Sunday, November 17, 2013

All About Spelling

I just looked through my earlier posts, trying to see if I had ever written about the spelling I'm doing with my oldest this year, and didn't see anything. How can that be? We are really doing good with spelling this year, for the first time.

Spelling has been my oldest's bane since 1st grade. We've used curriculum from Evan-Moor, BJU Press, CLE, Sequential Spelling, Rod & Staff - nothing really worked well. She liked the stories that went along with BJU, but she still couldn't spell and hated to write since she worried too much about spelling things wrong. She really liked Sequential Spelling, at first. But after about 20 lessons or so, she had decided it was boring, and she still couldn't spell the words we had "learned" at the beginning - the patterns didn't really click with her, and she couldn't remember them apart from the sequence in the lessons. I'd have to correct her on the first word, and then she'd get a few correct - until the pattern changed again. Now, Sequential Spelling might be a perfect fit for my middle child, with her excellent visual memory, but it wasn't for my oldest.

I had read about All About Spelling (AAS), and seen so many good reviews, but it was expensive, and seemed a bit overkill to me, what with all the letter tiles and "accessories." I also didn't like how teacher-intensive it was. I wanted independent! I didn't think Rebekah was dyslexic (which AAS is supposedly really good for helping) - she reads well above grade level, and loves reading. But after everything else seemed to be not working, I decided to splurge and try it for 3rd grade.

It is amazing! Rebekah's spelling has improved drastically, and she loves our spelling lessons! I'm even enjoying them, and not minding how teacher-intensive they are. If she starts to misspell something when writing for other subjects, I just have to remind her to sound it out like in our spelling lessons, and she can usually figure it out. She will write more now, with less fear of misspelling things (though her writing level is not as high as I'd like it - we may be focusing on that area next!). We are almost through with Level 1 of AAS, and I just ordered Level 2. We should be able to get through that by the end of the year, I believe, and she will be basically at grade level then. You can start AAS in 1st grade, but I think it might be better to wait until the child can read at a 1st grade level, thus doing Level 1 in 2nd grade, Level 2 in 3rd, etc. But every child will be different, I'm sure. AAS is designed for one-on-one teaching, going at the speed the student needs, and not just blasting ahead with one spelling list a week, like so many other methods.

AAS teaches the rules about why things are spelled the way they are, and that is apparently what my daughter needed to learn. I've always been an excellent speller, but I didn't know these rules - I just spell things the way they look right, and had no idea spelling followed rules so much! So I'm learning too.

It's great for reinforcing phonics too. Rebekah needed some reinforcing on that, since her earlier phonics lessons didn't seem to stick. It's like a lightbulb went on, now that she's hearing the sounds and connecting them with the correct letters. Before, she just seemed to draw a blank when she had to figure out what letter was making a particular sound. She could go the other direction  easily - from written letter to sound - but had a terrible time going from the sound to the correct letter. AAS starts with learning all the sounds the letters make, getting into blends and digraphs later. That's one reason I think it might be best to wait until after a child has learned both short and long vowel sounds, and possibly other sounds (like /ah/), before starting AAS, since AAS starts with teaching that "a" makes 3 sounds.

As for the teacher-intensive part, I've finally accepted that Rebekah really does so much better with me teaching her directly, and is not really ready for independent work in many areas. I had dreams at first (fantasies, maybe) of just setting work in front of her and having her learn on her own, self-taught, or video-taught, or whatever. Yeah, well, that didn't work. I've had to let go of my desire to do my own thing all morning, and buckle down to this teaching stuff. That's my job, after all! And a very rewarding job. And it will not last forever. Rebekah is already a voracious reader, and seeks out information about everything. Before long, she'll be going full-steam ahead on her own, and never looking back.

And, hopefully, spelling things correctly.

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