Upon * I received a copy of All About Spelling Level 7 in exchange for a review of this product. The following is an honest review of our family’s experience using it.
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To any who have been reading my blog for a time it will comes as no surprise to hear me say once again that I love the All About Learning products, both the Reading and Spelling. You have likely heard me pepper comments here and there about these programs, or you may have read my reviews regards All About Reading Pre-Reading and All About Reading Level 1, chances are though you may not remember, as I wrote it a whole five years ago, my review about All About Spelling.
All About Spelling is my answer to a heartfelt search in regards to finding an approach that would turn my poor spellers into solid spellers, so let’s see what it’s all about and how our journey actually played out.
Prior to All About Spelling what was my previous spelling method/approach?
Nearly thirty years ago as a teenager, I undertook a brief Spalding course and became convicted of Spalding’s effectiveness. A few years later, as the mother of a baby, I completed a week’s course with LEM Phonics, essentially an Australianised version of Spalding, that included extra sounds for some of the phonogram cards to accommodate our Australian pronunciation. When our children became interested in learning to read I began by teaching them the Spalding phonic sounds, with the Australian ‘extras’.
However even though I believed in it, I never progressed far in teaching the Spalding spelling/writing which was part of the effectiveness of the Spalding method, in essence our children refused to co-operate, they loathed the markings. Admittedly also, the Spalding Handbook was not laid out for ease of use, although thanks to the course I did know what to do. (Since then the Writing Road to Reading handbook has been completely revamped and far easier to follow and implement I’ve been told)
This was the late 90s, early 2000s, so we mostly relied on ‘inventive spelling’, which was all the rage at the time and as I had been assured in my one year of teacher’s College that inventive spelling worked, we told ourselves that spelling would come in time and focused on writing; stories, shopping lists etc and gently corrected as we went, it wasn’t sufficient. Inventive spelling doesn’t work!
After time, too much time, I abandoned my believe in inventive spelling and began to look for a solution, spelling shouldn’t be this hard, I felt I had found a solution when we found old copies of the Fred Schonell spelling books. This is an ‘essential’ spelling list of 3,200 everyday words, selected and graded into six lists suitable for children 7-12 years, within each list the words are grouped according to common difficulty. These books had alot of merit and I think for children who are natural spellers they could well be sufficient, but for our children we still hadn’t found ‘the key’, we were still missing an essential element.
Reflecting on my early education, which was rather solid, I recalled rules and a systematic approach, if only I could find ‘those books, that method’ I thought, after all both PC and I are solid spellers, I pondered that genetically our children shouldn’t be all having these issues. Truthfully it’s an area I felt a huge failure in but I knew it was just the matter of finding the right answer so I kept searching, meanwhile painfully limping along trying various books.
When I Found All About Spelling
When I first heard about All About Spelling, I was hopeful, it all sounded promising but… I still firmly believed in the Spalding Method, but when I found that both Spalding and AAS both have their roots in the Orton-Gillingham method, I was sold! The sounds, rules and concepts of both have similarities, but what we have learnt with AAS consolidates and takes our knowledge far beyond our previous studies.
All About Spelling is a multi-sensory program that builds on mastery, piece by piece. Each word is ‘tackled’ with colour tiles, red for vowels, blue for consonants and as the child is learning these words they also learn in context letter combinations and spelling rules, as well as the ‘rule breakers’. The program also involves learning about open and closed syllables, suffixes and prefixes, root words and word parts. An important and vital part of the approach is the continual revision of words and rules learnt. Important, don’t skip revision, we did to a child’s detriment.
All About Spelling is so easy to use from a teaching perspective, the lessons are scripted and clear. How the lessons are laid out means you only need a brief skim over the lesson prior to beginning to be all set. This was a major deciding factor for me!!
Using All About Spelling With Older Children
All About Spelling is a fantastic program to use with older children, it’s engaging and thorough. We have now completed all seven levels with our teens, we began using AAS when they were already in their teens to address their need for remedial help. One teen is a naturally good speller only needing assistance in some areas, the other teen had many areas needing assistance with, was missing many skills, I so wish this child had AAS/AAR when younger, I’m confident it would have made a huge difference for teen.
Whilst working with our children who have begun AAS later and our children who began ‘right from scratch’, I see a difference, the older children, not just our teens but our middles too, struggle more, the skills don’t come as easily to them as the younger ones. I’m not saying they can’t be successful, just that it’s not as effortless for them.
With our teens I have used a slightly different approach to the regular approach, we use a blackboard (a whiteboard would work too) instead of the letter tiles so they don’t feel like they are being ‘little kids’. I teach the lesson at the board and the teens write onto paper, sometimes I also have them write on the board, thinking active participation will ensure they are paying attention.
After using all seven levels we have a more thorough understanding of the English language and spelling strategies to apply. Our good speller is now a solid speller, our poor speller is doing a lot better, not a miraculous ending but a far better one. Reflection brings the realisation that we ‘skipped’ areas we shouldn’t have, namely regular revision, I believe teen would be stronger had we not done that. Still teen now has spelling strategies and skills in ‘the basket’ that teen didn’t have before, certainly there is a big improvement.
It has been rewarding to share ‘light bulb moments’ as the children make connections as to the ‘why’ of spelling words and watch them remember previous lessons learnt and see them put this knowledge into practice. All About Spelling is an immersion in language instruction; phonetic sounds, syllabication, segmenting, spelling rules, grammatical rules, compound words and more.
What Was Covered Specifically In Level 7?
Level 7 was divided into two focuses; the first was introducing several new letter combinations such as ‘sc’ and ‘si’ and studying further common spelling patterns such as when to use ‘ence’ and ‘ance’ and when to drop and keep ‘Es’ when adding suffixes.
The second focus was fascinating, we learnt about Latin Root Words, and Greek Word Parts, French, Italian and Spanish loan words. This were really ‘light bulb’ moments where our language all began to make far more sense.
What About Australian/American Differences?
As Australians we need to add a few extra sounds to a couple of the vowel cards to accommodate for our pronunciation. Occasionally in a lesson a word won’t ‘fit’ the context due to our pronunciation, you simply move the word/card to a different lesson or just explain that “that’s an American pronunciation” and move on, or the spelling is different such as color/colour.
In Level 7 we had a few whole lessons that were affected by pronunciation and spelling. It didn’t mean we skipped the lesson, just that I changed to fit.
- Step 4 the focus was on the spelling of com pronounced as cum. In Australia we still pronounce as com, so I taught as such.
- Step 6 our du pronounced as djoo isn’t as strong.
- Step 15 we end with ise not ize.
Why Is The Program So Effective?
- the spelling rules are clear and concise, learnt in context and reinforced
- decoding and syllabication skills taught
- child learns about open and closed syllables, suffixes and prefixes, root words and word parts
- continual revision of spelling word cards and rules learnt cards is extremely effective. Don’t be tempted to ‘short cut’ here as I have done, to a child’s detriment.
Hands on Materials
- letter tiles – vowel and consonant have different colours, red and blue
- other tiles – suffixes and prefixes, root words and word parts.
Would I Recommend This Program?
The longer we home educate the more convinced I become as to the importance of laying a solid foundation in basics, which All About Spelling and Reading does exceptionally well.
Lesson Steps In Detail
Each lesson contains four steps.
1. A revision of previous flashcards learnt, this includes; spelling word cards from previous lessons, spelling rules covered, phonogram and sound cards. The cards are then stored behind a divider, and reviewed regularly or filed as mastered.
2. Teaching a new concept; the spelling concept/rule and then focusing on spelling ten words related to the new concept.
- sometimes includes a study of homophone words
- letter tiles can be used here or paper/whiteboard/blackboard dependent on child’s preference. Tiles also include; suffix, prefix, root word, word part, phonogram and label tiles.
- Level 7 includes activity sheets for a few of the lessons. Namely word trees when studying Greek and Latin root words.
3. Reinforcement – Dictated sentences. Ten sentences that include words directly related to the lesson, some sentences include words from previous lessons.
4. More reinforcement – Writing Station. The children write a paragraph including their new spelling words.
What Lesson Preparation Do I Need To Do?
The package includes everything needed and the lessons are clearly scripted. No preparation prior to the lessons is needed, other than a quick peruse. Though occasionally with some levels some photocopying is involved and it makes for a smoother lesson if done beforehand.
Although not required, as I need the All About Spelling materials to ‘do the distance’ for ten children. I have invested time in laminating the word cards with our home laminator.
How Long Does a Lesson Take?
Teaching Level 7 to teenagers, we could complete a lesson in one sitting. On average this would take us 30 minutes plus. When undertaking an All About Spelling lesson with the younger children I will break up some of the lessons. With longer ones taking up to a couple of days, sometimes longer depending on the age of the child. I aim to keep the lessons under a twenty minute session.
How Long Does It Take To Complete a Level?
This will vary from child to child. With our older children I moved rather quickly, aiming for a few lessons a week. With a struggling or younger child may need a few days or more for each lesson.
Our teens completed the thirty lessons in Level 7 in less than five months.
What Materials Do I Purchase for Level 7?
Each level contains a Teacher’s Manual and Student Packet. The Teacher’s Manual has detailed lessons and instructions on how to teach the words covered. It is extremely clear and easy to understand and follow. The Student Packet contains all the spelling words covered in a card format (for revision) and other sheets related to the lessons covered, for example in Level 7 the pack includes word trees for the root words sections. It also contains five new tiles and magnets related to new concepts that will be taught.
Do I Need Any Other Materials for Level 7?
The recommendation is prior to Level 7 you have completed the earlier Levels, or at least some. So you would have previously purchased the Spelling Interactive Kit, my choice was the Basic Kit, I just sourced a storage solution locally. Though we personally don’t use the letter tiles for Level 7 with our teens as I explained.
Rather than using a magnetic board, we used a use a biscuit (cookie) tray with the letter tiles. We also used a blackboard throughout Level 7, though a white board would have worked also. AAS recommend using the tiles.
Isn’t It Expensive?
Unfortunately yes. This is the biggest drawback to the All About Learning products. Sadly for Australians the cost is wildly expensive. This is due to shipping costs and the current poor exchange rate. The cost for us is 1.5 to 2 times the cost! American friends may you never bemoan the cost again;-)
It is a huge investment, however, as the program is so effective I do believe it’s worth it. If you have multiple children ‘divide’ the cost between them and if you have one, your copy will easily resell.
Where Can I Purchase AAR?
Australians – AAS and AAR may be ordered through Educational Warehouse. Could I humbly request you use “at2601erin” at the checkout, this gives me a teeny commission.
Overseas readers may order directly from All About Learning.
Our Related Reviews:
Have you used any levels of All About Spelling? I’d love to hear about your experience.