Spelling Methods Under a Microscope
Most homeschool moms and many “professional” educators believe spelling is innate – one is either born with “it” or she “isn’t.” This thinking has led to generations of rote spelling drills and long lists of commonly misspelled words. It has also led to the practice of Weekly Spelling Lists.
I had these in public school. All completely forgettable – except for my 10th grade English teacher’s lists – well, I should say, all forgettable except for one word.
Mrs. Craddock was a true Texas English teacher – well educated and well-read. She was also rather typical in her methods of teaching spelling and vocabulary – the weekly spelling list.
I remember nothing of our spelling and vocabulary lists except for one word –
Aggrandize – to make larger, more voluminous.
I can still remember her standing at the front of the class and explaining the list of words for the week. She told a story with this particular word. The story was about a TV chef who, in describing whipping eggs, used to say, “Aggrandize the eggs.” I have no idea about the chef. Neither did I know how to spell aggrandize (thanks spell check and my current 5th grade spelling education), but I will always remember the definition.
Now, I do not think Mrs. Craddock would have been very happy to discover that through her many Weekly Spelling Lists, this former student remembers ONE word. And not even how to spell it, at that!
Not to make my experience the experience of every student out there, but if my experience is common to any significant portion of spelling students (and I posit it is), something has to change. We need to throw out that model of Weekly Spelling Lists and actually teach students to spell.
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Our Experience with Spelling in our Homeschool
Since you now have an idea of the spelling abilities bestowed upon me by my public school education, I am likely the LAST person who should be sharing capital S Spelling advice. But my homeschool experience has been one of “redeeming my education,” – learning the things I “should” have learned in my primary and secondary education. Thus, I have no problem sharing, “I have learned so much in elementary school!”
At first we tried another of the Weekly Spelling List curricula. I don’t think we made it past week 2. Even as a new homeschool mama, I knew much of what I remembered about education via my public school education, would simply not apply in the homeschool setting. Since I knew the Weekly Spelling List didn’t make an impact on me, neither did it make a good speller, I knew it would have to go and I would have to look elsewhere.
Who knew at the beginning of our homeschooling journey spelling would be one of my favorite subjects? Certainly not I! I couldn’t have imagined the richness of a spelling curriculum before we started using All About Spelling.
About All About Spelling
We embarked on our one-room schoolhouse journey with All About Spelling 4 years ago. In those 4 years, all three of my current students have succeeded in becoming phenomenal spellers! They are not just “grade level” spelling proficient. They are years ahead in some cases. This is not because they can spell their spelling lists and check a box. Rather, it is because they are able to spell SO many words! New words, old words, hard words, easy words – they can take on the challenge inherent in any word, with confidence!
The confidence-building nature of All About Spelling has just gotten better and better with each new level we attain. We are currently halfway through Level 7 with my 5th grader, and the later stages of Level 5 and Level 1 with our 4th- and 1st-grade kids.
Stated simply, collectively we love All About Spelling
I have put thought into what makes All About Spelling work when other spelling curricula and methods don’t work. My list grew rather long. Here are the methods All About Spelling utilizes.
Homeschool Spelling Method #1: Constant Review
One of the hallmarks of good education is consistent review. Not only is it a great way to ensure the student is ready to move on to the next step; it builds confidence. Students begin to realize they “know” the material and even begin to refer to it as “easy.” And easy is GOOD!
All About Spelling offers constant review combined seamlessly with incremental development. If you have read any of what I have written on these topics in relation to Saxon Math, you know I am a big fan of this tag-team. Students are not expected to learn a list of words and move on (whether they have learned them or not). Rather, they are taught common letter combinations and which words feature various combinations. They are also taught “Rule Breaker” words along the way, when they break the rule being taught.
But moving on to a new set of spelling words (or taking the next step), the students take the knowledge with them. It is translated and transferred to future steps in the practice sentences included at the end of each step. Parent-teachers are reminded to review concepts with their students at the beginning of each step, too. The first lesson of each level offers a comprehensive review as well. If you follow the All About Spelling path, your students will get sufficient review, for sure.
Homeschool Spelling Method #2: Critical Thinking Skills
One of the things I love about All About Spelling is kids are encouraged and taught to analyze the words they spell. There are warm-ups in each step which have the teacher spell a word and the student work to analyze it with a series of questions. In these situations they have a word spelled out for them, so the answers help them to see the “why” for spelling.
Then as they progress through the levels, the kids are taught to analyze the words they don’t know how to spell to “figure it out. Analyzing the word is one of the Spelling Strategies offered to All About Spelling students throughout the program. Thus, when they are analyzing unknown words for spelling, they learn the “how” for spelling.
Students of All About Spelling end up with two crital thinking skills. First, the ability to take a whole word and break it down to its smaller parts. And the capacity to build a word “from scratch.”
The Result: Confidence
It is exciting to know something. Not in a show-offy way, but in simple confidence in one’s intellectual capacity. Students who have learned something and felt the sense of accomplishment are likely encouraged to learn more. I am convinced building confidence is the key to creating life-long learners.
Spelling confidence comes as a result of a balance the two foregoing points – constant review and critical thinking skills. When a student “knows” not only what they have already learned and can remember it, she is confident. But when a student is not intimidated by new material because she knows how to analyze it and attack it, she is on top of the world!
Success with Completely Different Students
I am currently teaching three different levels of All About Spelling to three vastly different students. My eldest student (fourth grade) is a perfectionist, who literally refused to even attempt spelling words until we started with All About Spelling. My second student (third grade) was chomping at the bit to start All About Spelling because she could already outspell her reluctant older sister. She is our “natural speller.” But that doesn’t mean she hasn’t had to struggle through spelling. She doesn’t like taking the time to analyze the words, but the program stretches her in just the right ways. My little guy (kindergarten?) has insisted on doing All About Spelling for the past couple of years. I held him off of actually starting the program for quite a while. But there were only so many times we could go over letter sounds he already knew.
Each of these students learn in different ways, are at different reading levels, and spend different amounts of time doing spelling lessons. But each of them are phenomenal spellers for their age! This is not a bragging homeschool mom moment. They are each confident and strong spellers because of this program. Can you tell why I love All About Spelling?
Homeschool Spelling Method #3: Haptics
Haptic relates to the sense of touch and haptics have to do with the sensory input of a digital device. Like the feeling you get when you type on a keyboard, haptics involve sensory input. From the Greek word for “to grasp, percieve, or sense,” haptics are happening when a person is manipulating something with their fingers or hands (or feet, I suppose). All About Spelling involves haptics because students manipulate physical spelling tiles to spell out words.
Some parents have their students use the All About Spelling app, but I don’t like it. I have my students set up their spelling tiles every single day. In my opinion, this leads to connections in the brain. Simply manipulating the various letters of the alphabet, the vowel teams, and consonant teams into “order” each day helps the student learn to place things in an orderly fashion.
Moving the tiles around and searching out the right tiles to spell gets faster as they work through the levels. They are creating a physical “memory house” for their letters/sounds each day. And then they are visiting the “rooms” to get the information they need. Then picking up a tile (haptics) and placing them into a correct order. I love all the physical movement that is helping students to make connections in the brain.
Homeschool Spelling Method #4: Creativity on Display
Beginning in Level 4 of All About Spelling, students are encouraged to write sentences utilizing their spelling words (and reviewing previous words). My older kids love this! I have them use scrap strips of paper to write their sentences at the end of each step. We have had some super silly sentences over the past couple of years!
In Level 7, the kids are encouraged to write a paragraph using silly sentence prompts. The writing station gets a true elementary classroom update with a poster featuring prompts to select at the end of each step.
Our fourth grader’s first prompt was “Write a short biography of a sensitive French chef who has the ability to fly.” She loved writing it so much, she decided to share it with you!
Isn’t it fun?! I told her to include words from her lesson. She understood that to mean use ALL of the words from the lesson. And she did it! I was impressed!
Refections on All About Spelling in our Homeschool
As you can see we have been impressed with All About Spelling at every level. In fact, I was just thinking about whether or not my 5th grader will be able to spell aggrandize now, when I know my 10th grade self couldn’t. Since we have used a different approach with our homeschool spelling methods, she is better equipped to confidently spell anything.
I think she can! She remembers the rule for when a says “uh” at the beginning of a word. And the rest of it is rather straight-forward spelling.
My kids are officially better spellers than I have ever been. And because I am “redeeming” my education, I am completely fine with that!
Interested in more of what I have to say about All About Spelling?
Read these two articles:
Or, if you are using All About Spelling, check out these helpful resources:
- All About Spelling sheets – promote penmanship and organized lessons
- Alliterative Affirmations Bookmark – makes spelling a bit more fun!