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Teaching Spelling

  • September 2, 2019
  • By Donielle
Teaching Spelling

My first student, as a homeschool teacher, was a “natural speller”. My oldest daughter just sort of picked it up as she went along. I am sure it helped that she loved to read. We used IEW’s Spelling Zoo and breezed through it in a few months.

I was the same type of speller. I only ever got one spelling word wrong on a spelling test wrong in elementary school. And I did not even get it wrong. I certainly knew how to spell “Daddy” in fifth grade. I was so bored, that I decided to start saving my favorite word to write last. Obviously, “Daddy” was the best word on that test – I dearly loved (and still do) my super sweet, strong, steady Dad. Only problem was, I fell into a daydream writing “Ode to my Daddy” in my head and imagining how happy he would be to read my budding poetical efforts.

Suddenly the teacher called out to put pencils down and turn in our tests. I was a super honest kid, so I was doomed. I may have cried so hysterically that I got sent out of class for the first time in my life. Think I am still traumatized?

The Other Kind of Speller

Then I tried using the same program to teach Sunshine Doll to spell. Oh, boy. So you remember my Daddy that I just told you about? He has a college education. He is a smart guy that can figure out how to repair most anything. But he is a terrible speller. My brother is the same. My sister is only slightly better. So it is clearly genetic.

Well, this bad spelling gene – which is actually a marvelous kinestetic, great with my hands, gene, was passed down to my second born. You should have seen her take apart a worn out American Girl doll and re-string its floppy arms and legs. At eleven years old, all by herself, no less.

But this gift-that-comes-with-a-spelling-curse does present challenges for teaching spelling. There is nothing natural about it. The inconsistent English spelling rules with a million and one exceptions, are a nightmare to this type of speller.

All About Spelling, You’re My Only Hope

I knew that this was a fairly common problem. And I had learned that the Orton-Gillingham methodology had been created years ago to teach spelling to those who do not pick it up naturally. After looking at a number of tedious and dry spelling programs, based on that method that were going to bore us both, I opted for the pricier All About Spelling program. I appreciated that it offered visual clues, with color coded letter and phonogram tiles. It offered aural review using lots of dictation. And it also used tactile review, manipulating tiles and writing the spelling words with in the context of sentences. It also has constant review woven into each lesson. Repetition is very important for those who struggle with spelling. Spelling is not something you want a student to have to stop and think about often. It interrupts the flow of thinking and writing.

Spelling Jail

My daughter’s favorite part of the program, at least at the beginning, was the “jail” that came with the program. If a word defies the rules, it is put behind the little cardboard bars. She would gleefully put the offending word card in the jail laughing that, “This word has been sentenced!”

We are now starting Level 7, the last level. She still misspells when she is in a hurry. But her spelling has improved proportionally to the work we have put into it. We have noticed great improvement. Author Marie Rippel has created an effective program. If I had tried this program with my natural speller, it would have been overkill.

I love the scripted lesson plans. There is no planning for me. The starter kit is pricey, but only has to be purchased once. We started All About Spelling in fourth grade, after failing with several other programs. The author recommends always starting with Level One, but we felt comfortable starting in Level 2.

We started with a cookie sheet as our magnet board for the letter tiles, but eventually invested in a magnet board that hangs on the wall. After all, the most fun and colorful, the fewer tears it seems. And speling is not somthing to crie abowt, is it?

By Donielle, September 2, 2019
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