Wednesday, December 24, 2008

All About Spelling

I love non-traditional education. Our family embraces learning based around great literature and activities filled with dramatic play, cooking, and games. Home education to me should be filled with memory making moments carefully crafted to make learning an exciting, fascinating adventure.

Unfortunately, over the years there are certain subjects that I have just never mastered at making fun or even remotely interesting. Spelling is one of those subjects that have slipped from my priority radar recently, and quite honestly, I gave up teaching. I found that no matter how much time I dedicated to traditional spelling curriculum, my worst speller still couldn’t. After comparing notes with other homeschoolers, I surmised that Spelling was definitely one of those subjects where you either got it or you didn’t. I decided some of my children would be doomed to a life of horrible spelling issues and uttered defeat with, “God bless spell check!”

I recently discovered its time to revive the fight! All About Spelling, designed by literary expert Marie Rippel, is a FANTASTIC, multi-sensory approach to spelling education. Throw away the workbooks, strap on your fun hat and be ready to make spelling the favorite subject of the day.

When I opened the shipping box from All About Spelling, it took me about an hour to prep the curriculum. I located all the various dividers and cards, cut them apart and organized them. I found this to be a bit of a negative since time is precious at my house. All About Spelling intends to produce future packages of their curriculum with perforated cards, so no cutting will be necessary; simply tear and go.

Once organized it took me 10-15 mins. to read through the introduction of the program and be ready to begin with Step 1 of Level 1. Reading through the directions reminded me of reading the rules and procedures for a new board game. The bright colored pieces, the friendly teacher manual, the magnetic tiles were all so intriguing and interesting that my seven year old daughter Sierra and I couldn’t wait to get started. I think this is the sign of a great curriculum. If you can open the box when it arrives, look at the contents with excitement and then maintain that excitement while you discover the ins and outs of using the curriculum, you are guaranteed to want to use it for days on end. Sierra and I fell in love with AAS from the moment we opened the box and gazed at all the colorful letter tiles and cards. It’s a love affair that continues now two months. Spelling is her favorite part of the school day.

Beginning with the very basics of our language, All About Spelling is based on learning the sounds (phonograms) of our language first. Gone are the typical lists of words, drill and tests. This spelling program teaches students the intricacies of the English language through lessons based around games and activities designed to support visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning.

The lessons, called steps, are scripted for the teacher; a great plus for any mom plagued with interruptions. Level One requires students memorize 32 phonograms by the end of 24 steps. They begin step one with only 26. Each phonogram has its own colorful flashcard with the
letter printed on the front and a phonetic description of the sound along with a helpful key word to aid in pronunciation on the back. Sierra loved rattling off the phonogram sounds of the first 26 as most were familiar to her. Encouraged by the simplicity of the program I challenged her to see if she could have more in her “mastered” pile than I had in my “review” pile. Quickly, mastering the phonograms became a game and a few minutes of phonics based study a treat. The total lesson time took 10- 15 mins., but the best part for Sierra was the end of the lesson as she got to place a sticker on her progress chart, provided by All About Spelling!

Step 2 of Level 1 introduced the concept of segmenting words or pulling words apart by sounds; the opposite of blends. The experience reminded me a great deal of the phonics based approach to learning to read. Segmenting practice was accomplished by using colored disks to push across the table for each sound. For example, using a three sound word like “pig” the student says “P” then slides one disk, “I”- slide, “G”- slide. Sierra, a true kinesthetic learner, enjoyed the process of using her body to reinforce the phonetic sounds she was hearing and deciphering as she segmented the words. I could almost see her brain making the necessary connections as she completed the exercise. As I watched I couldn’t help but think how refreshing it was to actually have a curriculum designed to teach young children in the way they learn best. Spelling would not be an abstract concept for Sierra, but something she saw, heard and touched through this experience.

Step 4 introduced the Sound Cards of the program using the same 26 sounds from the previously mastered Phonogram Cards. At this point the student listens to the sound and selects the colorful magnetic tile that matches the sound heard. All consonants are blue and vowels are red for visual reinforcement to connect to the the concept that vowels are “special”. When the child can match sounds the next activity is to write the sound on paper or some other format while you recite them. Rippel, reminds the teacher in the manual of the processing in the child’s brain that is happening while this activity ensues.

“It is important for the student to say the sounds of the phonograms as he writes them down. Doing so involves the three pathways to the brain: visual (seeing the phonogram), auditory (hearing the phonogram spoken aloud) and the kinesthetic (feeling the process of forming the letters and feeling the vocal cords as the sound is repeated).”

Rippel recommends using rice, sand, plush fabrics, etc. for the child to write their letters on “to maximize the kinesthetic experience of the curriculum”. Sierra loved writing on top of a bag filled with green dish detergent. The potentially labor intensive drill for a 7 year old became a joy-filled experience leading to giggles because of the unusual writing materials used for practice. The age appropriate activity proved so play oriented that Sierra skipped happily away from the table at the conclusion of the lesson. She had enjoyed every moment of writing practice. Wow!

Currently, the program offers curriculum in four levels complete with a teacher’s manual, letter tiles, magnets for the tiles, flashcards, and a phonogram CD-ROM. Two more AAS books will be added in 2009 bringing the series to completion and the student to a high school level of competency.

The Level One set retails for $29.95 with additional material packets available for $12.95. Sample lessons and a scope and sequence of the curriculum can be viewed on the All About Spelling website. The company offers a 100% one year money back guarantee to all customers.

All About Spelling is the smartest, most creative and child friendly spelling program I have ever come across in my 14 years of home education. I never thought I would be excited about a spelling curriculum, but this one sends me singing on the mountain tops. All About Spelling speaks to the child in the way she learns best. It’s fun, it’s teacher friendly, it’s easy to facilitate, and most importantly, its effective!

1 comment:

Deepti said...

All about spelling program seems to be great. Will surely try it for my kid.
thankyou for sharing