Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Spelling Power

My first rebellion against the traditional spelling curriculums came when I was teaching in a Christian school back in the early 90's. I could see that the traditional spelling books weren't effective in actually teaching the children the word spellings. They could get A's on the tests and then spell the same words wrong in their writing the next week.

At that time, I decided to use a individualized spelling program, but the board of the school vetoed my plan. (None of them were even teachers, but using the A Beka curriculum was a selling point of the school. Sigh.)

So, when it came time to teach my own kids, I decided to forego spelling instruction during the early elementary years. I didn't want to do the traditional weekly plan of a new list every Monday and a test every Friday, with meaningless practice in between. I wanted my children to be able to internalize the spellings of words, instead of memorizing them for the tests and then forgetting them immediately.

I decided to focus on phonics instruction and allow my children the freedom to write without spelling instruction during their early years. David was not ready, by my estimation, for spelling instruction until the fourth grade. Emily was ready at the same time, however, and she was in the second grade.

So, I had heard such good things about Spelling Power and it fit my requirements. I wanted something non-consumable that I could use with all my kids. I wanted it to be personalized. I wanted it to be comprehensive. I wanted it to be easy to use. The research included by the author, Beverly Adams-Gordon, was very impressive to me as well.

So we began.

My children haven't loved it, but what children love learning to spell? Not many, in my experience. I, however, have loved it. Once I learned the method, it was very easy to use. (There was a steep learning curve, which frustrated me at first. I highly suggest finding someone who has used it and ask for their help in deciphering the instructions. I also watched the video, borrowed from a friend, and that helped some.)

It takes just 15 minutes to complete the lesson each day, and about 5-10 minutes of that is direct instruction time. The remainder of the time is for the student to complete the 10 step practice and write the sentences.

The ten step practice is the strength of the program, in my opinion. And the practice steps could be used with any spelling program. The tactile step is the most important (and the easiest to skip) and it has made a big difference for David.

Spelling has been hard for David and extremely easy for Emily. She is ahead of him in spelling, but he doesn't seem to be aware of the fact. He does ask her for help in spelling sometimes, so he does recognize her abilities. Spelling Power works great for both of them. I intend to use it through high school.