The first time I saw All About Spelling was on a message board where everyone was discussing their curriculum picks for the next year. It seemed like every other family was using it, so I headed over to their website to check it out. To be honest, I thought I would hate it. First, there are flashcards. I am not a flashcard kind of gal. Flash cards mean my three year old trying to play “52 card pick up”, as in, “Mom, Pick it up!” and headaches from missing materials, and groans from the kids for having to do it “agaaaaiiiiiin, mom??!”
Besides, I hate spelling, in that deep down in my gut kind of way. I’m the girl who cried through every spelling list growing up, and my skills were so bad that I had a computerized pocket speller back when pocket spellers first came out. I learned to type because my spelling skills were so miserable, I needed spell check to get by with simple assignments. Even today I avoid spelling certain words, like probably, minute, and incredibly. (and yes, all three of those words showed up with a little red line, and are only correct thanks to spell check).
I felt pretty confident that All About Spelling was not for us. The only reason I started using it is that it came with a curriculum I really wanted to use (The Institute for Excellence in Writing: PAL), and I am cheap enough that if I own It, I’m going to give it a solid try.
When the package arrived, it looked simple enough. I had the level one pack, and the basic spelling tiles. I went to work putting magnets on the back of all the tiles, getting them set up on a magnetic dry erase board, and pulling apart the many, many cards. I admit that I am a visual person, so things being “pretty” matter to me. I liked that the tiles and cards were color coded in pleasant colors, and the tiles are nice and shiny. The kids were instantly excited about it, because they too inherited the “ohhh, pretty!” gene from me.
The first step, for the first lesson, is going over the phonogram cards to make sure your child knows what sounds each letter makes. I thought my son would fly through this after using Explode the Code and being able to read C-V-C words. He did, sort of. He knew the common sounds letters make, however, some letters make many sounds. Take Y for example, Y makes four sounds. This lesson was all cards and memorization, and it really didn’t make sense to me at first, but there really is value in it.
Take me for example, as a self-proclaimed terrible, horrible speller. I am pretty sure I am a product of the “whole word” approach to reading, and I am a master at “creative spelling”. This program teaches spelling systematically, and it teaches it with clearly defined rules. Because guess what, there is a rhyme and reason to the way we spell words, with few words that are true “rule breakers”. Teaching the phonetic sounds gives the child a solid database of options, so when faced with spelling something new they can break it down according to the rules, and figure it out. This is an invaluable tool to have!
All About Spelling incorporates many different ways to help your child internalize the information. The phonograms are introduced first by sound, the parent would say “the letter C makes these two sounds /k/ and /s/” and the child would repeat it back. Then, the parent would simply ask, “what two sounds does the letter c make?.” Later, the parent will say the sound, and the child will write the letter. They can also use the tiles to point to the letter. Don’t worry, your kit will come with a CD so you can hear the phonograms, and the cards have hints for the parents with words demonstrating the phonogram, so you can be sure you are saying it correctly.
After the phonograms, you’ll learn the spelling rules, which come written on key cards. These are cool, and I am learning as much as my son is. For example, did you know that “ck is used only after a short vowel” or that “c says /s/ before e, I, or y”? Well, you will if you start using this program! Your child will also practice skills like segmenting words into phonograms, they’ll practice syllabication, and of course, they’ll learn to spell!
The best part of this program is there is no “drill and kill” here. You won’t be introducing a word and then writing it a “million” times. You won’t have to use it in a sentence, and unscramble it, or find it in a crossword. The child is hearing the word, seeing the word, writing the word and touching the word. You’ll learn the how and why of spelling, and move on. You’ll learn 50 words by learning one rule. My son is learning effortlessly, and he loves to do it.
I never thought I would say that I LOVE a spelling program, but I really do love this one. I am excited it is non-consumable so I can use it with all the kids. This is the first subject we grab to do in the mornings, and some days, we even repeat the lessons for, you know, “fun”. It really is fun!