Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Few Thoughts on Teaching Spelling

   As a homeschool mom I assumed that teaching spelling would be simple.   As a student, spelling always came so easy to me, almost effortless.  I just assumed it would be the same for my children.  But my first child was not a natural speller, and as a young adult, still isn't great.   Over the years, I tried a lot of different programs on him, but only saw small improvements over his school years. Recently, he has improved... over the last 3-4 years. Honestly, I don't know why... maybe writing college papers and reading has forced him to practice more. Or maybe it is the texting world we live in? Go figure. But as a homeschool mom I was always mortified at his spelling.   My other child has an excellent memory in general, but her spelling is not so great either. She was a strong and early reader, but it didn't transfer to her spelling.    My youngest was a late bloomer in the reading department, and I have postponed formal spelling instruction until this year (5th grade). So far, it looks like it might come easier to her than my others. Don't know that for sure yet, but I am a little surprised.
I have heard it discussed many times, and it kind of seems to be true... that just like there are math minded folks, or artsy folks, there are folks whose brains can spell, and those who kind of can't, and some in between. Or an even better comparison, is to that of one who is tone deaf. Their brain is just wired that "way". That doesn't mean that we shouldn't work on it ( My ds was so tone deaf as a boy... he couldn't follow the tune to Happy Birthday!... but after several years of piano and music instruction, his musical ear is soooo much better, good even). Anyway... all that to say keep your hopes high as you work on skills to improve, but keep your expectations realistic and be glad we live in the age of SPELL CHECK! : )   So, while we should continue to exercise the brain in thinking sequentially, and practicing with spelling lists, etc., maybe we should consider that those who are not fabulous spellers, may not be turned into one, regardless of how many spelling tests we administer.

I was not a real smart kid, or highly academic. I struggled with math, and was mediocre in most subjects. But, as I mentioned above, I was and am a pretty good speller ( most of the time... typos don't count, nor do menopause brain fogs!). But I did nothing to make that happen. I just see words in my mind's eye when I hear the word... even if I don't want to "see" them. So I have this photographic memory that kind of flashes words across my eyes.  I have a friend who was a pre-med student and quite smart and academic.  Yet, she sometimes struggles with spelling relatively simple words. Her brain just blocks out the sequence of the letters.  It is really an interesting thing, once you start to look into it.

Anyway... I'll throw out a few spelling helps that I know of.  I have tried several over the years, and figured that I would bounce around a little, to get different methods and approaches, in hopes that something would stick. 
 Here are a few ideas:

Spelling Workout... CBD sells these workbooks, and they are affordable. I don't think you need the teacher's edition, but they sell one.  I used them off and on over the years, and personally I liked them. They are traditional spelling books, with a list and a few pages of activities to reinforce the list. This program does have a few extra features that are a little special... There is an article at the beginning of each lesson, that is usually interesting science or history info, that contains some of the list words. Also, there is a proofreading exercise that requires correcting misspelled words, a paragraph writing assignment and for most lists, there is a box at the top that contains the spelling Rule or tip that applies to the list they are working on. For example, the "au" and "aw" spelling... "au" comes in the middle of a word, as in faucet, while "aw" comes at the end of a word, as in saw.  A friend of mine had her kids copy these boxed spelling rules into a notebook, and study them, and gave them tests on these rules, not just spelling tests.   CBD has it here and you can look at some sample pages for the level you might be interested in:


Excellence in Spelling:  The Phonetic Zoo -

This program is put out by Andrew Pudewa and IEW.  It is a little pricey, but includes audio cds and small and large lesson cards that contain the rules, etc.  It is pretty much an independent program, as the student listens to the lesson and words on headphones, and even corrects his own work.  There are 3 levels, and the initial price includes just one level of cds, but all 3 levels are on the cards.  So, as the student completes a level, you purchase the next level of cds only (not new cards).  You can read a detailed review of it here .
IEW sells it here and there are placement tests and an introduction by Andrew Pudewa.

I used this book and Book 2 of the same title, when my ds was in his early to mid teens. Again, we just kept plugging away, but I can't say I saw this huge transformation in spelling skills. Yet, I certainly had to do something... couldn't just leave his spelling skills hanging at an elementary grade level!

Spelling Power... large book, about the size of a phone book, with a ton of word lists. Hard to explain, but there is a system to using the book. Once you figure it out, (and she does explain it), it isn't hard. The newer version is a little expensive, but I think you may be able to find an older version for a good discount... check the used resources.  Looks like the newer version has a bit more bells and whistles, but the program is basically the same from what I am reading.
    Here is the current edition on CBD: http://www.christianbook.com/spelling-power-fourth-edition-with-rom/beverly-adams-gordon/9781888827392/pd/827394?item_code=WW&netp_id=436430&event=ESRCQ&view=details . Read the review towards the bottom of the page by Karen Andreola.
  If anyone has other recommendations or a spelling story to share, I'm sure we would all welcome the comments.  

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