I wrote a lengthy review of All About Spelling, one of the products the TOS Homeschool Crew brought my way, but I didn’t publish it!
Therefore, I’m cutting and pasting that review into a new post here, to move it to the top of the pile. (There may be an easier way, but I don’t know what it is, and I’d hate for you to miss this product.)
All About Spelling is a great new product (new to me, anyhow) that engages different modalities of learning (visual, auditory, and kinesthetic/kinetic) in the learning of spelling and its associated rules.
This approach combines step-by-step lesson plans with manipulatives and lots of encouragement. The instruction books are carefully organized; most of the planning is done for you, and required teacher preparation is clearly laid out. There’s a fair amount of set-up (preparing the pre-printed flashcards, for example) needed before you start the program, but once that’s done, the daily lessons require almost no preparation and are easy to step through.
The program is very teacher-friendly. Each lesson is introduced with the lesson objective and materials list, followed by a brief explanation of what the lesson covers. If you haven’t learned phonics yourself, you’ll find yourself learning alongside your students as you teach this course. Explanations are simple and straightforward. An audio CD-Rom is available to help you with pronunciation of the phonograms. You can check out a demo version of the CD-Rom at the All About Spelling website.
Scripted, easy-to-follow lessons
The lessons follow a standardized format, beginning with review. Introducing new concepts is clearly marked as “new teaching.” Teaching tips and suggestions are sprinkled throughout. There’s lots of practice and reinforcement to cement spelling concepts in the brain.
The program is scripted, meaning it tells you exactly what to say, what to look for in your student’s response, and how to evaluate and adjust the program to your student’s progress.
Above and beyond
All About Spelling goes beyond any other spelling program I’ve used. I’m used to dictating word lists in families, noting the words spelled wrong and drilling them by various methods. (Spelling Power has some great ideas for learning a specific word.) Instead of rote memorization, the program explains the spelling rules so that your struggling speller can think through new and unfamiliar words, or forgotten words. For example, in Book One there’s a lesson on the sound of /k/ at the end of a word. When do you spell the sound “k” and when do you use “ck”? I never knew there was a rule, until now!
I spell by experience and intuition, but I have to admit I never thought about why we use “k” sometimes and “ck” at other times. All About Spelling teaches the whys and wherefores!
One of our girls is an intuitive speller, having picked up spelling by osmosis or some other mysterious means. Spelling is her favorite subject, and she wasn’t all that interested in All About Spelling, although she perked up a bit each time we ran across a rule (like when to use “k” and when to use “ck”) because she, too, didn’t know why spelling works the way it does, she just learned how to spell several thousand words without realling thinking about it. She probably would have enjoyed All About Spelling if she’d been introduced to it early on, when she was first learning to read and write.
Our youngest, however, struggles gamely. She has a logical bent. She doesn’t memorize well, things like multiplication facts and spelling words–the nitty gritty level of memorization. Her brain works more on a global, big-picture level. She figures out how things work, seems to intuitively understand how to do complex math problems (even though she has to look up the basic math facts to plug into the problem), can recite long passages of Scripture or poetry from memory. All About Spelling is just what she needs, with its manipulatives (this child has to be doing something all the time) and multisensory approach and explanations of how spelling works.
The program uses letter tiles (squares with individual letters and letter combinations) as manipulatives, made from sturdy laminated cardstock. You use these on a tabletop or flat surface, or you can use All About Spelling‘s Letter Tile Magnets cut in just the right sizes to fit, just peel and stick to the letter tiles, to do your word-building on a magnetized surface which helps keep the letters in place. You use the tiles to build words. The tiles are color-coded so that your student can see how different sounds function, in addition to hearing them.
The teacher’s guide is not consumable, meaning that you can go through a level with one student and use it again with the next. If you are using the same level with more than one student, you’ll want to buy an additional materials packet for each additional student.
The sets as currently available include the teacher’s guide and materials for one student; you’ll want to add a set of letter tiles to that, as these are necessary for the program. The publisher will soon be offering a “starter pack” with all you need to get started in a discounted bundle.
Excellent customer support
Which leads me to the customer service at All About Spelling. It’s excellent! I called with a question and got not only the answer to that question, but others beside, as well as suggestions for using the program with two very different students.
All Levels of All About Spelling:
Set of letter tiles: $9.95
Magnets (for letter tiles): $5.95
Phonogram audio CD-Rom: $14.95
Levels 1 and 2:
Set (one teacher’s book and one student material packet): $29.95
Additional material packet: $12.95
Levels 3 and 4:
Set (one teacher’s book and one student material packet): $39.95
Additional material packet: $14.95
Visit All About Spelling’s website for sample lessons, a demo of the Phonogram CD-Rom, lots of helpful articles, and to sign up for a free report on “20 Best Tips for Teaching Spelling.” Games are also available to help make learning phonograms fun.
There are currently four levels available, with a fifth (due out this year) and sixth in the works.