When we started homeschooling, I knew I wanted to teach my children spelling differently than it was taught in traditional schools. In schools, typically 10 words (that may or may not have anything in common), are assigned each week and a variety of activities are done throughout the week to memorize them with a spelling test then given on Friday. I wanted a program that would lead to real learning and wasn’t full of busy work. Here is what I found.
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The Spelling Program We Wanted
I knew I wanted the following when choosing a spelling program:
1) To teach words each week that were related to each other from a spelling point of view and be able to carry over what was learned to other words.
2) To take a multisensory approach to learning spelling as this would utilize more areas of the brain and therefore make more connections that would allow the information to stick.
3) To not spend much time practicing the words through a variety of tedious activities.
All About Spelling
We found all of this and more in the All About Spelling program and started using Level 1 when my oldest was in 1st grade. He is now on the final level, Level 7 while our youngest is working through Level 3. So obviously, this program worked and we stuck with it! Here is why.
Each week the words are based upon teaching or reviewing a new spelling concept. Therefore, children are not just memorizing 10 random words, but rather are learning concepts they will remember and carry over to other words. For example, in Level 2, Step 8 is spelling words with vowel-consonant-silent E. In Level 4, Step 10 is spelling words where EA makes a short E sound. And in Level 6, Step 12 is spelling /cul/ CLE and Step 13 is spelling /cul/ CAL.
Often more words than just the initial 10 are introduced since they all just follow the same pattern. Each step builds upon the one before it so students already know how to spell all the other parts of the words and are just learning one new concept. When you encounter these words in other parts of your school week, you now have a way to talk about them and remind your children of what they learned. You are not just relying on them having memorized the word you have encountered.
Even more powerful is that students are taught different syllable types and how they affect spelling. For example, open syllables have long vowel sounds and closed syllables have short vowel sounds. Once your children grasp this concept, they can spell hundreds of words! I have no idea why this is not taught in traditional spelling programs!
All About Spelling utilizes the three main pathways to the brain: visual, auditory, and tactile.
Visual: Each week, we start by my modeling the spelling of the new list of 10 words with the color coded letter tiles. (E.g, Consonants and consonant teams are blue and vowels and vowel teams are red.) Additional tiles are included to provide visual cues about syllable types, prefixes, suffixes and more.
Auditory: The phonics of spelling is intentionally taught and there are cards for each sound to introduce and review throughout the program. Each phonongram has its own tile to practice spelling with.
Tactile: Children practice spelling by moving the tiles and then writing the words. You can also incorporate finger writing on surfaces, including in sand or shaving cream in the early years.
In addition, there are booklets and charts that children complete to organize specific types of words. For example, children learn the different jobs of ‘silent e’ and organize words based upon these jobs. They also learn homophones and in later years Greek and Latin roots.
What Each Week Looks Like
We have typically taught one “Step” each week and each Level has between 25 and 30 steps. Sometimes, we have gone faster when the lessons were easily learned and sometimes we have slowed down when more review was needed.
We start each week by introducing the words and concept of the week and reviewing what was learned previously. This is typically the longest lesson of the week and takes about 20 minutes.
Then over the next 3 days, we continue the lesson by reviewing the new words through dictation of phrases and/or sentences. These sentences also contain previously learned words so constant review is built in. This takes about 5-10 minutes a day and we have often done this in the car while driving to activities. (Note: practicing dictation in this way helps students learn to take notes, too!)
Starting in Level 3, there is a writing activity at the end of the week. At first, it is just picking some of the target words and writing sentences or a paragraph. In later levels, more specific and fun writing prompts are given using the target words.
Both of our children have enjoyed this program and have strong spelling skills. In fact, on our end of grade testing, our youngest son’s highest score was in spelling! And, he has visual motor and processing challenges, so he is definitely an example of how multisensory learning helps children with learning differences!
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