Monday, July 12, 2010

About This Spelling and Grammar...

I promised I would share with you what I use to teach spelling. I'm sorry to break it into two posts, but good grief, I had already written a book over at Suzanne's!

So you know I taught 3rd, 4th, and 1st grades in my former life. But that was only half of my teaching career. The second half of my career was spent being a "pull-out" teacher. Meaning I didn't have a class of my own but pulled small groups of children from other classrooms all day to work with them. Sometimes it was early literacy groups of struggling readers from the 1st and 2nd grades, sometimes it was dyslexic students from all over the building, and sometimes it was just to tutor kids for the state test all day long. I think my official title was "Early Literacy Specialist/Dyslexia." Fancy, no?

What I'm telling you is I had some training in teaching those who struggled with the language arts subjects.

Here is what I know about spelling and reading curriculum: you want one based on Orton-Gillingham research. There are a lot of them out there. Just look for the names Orton and Gillingham. Different curriculum cater to different personalities, but if it is based on their research, I would trust it more than anything else out there. In public schools, Orton-Gillingham based programs are mainly used for special education classes or dyslexia classes but the truth is, many, many students would benefit from them.

If you have a natural speller, this may be a non-issue for you. However, if you have a child who needs and requires spelling instruction--not just spelling lists and tests--now you know what to look for.

I use All About Spelling. (I'm an affiliate--go ahead--click my link!) It is Orton-Gillingham based. Let me show it to you.

These are the books we have so far. We have done levels 1 and 2. These are for the teacher.

You get a stack of cards for each level. They are very organized and easy to use. These cover both visual and auditory learning styles as you review each day.

Each level comes with a packet of materials including a certificate and progress chart to put on the wall.

And a jail! That's where you send the "rule breakers." *smile* My daughter loved sending them to jail.

You also get all these colorful letter tiles. They are color-coded and help your kinesthetic learners as they get to slide the tiles around to spell words instead of filling in worksheets. See those colorful disks? Those are for the kinesthetic and auditory learners too.

But if your child happens to spill NOT ONE BUT TWO COUNT THEM TWO glasses full of water and or coke on the letter tiles so that they curl up a bit and aren't really as good as they used to can use something else. This is what I plan to use with my younger daughter anyway because it's easier for little hands.
Just get some burner covers from the dollar store.

And some magnetic letters. Mine are from here. (And so is the container.)
Open it up...

...and the letters are right there in alphabetical order for you to grab and work with your student.

I prefer the magnetic letters, but the letter tiles have a purpose too. We switch back and forth.

There is a part of every lesson where your student must write 10 words that you dictate to him or her. We sometimes do this on paper. We sometimes do it on the white board. The point is...there is very little writing and very little paper used in these spelling lessons. This is all about moving and doing and saying and spelling. Not filling out a worksheet or memorizing a list of words.

Now...if you have looked at the price of this curriculum you might be thinking, "Brenda, are you crazy?" Well, let me tell you two more things because honestly, I thought long and hard before I spent that money.

#1--the lessons are scripted. I don't mean scripted in the "I'm going to poke something sharp in my eye if I have to read this boring stuff" but rather...there is NO prep. None. It is so easy to teach and it is all there for you. I just write on my lesson plans, "Lesson 1" then "Lesson 2." I have never heard my daughter complain when it was time for spelling. I think one reason she enjoys it is because she's going to get to DO things. And, they aren't that long.

#2--they are completely NON-CONSUMABLE. You heard me right mama of 5. You can use Level 1 and all the materials that came with it over and over and over again. Especially if you make a rule about no drinks at the table. There will be nothing to buy for the next child. The only time there is more to buy is if you are going to use the same level with 2 students at once.

Now, I did sign up at one time to be an affiliate for them but I have no idea where that information is and I haven't made one red cent on it. I'm telling you because it's good and it works. I don't have time for affiliates, just like Mr. Incredible.

Now quickly before this crosses the line from "blog post" to "needs to be bound and put on a library shelf." Grammar. I told you I expose my girl to grammar before we start formal instruction. Well here it is:

It's called Drops in the Bucket. This sheet will last one week. I have her do 2 sections a day. Then we check them together. Or do them together. I haven't "taught" any of this beforehand but you can teach it on the run if they have a question.

See? We're covering adjectives and adverbs. I've never even taught that but it's fairly easy to figure out and she's getting exposed to grammar terms and uses each day.

If you made it this far....congratulations. I sure hope this helps someone! If you have any questions, feel free to ask! And...please share what you use.


  1. Have you ever checked BJU Press? If so, what do you think of their techniques?

    My youngest (son) has worked with them since Pre-K and is now entering 3rd...and is doing a million times better (and happier) than my 10th grader (daughter) that was taught "sight words" in private school (STILL struggles from that, although an avid reader). Reading and spelling have been a total breeze with him, where it wasn't so with my two private schooled older ones.

    Long post, my apologies! :)

  2. Wow! This is great! I have heard over and over how wonderful ALL ABOUT SPELLING is. This is the first time I have ever heard/seen it in more detail. Thanks!
    As a newbie homeschooler (starting K this fall) when would one start All About Spelling?I would assume first grade?
    By the way, I love the burner covers idea! I am getting some TODAY!

  3. I'm so glad you highlighted All About Spelling! It was good to get the details! Now I'll have to check it out! Thanks, Brenda!

    P.S. Possibly off topic, but what do you use to teach reading?

  4. Heidi--I am not familiar with BJU very much. I understand about the sight words. Of course there ARE words they need to learn on sight, but that can't be the whole of the program. On that note...Karly. I've been using Explode the Code with Little Bit. It teaches phonics and some sight words too. And my own homemade little readers. And some reading recovery techniques. OH! That would be a really great blog post--I'll have to share about cut-up sentences with you guys! Shaper--I am going to start it in 1st with my younger daughter whereas my older daughter began level 1 in 3rd grade. But she flew through it. The thing about AAS is it helps with reading instruction too. IN FACT...they have a beautiful readers that I own as well. (I see they have more now..I only own one but it's good.) So I really think this spelling program is going to help her learn to read as well.

  5. Have you ever checked out First Language Lessons of a Well-Trained Mind? If so, what do you think?

    :) I don't usually ask for opinions of curriculum that I am already using, but I am making an exception here because every curriculum you have EVER mentioned on your blog that you love is one that we were already using and love or (more often) one that I eventually gave in, started using, and LOVE. :) So apparently, we think alike and have similar tastes. ;)

  6. Brenda,what grammer would you use for a 5th,6th,or7th grader?LucyT

    Thank you for all your help.

  7. Nice post! I enjoyed reading it. You asked what we use....I'll be posting about it on our blog soon!

    I don't want to write a comment that belongs on a library shelf. ;o)

  8. Spesamor--I am not familiar with that one and LucyT--I have NO idea! I haven't started looking into it yet!

  9. Has any one ever heard of the letter people? If so what do they think about it?It sounds a lot like All about spelling.The sight words are called renegade words.LucyT

  10. I LOVE the idea of using the burner covers for magnet boards! I'm glad you shared about this curriculum, it looks very promising. Great blog, you are very creative!


I don't get to talk to a lot of actual grown-ups during the day, so your comments make me really happy! :)