Thursday, December 3, 2009

Review: All About Spelling

I may have admitted this before, but I don't consider myself a typical homeschooling mom.  I loved math and science as a student so I am not intimidated about teaching those subjects.  I always got good grades in reading and spelling, but I struggle with how to go about teaching them.  It doesn't help matters that I am a visual learner and my son is definitely kinesthetic.  I had purchased a spelling curriculum--one book designed to be used for Fritz's entire education, but each time I looked through the pages and pages of spelling lists I'd end up setting it aside for "some other time."

It's nothing short of Providence that I received All About Spelling to review as part of the Homeschool Crew.  It has a detailed manual with step by step instructions for this timid spelling teacher.  It has magnetic tiles for Fritz to manipulate in spelling words.  There are suggestions for other ways of reaching the kinesthetic learner--like letting him "write" in sand in a box or liquid soap in a Ziploc bag.  The lessons have built in review and reinforcement and are short enough that an energetic seven year old doesn't get bored.  Instead of being a tooth-pulling exercise (for both student and teacher) we've been able to approach spelling lessons and still keep smiles on our faces.

Here's what I received and the suggested retail price:

Starter Kit ($26.95 when ordered with a Level kit, $31.95 separately)  This contains letter tiles, magnets for the tiles, and a CD-rom of phonogram sounds.

Level 1 Kit ($29.95)  There is a teachers manual and a packet of materials for one student (flashcards, index card dividers to organize the flashcards, a progress chart, bingo chips for various activities, and a completion certificate). 

Level 2 Kit ($39.95)  Another teachers manual and a larger packet of materials for one student. There are currently 5 levels available with 1 more to be published.  All levels above One are $39.95.

When you first set up All About Spelling it seems like there is a lot of prep work--the letter tiles need to be cut apart and the magnets applied to each (the magnets are actually optional; you could do this on a table top, but I found a magnetic whiteboard works better for us).  There are four sets of perforated flashcards that need to be separated.  You may also need to go shopping for a box to hold the flashcards and a magnetic board.  Take heart though, once the set up is completed, you'll find very little day to day teacher prep is necessary and tracking student progress is practically automatic. 

There are four types of flashcards:

  • Phonogram Cards- the student sees the phonogram and the teacher says the sound(s) it makes

  • Sound Cards-the teacher says the sound and the student  writes the letter or letters that make it

  • Key Cards -  teaches spelling rules

  • Word Cards -  the teacher says a word and the student spells it

The cards are stored behind tabbed dividers: concept still needs review, concept is mastered, and concept covered in future lessons.  Here's how our box looks.

Each lesson begins by reviewing the cards not yet mastered before introducing new teaching cards.

The magnetic tiles are where the fun lies for Fritz.  I had a magnetic whiteboard from Sam's Club that we used to use for math lessons.  There are two sets of alphabet tiles: consonants are blue, vowels are red ( the letter "y" comes with both a red and blue tile).  As we progress we add new tiles for vowel teams, consonant teams, the sounds of /er/, the sounds of /sh/, etc.   This is what the board will eventually look like:

   This leaves a large working area in the center for Fritz to draw down tiles and spell words. 

Fritz is still learning to read -- we're currently in level three of the Scaredy Cat Reading System.  So I've adapted the All About Spelling  to a small degree.  When I talk about vowel sounds, I don't use the "long" and "short" terminology most of us grew up with.  We refer to "brave" and "scared" sounds instead.   I've also considered phonogram cards "mastered" if he can list all the sounds we've covered in our reading program rather than all the sounds listed on the card.  All About Spelling as designed has the students learn the "a" sound in "water" in Step 1 Level 1, but then they never review that sound again until Step 22 of Level 2.

So far I've been alternating weeks of spelling and reading lessons, hoping not to confuse Fritz with learning phonetic concepts in different orders.  In the future I may try altering the order of steps in All About Spelling to match and reinforce our reading work.  If I had a student who already knew how to read, I'd follow the steps as directed.

 Be sure to visit the All About Spelling website.  You'll find product samples and articles on spelling, dyslexia,  and tips for teaching kinesthetic learners.  You can see what my fellow crewmates thought about All About Spelling by clicking here.

Note: I received free copies of the All About Spelling material to use in preparing this review.  I have received no other compensation.


Anonymous said...

I had to laugh at your comments about math and science. Oh yeah, that's me too. Though math is starting to intimidate me as my son is finishing up Algebra 2. I'm far more intimidated by the spelling and writing teaching.

Anyway, I love your whiteboard set-up. Mine is too small. I'm going to look at Sam's though, after reading your blog.

Debra at

MOmama said...

It's been a little over a year, but I think the white board only cost around $15. We got a giant chalkboard now, but Fritz still likes to use this when he plays math teacher since it's like the one in the Math-U-See video.

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