I am not a natural speller. I called myself a "creative" speller because I could come up with some pretty outlandish combinations of letters when asked to spell a simple word.
With my own struggles looming over me, choosing a spelling curriculum was daunting. I burned through many different curricula because I could never find the right fit. Who was I to judge a spelling program when I was such a poor speller myself?
When we began using Spell to Write and Read in my home, I finally realized that to teach spelling well, I needed to become a student of spelling as well. Little did I know that utilizing this program for a few minutes every day would strengthen my own spelling muscles, but also equip my youngest, who struggled to read, to be confident in decoding words.
The material comes with two books: the teacher's manual, introducing the "how to" and philosophy of the program, and The Wise Guide for Spelling, containing the day-to-day spelling lists. The core kit also includes flash cards for phonograms (letter sounds), flash cards for spelling rules, and a phonogram CD (for Texans like me who can't say the sounds of a single consonant without adding -uh to the end).
Step 1: Orient Yourself to the Materials
Sometimes I want microwave results in my own education. I want to pick up the book and get spelling! This program works more like a crock pot - and the results are just as rewarding. I've found tabbing my books to be a very effective way to slow myself down to look at the material carefully and thoughtfully. Thankfully, it also helps the books become easier to use as I reference different sections as we go.
Step 2: Read, Read, Read
There is nothing more valuable than reading aloud to your kids. Instilling a love of words will pave the way for connections in spelling. What I didn't expect from this curriculum was the confidence it gave my youngest to read. Before we started, we attempted various reading training programs, and she still struggled to read a simple book. She needed lots of encouragement. Without the tools to decode words, she didn't even want to look at the words much less read them. This was our daily battle.
These pictures were taken when she was five, and I thought she should have mastered the basic three letter words. My other two had taken off with their reading at this age, shouldn't she do the same? We are four years down the road, and she is not quite independent, but she loves words and willingly reads aloud to me.
Step 3: Take a Placement Test
When we first took the tests, my son placed right around grade level (7th grade). He beat me. Thankfully, after my first year of teaching the material, I improved my ranking up to 11th grade! The best part was my son aced it. Even though everyone in my family scored differently, thanks to wise counsel from my sister, we did spelling all together allowing my oldest to be reviewed on the simple words, and my youngest to hear the challenging ones. This was just the encouragement I needed to stay the course, and be faithful in the little things. I used a magnetic bookmark to keep up with the placement of each child.
Looking back over my materials this year, I realized that the placement tests were designed to be given once a month to continually assess progress - something I'll be adding to my implementation in the future! (Always room for improvement)
Step 4: Introduce the Phonograms
There are 70 basic phonograms. Again, I was ready to jump into spelling lists, but the guide instructs you to lay the foundation for spelling before you actually ask your child to spell a word. Brilliant!
Included in this step is setting up the student log book. This is where the student creates their own reference in order to be prepared to spell confidently. They organize sounds of letters as well as spelling rules.
Step 5: Start Daily Spelling
Finally, the spelling begins. The first year we used the student log, but I've found that white boards are good too. We go over the phonograms and spelling rules utilized in each word as we go. I've kept it simple - we do five words a day. My middle daughter writes down her younger sister's words for fun and extra practice. You can see a sample of the material here.
There are so many more wonderful ideas in the teacher's guide that I didn't even mention. It is a worthy investment - both for a struggling speller and a reluctant reader.