Our older/middle children are all strong readers, for the most part they have learnt to read with relative ease. Our approach has been to immerse in literature and poetry, then introduce phonetic sounds via Spalding phonics, with the aid of games and our chart. We follow with lots of encouragement as they begin with basic readers.
Although we use Spalding’s phonic cards we abandoned their spelling program very early on as the children hated their markings with a passion. Nor did I find the teacher book friendly despite the fact that I have actually undertaken week long courses in both Spalding and LEM Phonics. Spalding proponents would contend this was not a wise decision, ‘if only we had persevered our children would be strong spellers’, yet I felt strongly that our relationships were more important. Their poor spelling ability however has continued to grieve me. For years I have been searching for a solution to our spelling dilemma, for a program/method that would use similar sounds to Spalding and further our children’s understanding of the English language, I also required a user/teacher friendly program.
It was with great excitement that I finally found my longed for solution in All About Spelling With its roots in Orton-Gillingham’s method as is Spalding’s, the sounds, rules and concepts do not create any contradiction with previous teaching. What we are learning with AAS consolidates and takes our knowledge far beyond our previous studies.
We began using AAS last year in Term 4 with all of the children, from my teens down to our beginner reader. The younger two have separate lessons and we began with the five oldest learning together. It was soon apparent that some children needed individual instruction, I discovered they were lacking segmenting skills, (breaking a word into its individual spoken sounds). It explained so much! Now I knew why vowels and various consonants were often omitted from their words. After addressing this issue, we were able to progress as a group again. This group included our 10, 12, 15, 16 and 18 year olds together. As many ‘steps’ were revision for most we were able to rapidly move through the ‘steps’ and then the ‘levels’. Early this term we completed the first three books, Levels 1, 2 & 3.
As I am working remedially with older students I use a slightly different approach to the recommended method. Being older they were already sensitive about remedial work, and letter tiles and flashcards would make them feel ‘like little kids’ so we utilise the blackboard (a whiteboard would work just as well). I ‘teach’ at the board and the ‘group children’ write onto paper. The children also take turns in writing on the board (this assures they have to pay attention). I can communicate the information in the books sufficiently with chalk, and haven’t used the ‘packs’ with the older group. They do grumble and aren’t thrilled to be doing remedial spelling, however they are now admitting the information is making a difference. It has been rewarding to share those ‘light bulb moments’ as the children make connections as to the ‘why’ of spellings and remember previous lessons learnt and put this knowledge into practice.
The younger two enjoy using the letter tiles, although for some lessons they choose to use a tabletop whiteboard with different colour markers to differentiate the vowels and consonants. One of AAS’s strengths is the involvement of three of the student’s senses; sight, sound and touch. All About Spelling is more than a spelling method, it is an immersion in language instruction; phonetic sounds, syllabication, segmenting, spelling rules, grammatical rules, compound words and more. It has been heartening to observe the children take this knowledge into other areas of their language arts studies. When I hear them discuss the rules of language in everyday conversation I know linguistics has become a natural part of their world.
All About Spelling is the program I wish I had found in our early years of home educating, it does require a teacher but the lessons are short, easy to follow and the time is well worth investing. The longer I home educate the more convinced I become as to the importance of laying a solid foundation in basics. It is with joy that I see our youngest two students grasp a firm understanding of the English language from the beginning and I feel confident they will be strong spellers. Most of our older children have rapidly improved and the others with the aid of their new skills will hopefully soon be spelling with distinction too:)
*This review is a voluntary and unsolicited sharing of my joy in finally finding our longed for solution.