Thursday, November 20, 2008

All About Spelling - and what I think of it

At long last we have fully integrated spelling into our daily school routine. We finally have a spelling program that is working for us! It's called All About Spelling. Although I am in no way an expert, I would like to share my thoughts about the program. I figure there are plenty of other people out there that have the same questions I did. So here it goes -

I started out "trying" to use Spell to Write and Read. A fine program, whose approach (Orton-Gillingham) I liked, but found that SWR is rather difficult to implement. It definitely requires a LOT of prep work on my part, before even beginning with the kids. We only got through the basic notebook setup and the first two lessons, and I had to set it aside. It simply wasn't "flowing" the way I needed it to. I also found that the way the spelling rules are introduced didn't quite sit well with me. I felt a more structured introduction would be more beneficial to the kids.

Enter All About Spelling... This program is based upon the same fundamental approach as SWR, but is set up in an Easy-to-Use, open-the-book-and-start-teaching manner. We are half way through Level One, and the kids and I are enjoying it. Although both kids are familiar with most of what we have covered up to now, the reinforcement and review has been beneficial for all of us. We have even picked up a few extra tidbits by starting at the beginning. It has been very easy to fall into a natural rhythm with it, adding to a sense of confidence on my part, and a sense of mastery on the kids' part. I already see a positive difference in their thought patterns as they write, which translates to better spelling and sentence structure.

So - now the nuts and bolts on how AAS (level one) works. It is actually quite simple. Each level comes with a teacher's manual(TM) and a set of flashcards (phonogram cards, sound cards, key cards, and word cards) along with dividers. You supply an index card box. You use the flashcards to introduce the lesson of the day (as presented in the TM) and then file it/them in your index card box in the review section. The rest of the lesson involves the use of letter tiles for initial spelling practice, and then writing the spelling words on paper. The following day, you use the cards to review previous information as long as necessary to reach mastery of each lesson before moving on. When ready, you simply move to the next lesson which is fully explained and laid out in the TM. It really is all spelled out for you. When a concept is mastered, you file the flashcard behind the "mastered" index divider.

What I LOVE about AAS is that I literally can pick up the book, see what we need to do, and then just do it. Everything is in place to be able to pick up where you left off the day (or week) before without missing a beat. There is no lengthy preparation necessary to implement this program.

Also, the multi sensory approach has really seemed to make a huge difference in how well my kids learn, understand, and remember the lessons. What seems to really help is the use of the letter tiles. The kids first spell the words with the tiles, and then move to writing the words on paper. And so far, the progression from writing words to phrases is logical and straightforward, offering practice on previously learned concepts. I can't wait till we reach full length sentences!

So, what I have decided (at this point anyway) is to use AAS to systematically teach and practice the spelling rules. Once we have completed AAS, I am thinking that I will use SWR as a means of additional reinforcement of what we learned with AAS as well as using SWR for more advanced spelling lessons. I am unsure as to how advanced the AAS levels will be at this point. They currently have levels 1-4 available, with levels 5 and 6 still on the way.

Based upon our experience thus far, and in looking ahead at future levels, I am fully sold on All About Spelling. Seeing the progress my kids have made in a short amount of time has convinced me of it's merits.

I hope this "review" helps some of you decide on a program that is right for you.

UPDATE January 10, 2009: We have finished Level One and are now 3 lessons into Level Two - we still LOVE LOVE LOVE the program and are seeing fantastic progress. The kids' retention of spelling rules is remarkable and thier writing/spelling improves daily. I am so glad we found this spelling program! I am so impressed by the program in fact, that I have become an affiliate. Here is the link again to find out more about AAS - All About Spelling. Thanks for taking the time to read this far!

Monday, November 3, 2008

This week's activities

It was a very busy, but very good week. We finished up our study of the Native Americans by celebrating our own Native American Night. Our evening consisted of having Native American foods for dinner, a presentation from the kids about what they learned, which was supposed to be followed by Fry Bread with wajapi, but the kids were too full from dinner, so we played NA games instead. It was a fun evening! Here are more details:

For dinner we had Lemon Pepper Salmon representing the NW Coastal Tribes. I didn't exactly prepare it as it would have been done long ago, but H was especially pleased about the choice of salmon. Representing the Eastern Woodland Tribes we had wild rice with cranberries, and from the Plains Tribes we had corn and squash. I made baked pumpkin too, which was our dish from the Southwest. Naturally we started our evening with an opening prayer/blessing to Great Spirit and a special acknowledgement of the salmon's sacrifice to our well being, which set the tone for a meaningful family affair.

Once we finished our feast, we headed to the family room for the kids' presentation of their notebooks and an overview of what they learned. I was pleased to hear just how much information stuck, as well as hear what was most interesting and noteworthy to the kids. They both gave a very good presentation, each speaking clearly and confidently. I will definitely be planning more evenings like this one.

After the presentations it was time for games! Although it got a little late, and the kids were tired, we all agreed that we needed to finish our evening with at least one game. We played a stick game using Popsicle sticks with a series of pictures drawn on one side. We would drop the sticks and score according to which pictures landed facing up. We all had fun, but were also glad that it was a game that didn't drag on forever.

We will be finishing the last "Kaya" (American Girl Series) book this week, and then will transition our studies to the Pilgrims and Colonial period.

Overall, it was a very successful evening, leaving us all with a sense of togetherness which we haven't had in a while. What's even better, is that we have enough left overs for another NA feast tomorrow. Perhaps we'll have some room for Fry Bread tomorrow. YUM!