Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Our Spelling Dilemma

Our older/middle children are all strong readers, for the most part they have learnt to read with relative ease.  Our approach has been to immerse in literature and poetry, then introduce phonetic sounds via Spalding phonics, with the aid of games and our chart. We follow with lots of encouragement as they begin with basic readers.

Although we use Spalding's phonic cards we abandoned their spelling program very early on as the children hated their markings with a passion.  Nor did I find the teacher book friendly despite the fact that I have actually undertaken week long courses in both Spalding and LEM Phonics. Spalding proponents would contend this was not a wise decision, 'if only we had persevered our children would be strong spellers', yet I felt strongly that our relationships were more important.  Their poor spelling ability however has continued to grieve me.  For years I have been searching for a solution to our spelling dilemma, for a program/method that would use similar sounds to Spalding and further our children's understanding of the English language, I also required a user/teacher friendly program.

It was with great excitement that I finally found my longed for solution in All About Spelling.  With its roots in Orton-Gillingham's method as is Spalding's, the sounds, rules and concepts do not create any contradiction with previous teaching.  What we are learning with AAS consolidates and takes our knowledge far beyond our previous studies.

We began using AAS last year in Term 4 with all of the children, from my teens down to our beginner reader. The younger two have separate lessons and we began with the five oldest learning together.  It was soon apparent that some children needed individual instruction,  I discovered they were lacking segmenting skills, (breaking a word into its individual spoken sounds).  It explained so much!  Now I knew why vowels and various consonants were often omitted from their words.  After addressing this issue, we were able to progress as a group again.  This group included our 10, 12, 15, 16 and 18 year olds together.  As many 'steps' were revision for most we were able to rapidly move through the 'steps' and then the 'levels'.  Early this term we completed the first three books, Levels 1, 2 & 3.

As I am working remedially with older students I use a slightly different approach to the recommended method.  Being older they were already sensitive about remedial work, and letter tiles and flashcards would make them feel 'like little kids' so we utilise the blackboard (a whiteboard would work just as well).  I 'teach' at the board and the 'group children' write onto paper.  The children also take turns in writing on the board (this assures they have to pay attention).  I can communicate the information in the books sufficiently with chalk, and haven't used the 'packs' with the older group.  They do grumble and aren't thrilled to be doing remedial spelling, however they are now admitting the information is making a difference.  It has been rewarding to share those 'light bulb moments' as the children make connections as to the 'why' of spellings and remember previous lessons learnt and put this knowledge into practice.

The younger two enjoy using the letter tiles, although for some lessons they choose to use a tabletop whiteboard with different colour markers to differentiate the vowels and consonants.  One of AAS's strengths is the involvement of three of the student's senses; sight, sound and touch.  All About Spelling is more than a spelling method, it is an immersion in language instruction; phonetic sounds, syllabication, segmenting, spelling rules, grammatical rules, compound words and more.  It has been heartening to observe the children take this knowledge into other areas of their language arts studies. When I  hear them discuss the rules of language in everyday conversation I know linguistics has become a natural part of their world.

All About Spelling is the program I wish I had found in our early years of home educating, it does require a teacher but the lessons are short, easy to follow and the time is well worth investing.  The longer I home educate the more convinced I become as to the importance of laying a solid foundation in basics. It is with joy that I see our youngest two students grasp a firm understanding of  the English language from the beginning and I feel confident they will be strong spellers.  Most of our older children have rapidly improved and the others with the aid of their new skills will hopefully soon be spelling with distinction too:)

*This review is a voluntary and unsolicited sharing of my joy in finally finding our longed for solution.

9 comments:

Vicky said...

Thank you for sharing this review, Erin. We've taught spelling quite informally but I really like Spalding. I used it to verbally explain phonics when I was teaching the children how to read, and I include the list of spelling rules in their lesson plans, each term. I think talking about the logic of it and the irregularities really helped to teach them how to spell:-)

Sue Elvis said...

Erin,

I love the new look of your blog! Those autumn colours are so beautiful. All our local trees are looking just as wonderful. I wonder if you have an autumn display up where you live.

I love hearing about other family's methods. So glad you found something that works for you.

God bless!

Fe said...

I'm another AAS fan here, too. My eight year old picks spelling to do first, every time (which i would never have expected!) and it seems to be working well for him. I love that the rules are so clear. He still not spelling perfectly (even in the topics we've covered) , but when he does misspell a word, he can correct it immediately, and is usually able to identify the error for himself.

Angel said...

Thanks for this review, Erin! I purchased Level 1 several years ago, intending to use it with my older kids (who weren't beginning readers, but were not yet teens either). Unfortunately, I never figured out how to use it with them, and the books (and tiles, etc.) sat on the shelf. I have been thinking that in the summer I really need to start my younger kids on it (particularly my 9 yo, who is having such trouble learning to read.) My oldest could use some spelling help, too, though -- so it's very helpful to see how you used this spelling program with all your kids!

Sarah said...

We love AAS, too, although I did move my oldest to IEW's Phonetic Zoo after she completed AAS 3.

You said that the longer you homeschool the more convinced you are that it is critical to lay a really strong foundation in the basics. That's just what I needed to hear. Thanks for sharing it. :)

Anonymous said...

And on the other hand it's encouraging to hear that it's still possible to make changes in your teenagers! Sometimes when there are little ones in the house (not that mine are so little anymore) or you're working with the need-to-learn-to-read kids it's encouraging to know there's still hope for those areas that slip through the cracks in your older children while you are otherwise engaged.

The one thing I wish about AAS is that the "rule" was set out more clearly for the teacher. I think this curriculum is really designed more for the younger ones so the scripting has a lot of "blab" before you get to the "rule" that older kids can learn. You need to be fairly creative to get it to work for your older kids. JMO.

I wonder if they would consider publishing a "mini" version with just the rule and the words that older kids and teens could work on (more) independently. Now THAT would be cool.

Missy

Erin said...

Missy
Do be encouraged, it is harder work but can be done, one benefit with teens is they (some) can see the benefit so have more drive. I do know what you mean and after reading your comment I've been discussing with PC for the last half hour what I actually do. I realised I didn't mention (I may amend) that I do skip parts of the lesson and get down to the nuts and bolts otherwise I lose the interest of the teens. But I don't find it hard to do that, and considering cost I'm happy to adapt the one program for my multi-levels. Using the blackboard and teaching a group actually makes it easy for me to do this, wondering now if it would be harder with only one, mmm.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I skip most of the lesson with my eldest too. We spend a bit of time reviewing past rules, then learning the new rule and practicing it. Another thing I try to do us dictate sentences using the words from previous lessons to check that he's incorporating the new information into practice. I also spend quite a lot of time asking him to explain why words are spelled as they are, ie making him identify the rule in certain words. He just works in his book with a pencil.
Missy

Erin said...

Thanks for the blog revamp thumbs up:)and for the support, it is wonderful to have found 'our spelling niche. Always happy to hear from other AAS fans:)