today I am going to talk about All About Spelling.

I have found All About Spelling to be quite effective.  I will admit  that the program is "mom-intensive" but I think any effective spelling program is going to take some mom time.   I also believe the time that I put in with my children in the beginning will pay off later when they no longer ask me how to spell every other word.  I find that All About Spelling gives them the tools to spell words so they no longer need my help.

Several of my children have used this program at one stage or another but I am going to concentrate on Jetter since he seemed to benefit the most from it.  One of the benefits of this program is the use of tiles.  This was especially helpful for Jetter early on as handwriting was painful for him.  He didn't have to write anything, so he could concentrate on learning to spell.  I appreciated that the tiles were colored to differentiate the vowels and the consonants.  He learned early on that every word has to have a vowel.  If the word he was spelling was all blue, I would simply ask "where's your vowel"?

As Jetter got older he started to get a little bored with the tiles so we tried some different things.  First, I continued to use the white board to which I had originally attached (with magnets) the letter tiles.  Instead of using the magnet letters, I gave Jetter two different colored dry erase markers.  He could write big so that was nice, and the colors once again helped him to see the vowels, vowel combinations, consonants, etc.  This was a great way to renew his interest when things started to get a bit stale.  (The end of February is always a good time to break out something new, in my opinion!)

I also discovered, once again as Jetter got older, that this program is fun to do at the computer.  I would let Jetter choose whatever font he wanted, as long as the letters were clear (no ultra-fancy calligraphy).  We enlarged the font to about 18 to make it extra clear and then he chose his two colors.  Doing it at the computer was really great because I could go back and use the highlighting tool to point out specific spelling patterns to him.

The use of dictation sentences is another plus.  Both phrases and sentences are given as dictation exercises.  I think this is invaluable.  Children can learn to spell words in lists, but often I hear, and find in my own situation, that the correct spelling of these words is not carried over to their other written work.  It can be quite frustrating to put stars and "A"s on a child's spelling tests week after week and then find that in their written work they can't spell well at all.  Practicing the words within sentences for dictation really helps.

One last point I would like to make regarding the "mom time" required.  If several children are using the program, the cards that come with it are great!  I can ask Social Butterfly to use the cards to quiz Jetter or vise-versa.    I used the cards to test my kids at the end of the lesson.  If they missed a word I just tucked it back into the section for the next lesson.  That way it was easy to remember that the child needed a little more review in that area and I didn't have to make any markings in my book.  (I know, "big deal" - insert eye roll).   But, if you're like me, you might jot little pencil notes to yourself in your teacher's manuals.  With several children using, or who will be using the program all those little pencil jottings add up.  Simply putting the card in the pile of next week's words reminds me to review that concept.

So All About Spelling has been an excellent program for us.  I highly recommend it.  Even for those with older children, it can be tweaked in the ways I mention above so they don't feel it's too juvenile.  One thing though, if you do decide to tweak it,  I think the tiles are important, at least in the beginning of using the program, regardless of the child's age.  There's just something about the concept of building the word that helps.

Lastly, the people at All About Spelling are great about answering questions!  I posted one a couple of years ago and not only did I get a quick reply, but the representative took the time to post a lengthy and detailed answer to my question.  He or she also continued to converse with me as I asked about other scenarios.  So another plus - the customer service is very  helpful!