Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Review: All ABout Spelling

I have honestly only used one spelling program in my entire homeschooling career. I myself am a former spelling bee prodigy who never put much effort into the art. Jo--my first--was a natural speller from the start, able to sound out and orally spell words long before she could actually read them on a page. ("Spell 'cat.'" "kuh ... 'c' ....aaaaah .... 'a' ....tuh ..... 't'.") I toyed with spelling for a little while, pulling free lists of high frequency words form the internet and quizzing her on them from time to time. At some point, I picked up a copy of Spelling Power with my cousin and decided to use it as my list source.

And that, my friends, is how I became a Spelling Power user by default.

Jo has continued to sail through spelling anything, and I do mean anything. If she has access to the basic phonetic rules of a language, she can spell in it--even if she has only the teeniest grasp on the language itself. For instance, she can spell Greek words that she is years away from being able to read, simply because she knows the sounds that the Greek letters make. This is a very cool parlor trick, and also one that wins you medals and mentions in the local papers when you decide to measure your talents alongside those of your peers.

So spelling was really a moot point with Jo, and one I'd never deeply pondered. By the time that Atticus was coming down the pike, I spotted a disturbing trend, though: the Spelling Power approach, as I had used it thus far, was not actually transferring into proper spelling in day-to-day usage. Atticus might spell a word correctly when I asked him formally, for example, and then butcher it on a drawing he made later that same day.

And then there was Logan. Somehow, Logan seemed unable to hear the individual sounds in words larger than three or four letters, and would drop them completely when spelling. "Rainbow" might appear as "Rabow," as if the "n" sound was optional.

Unsure as to how to progress, we began studying the etymological roots of words, which did make for an improvement, but not as big of one as I had hoped. The problem seemed to be rooted more deeply than I could put my finger on, and I was ill prepared to tackle the spelling monster head-on.

I considered several programs this past fall, but honestly felt absolutely at a loss. So many approaches, so many different philosophies, so many ways to spend a lot of money. When I was given the chance to review All About Spelling, I danced for joy. A place to start! Something to apply in our homeschool and see how we fared.

Well, we've fared far better than I could have imagined. All About Spelling is that rare homeschooling product that not only meets but actually exceeds expectations.

I started with Level One for both Atticus and Logan. A quick skim of the easy-to-use guide allowed me to place Atticus at lesson 16 rather than lesson 1. Actually, I was fairly shocked that he only rated lesson 16; this child has been reading at an astounding level for several years, so you'd think that he'd be out of beginner's spelling. But that's the thing with All About Spelling--it really and truly is ALL about spelling. Atticus had to start with lesson 16 because I, his mother, had never actually taught him how to determine when the letter "c" says "s." He had picked it up over the years, of course, and didn't bat an eye at "cyclops" and whatnot simply because he had been exposed to the word back in Greek Myths at age 5, so how could it be anything else? But still, I'd never TOLD HIM about it--and he probably couldn't apply it out of context in more difficult words. So lesson 16 it was.

Atticus has flown through Level 1, picking up on things he tells me he never actually knew. The approach has fit his learning style quite well, and he enjoys the lessons. Enjoying what you're learning and actually learning? That rates a gold star in my book!

The biggest, most stunning improvement, however, has been with Logan. Beginning with the first lesson in the first book, we have covered an immense amount of material. Is Logan learning to spell? Yes, he is. Thanks to the multi-sensory approach that has him literally moving a small token for every sound in a word, he has virtually stopped dropping letters in spelling. Moving letter tiles has him reading more carefully. And seeing letters working in unison on a regular basis (think "qu") has him spelling even off-the-cuff words more accurately. I am astounded at the results.

All About Spelling is relatively low-cost when held up against similar programs. A teacher's guide, letter tiles, word cards and magnets can be had for under $45 for Level 1. That's a deal when you consider that this program gets to the meat of spelling by covering:
- How to say and write the first 32 phonograms
-How to segment words into their individual sounds
-Short and long vowel sounds
- How to identify and count syllables in a word
-How to choose between c and k at the beginning of a word
-When to double f, l, and s
-How to spell /k/ at the end of a word
-How to form plural words by adding s or es
-Compound words
-Open and closed syllable types

I highly recommend All About Spelling for anyone looking for a multi-sensory approach to spelling that is easy to use and keeps kids motivated.


Benny said...

Hey. You haven't mentioned this one to me. Though I do recall you cutting up some letter tiles not too far back...

So do you think it would work with Punky, too? You know, Mr. Phonetic audio learner with no recall on spelling the words he can read with ease?


Big Red Driver said...

Wonder how it would work for this terriblely poor spelling adult?
I'm not too proud to use tiles.

Deanna said...

How 'bout a teenage boy? I've given up on him spelling correctly!

mary grace said...

Can I steer you to my cousin to answer that question? She has a newly-minted teenager and has been using the program. You can find her at Kindred Blessings--check out my sidebar of homeschooling blogs!

mary grace said...

Benny, I am fairly certain that this program would work with any child, regardless of their preferred learning style. The multi-sensory approach hits on so many levels that there truly is something for everyone.

KH said...

We started using All About Spelling in November with our 6 yr. old (first grade) daughter. We started with level one and she has flown through it, though I'm glad we did the level anyway because she did pick up a few things from it. Cutting up all the tiles was tedious. I would have fared better if I owned a paper cutter I think. But as for the program itself, I really like it!

mary grace said...

KH, my version also involved lots of cutting. HOWEVER, I hear that they are doing away with that format and they will be coming pre-cut from now on!