Are you wondering how to find the best spelling program for your child? If so, read on—this post is for you!
There are many factors to consider when evaluating a spelling program. But if you’re looking for a spelling program that works, it may be best to begin by considering what doesn’t work for most kids.
Relying on time wasters and page fillers
Workbooks filled with activities like crossword puzzles, word searches, or writing the spelling words X number of times waste valuable teaching and learning time.
Teaching “rules” that aren’t true
For example, many kids are taught that “when two vowels go walking, the first does the talking.” But did you know there are actually more words that don’t follow this “rule” than words that do?
Relying only on visual strategies (or only on phonics)
There are four important spelling strategies (phonetic, rule-based, visual, and morphemic), but the vast majority of spelling programs ignore three out of the four strategies.
Teaching all the spellings of a sound at the same time
For example, the sound of long A can be spelled A, AI, AY, EY, EIGH, EA, and more. It’s overwhelming to attempt to learn all the possible spellings at once. (Do this instead.)
Teaching spelling as part of the reading program
Instead of being taught as its own subject, spelling is often tucked in as part of the reading program alongside grammar and writing. Here’s why that doesn’t work.
Teaching blends as separate units
Some examples of consonant blends are STR, PL, SM, THR, and BR. If a child is taught the basic phonograms, he can segment words and easily spell the blends by sounding them out.
Relying on copywork to teach spelling
Copywork is good for many things (such as improving handwriting and internalizing grammar and style), but it lacks the direct spelling instruction that many children need.
Ignoring the need for review
If there is no consistent review, a student will forget a large part of what he is taught, which is frustrating for you and your child.
Assigning lists of random, unconnected words
Random spelling lists actually prevent many kids from learning to spell. Here are examples of spelling lists that don’t support learning.
Skipping spelling instruction altogether
More and more schools are choosing not to teach spelling. It’s not your child’s fault if he can’t spell if he hasn’t even been given a chance!
But as important as it is to know what doesn’t work, it’s even more important to know what does work.
Take a look at the list below. If the program you’re evaluating meets the criteria on this list, you can be confident that it will work!
Teaching through direct instruction
Your student should be told explicitly what he needs to know, following a logical order of instruction. He should not have to guess or figure out patterns on his own.
Lessons that are incremental and sequential
The program should start with the most basic spelling skills and gradually build upon skills the child has mastered, step by step.
Lessons that incorporate multisensory learning
In multisensory learning, the student sees, hears, and touches. This helps children learn through all the major avenues to the brain at the same time. Multisensory learning will increase your child’s motivation, helping him learn more and allowing him to succeed.
Phonograms are the building blocks of almost every word. When your student knows the phonograms and a manageable number of spelling rules, he can spell the vast majority of English words. Your student will be short-changed if he doesn’t learn the phonograms. Learn how phonograms work.
Teaching spelling rules
Spelling rules show the patterns and logic of the English language. When the rules that govern the majority of words are known, the exceptions become clear and easier to learn. Read more about spelling rules.
Lessons that teach the different syllable types
Spelling becomes much easier when students can recognize the six basic syllable types in words. Download a PDF showing the syllable types.
Continual review that helps make spelling stick
It only takes two minutes a day to review previously learned rules and words, but the long-term benefits are well worth the effort. Read more about effective review.
Lessons that incorporate dictation exercises
Many children can write their spelling words during a lesson, but they often misspell those same words outside of lesson time. Dictation exercises allow your student to use his new knowledge in a practical situation, promoting better spelling. Learn how dictation exercises work.
A mastery-based approach
A mastery-based program provides a foundation for long-term learning by placing your child according to ability rather than age or grade. A mastery-based program moves children to the next level only when they have mastered the current level, ensuring that there are no gaps in learning.
Teaching reading and spelling separately
When reading and spelling are taught separately, your child can progress as quickly as possible in reading (which is easier for most kids) but take as much time as she needs in spelling.
Lesson plans that are easy to follow
You have enough to do without trying to figure out how or what to teach! Make sure that the lesson plans are clear so that your attention can be on your student instead of on what to do next.
Is it possible to find a spelling program that works? Many widely known programs used in public schools, private schools, and home schools don’t work because they can’t check all the boxes above.
But don’t just take our word for it! You can decide for yourself if All About Spelling will work for your child. Download our handy “How to Evaluate a Spelling Program” checklist and then visit the All About Spelling samples page to view the Scope and Sequence, Table of Contents, and a selection of sample lessons for all 7 levels.
Do you have questions about teaching spelling? Give us a call or drop us an email! We’re here to help!