Saturday, January 31, 2009

All About Spelling


One of the best aspects of participating in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine review project is discovering products that I wouldn't have taken the time to really look into and finding that rare gem that surpasses my expectations. All About Spelling is one of these. This is a curriculum that appeared too "textbooky" for me, on the surface. I would have taken one look at the thick softcover books and the sheets of flashcards and thought, "Nope, too "schoolish"." In reality, this is an excellent hands-on spelling program that is perfect for my kinesthetic learners AND my visual learner.

All About Spelling uses visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning paths to help students learn more effectively. Building upon the Orton/Gillingham phonograms, AAS uses phonogram cards, letter tiles, and tokens to cement the sounds and spelling rules into the student's mind. The tokens are used to segment the sounds, the letter tiles to spell the words, and the phonogram cards to remember rules and introduce/reinforce sounds. My children found it much more fun than your typical spelling program and I loved the fact that they could learn to spell a word with the letter tiles, rotating vowels in and out to make new words, before having to actually write them on paper. The combination of activities seemed to make it easier for them to retain what they were learning.

There are currently four levels available, with plans to complete a total of six levels which would bring you through high school level spelling. The author suggests beginning with Level One no matter the age of the child, and this is the advice we followed. I used this with my 1st-8th graders and the older ones were able to breeze through the first level without problem, but I do think it helped to set up the structure of the program. I have a few children who struggle with spelling and I believe this to be a great product for my family and am fully confident in the future spelling success of my children if we continue with AAS.


The prep work to start this program is a little overwhelming. The phonogram cards come in sheets, which I then cut out and placed in a card box. The author, Marie Rippel, has responded to our pleas for less prep work and has stated plans to perforate the cards, which would be wonderful. You will need a materials packet for each child if you want to teach them at the same time. As they are manipulating the tokens and letter tiles throughout the lesson, sharing doesn't work very well. I had two sets and just rotated my children through two at a time. Because the older ones could go through the lessons more quickly, I shouldn't have more than two students in a level at a time anyway.


Once the cards are cut and filed for the level, the prep work ends. You can just pick up the book, gather your children, and start the lesson. It's very easy to use. The letter tiles come with magnets for the back and are set up in the same sequence each lesson. It is suggested that you purchase a magnetic white board and simply store the letter tiles on the magnet board, making it even easier to get started. I may do this in the future, but for now I had my children set them up themselves and found it to be good alphabetizing practice.

This was a good lesson in not "judging a book by it's cover". Sometimes there are real gems I just walk right by because it doesn't seem to be what fits my family. On closer inspection, it's perfect. If this seems like something worth looking at for your family, check out samples, find answers to FAQ's, and peruse the many articles on the All About Spelling web site.

Levels One and Two are available for $29.95 each,Levels Three and Four for $39.95 each. The Letter Tiles are $9.95 per set and are necessary for using this program. You can pick up the magnets for the tiles for $5.95, which I would highly recommend. These give them even more sturdiness (the tiles are laminated) and flexibility. There is also a phonogram audio CD for $14.95 which sounds out all the phonograms for you.

Looking for help with homophones? Marie Rippel has also brought us All About Homophones, which is a lot of fun. Check out my thoughts HERE.

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