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How to Find a Spelling Program That Works

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.

Click to download How to Evaluate a Spelling Program Quick Guide

10 Things That Do Not Work

  1. 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.

  2. 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?

  3. 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.

  4. 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.)

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

11 Things That Do 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!

Best spelling program is logical icon

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.

Best spelling program has no gaps icon

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.

Best spelling program is multisensory icon

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.

Best spelling program uses phonograms icon

Teaching phonograms
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.

Best spelling program teaches spelling rules

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.

Best spelling program teaches syllable types icon

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.

Best spelling program uses review icon

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.

Best spelling program uses dictation icon

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.

Best spelling program is mastery-based icon

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.

Best spelling program teaches spelling separately icon

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.

Best spelling program is easy to follow icon

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.

Choose a Spelling Program That Works

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 All About Spelling does check all those boxes … we guarantee it!

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!

All About Spelling - take the struggle out of spelling

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Joanna Houston

says:

I would like to know how can I find tools to help me with reading writing and spelling I have to do a lot of these things on my job when I do incident reports

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Joanna,
I think you will find All About Spelling works wonderfully even with adult learners. However, it does require someone to help you. Do you have anyone that would be willing to work with you to improve your spelling and writing?

Jenny Thomas

says:

I have a terrible time pronouncing words because I am not a good speller and was teased by everyone I knew about how I could not sound out words for the life of me. I’m nervous that I will come across a word that I can not pronounce so do you have a cd on how to properly pronounce the words? Or do you have any ideas for me because this is a big fear of mine?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Jenny,
No, we don’t have a CD or other resource to pronounce words for All About Spelling. Rather, we encourage parents, teachers, and tutors to teach their students to learn to spell with the pronunciation that is usual for their regional accent.

Yes, at times we encourage students to pronounce for spelling as a technique for tricky words, but before a word is mastered the student must hear the word said as he would normally say it, remember how to pronounce it for spelling, and then spell it. Take for example the word interest. It is very common to say this word as “intrest”, dropping an entire syllable. Students need to be able to hear, or think, “intrest”, then say “in-ter-est”, and then spell it.

If, however, you have difficulties pronouncing words to the point that your student wouldn’t know which word you meant, you can use freely available online pronunciation options. Many online dictionaries, for example, will pronounce a word for you with a click of a speaker icon. My favorite is dictionary.com.

I hope this helps, but please let me know if you need additional help or information. And many parents have told us that they have become much better spellers themselves after teaching their students with All About Spelling!

Gayle B

says:

Where does an 8th grader start? So many programs are not engaging for my middle schooler. My son reads/comprehends at 11th grade level. Writes well, however his spelling is atrocious.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Gayle,
We have a Using All About Spelling with Older Students blog post that I think you will find helpful. All About Spelling has been successfully used with numerous teens and even adults.

Struggling spellers need to start at level 1 regardless of age. Yes, the words will be easy but the concepts will be new. The blog post I linked to discusses how to fast track through the easy words while still ensuring your student masters the foundational skills that apply to words of all levels.

I hope this helps but please let me know if you have further questions or need more information.

Julie

says:

Great info! Thanks so much, makes things so much clearer

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Glad this helped to clear things up for you, Julie! Let me know if you have any questions or would like more information.

Jocelyn

says:

This looks like a great program

Dominique

says:

Wow this looks really comprehensive. So glad I found this!

Leslie Wiggins

says:

We have AAR level 1 heading our way. My 5yo is so excited to start reading like her big sisters!

Doron Vergun

says:

We will be starting spelling somewhere in the next year. So excited.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sounds great, Doron! Let me know if you have any questions, need help with placement, or anything else.

Carrie

says:

This looks like such a terrific program! I can’t wait to start it with my 7 year old son! I think it would really help with his dyslexia!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Carrie,
We have a whole page of Dyslexia Resources you will find helpful. Let me know if you need more information, have questions about placement, or need anything else.

Shannon Alexander

says:

I have been looking for a good spelling program. I love the look of All About Spelling. I have even told my husband about it. It just doesn’t seem like it would be very travel friendly. Has anyone who travels full time used it successfully?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Shannon,
If you will be traveling with All About Spelling, then I recommend skipping the physical letter tiles and getting our Letter Tile app. It makes AAS much more travel friendly!

And I’ve spoken with a number of families that take All About Spelling on the road with them. 😊

Shannon Alexander

says:

Thanks!

Kassi J

says:

Excited to try AAS for the first time this fall! It is different than anything we’ve used before, and I know our little guy will enjoy it just as he has AAR! Thank you for your curriculum and availability in answering all my questions.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re so welcome, Kassi! 😊

Julia M.

says:

I love this list! This looks like a great program and I’ll seriously consider this for next year.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Let me know if you have any questions as you consider, Julia.

Tara

says:

These are great tips, thank you!

Arlene Gault

says:

This looks like it could work well for us, we are just re-entering homeschooling

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Do you have any questions or would like more information, Arlene? Just let me know.

Mrs Ed

says:

Looks like a wonderful program – very thorough! :)

Robbie Bennett

says:

Is there anyway to receive a sample book ?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Robbie,
You can see samples from all levels of All About Spelling here. Spelling Lesson Samples

If you would like to see the product in person, simply order through our system. We have a one year, 100% guarantee, so if you decide that it’s not what you are looking for, you can return the product for a refund of your purchase price. Thank you for your interest!

Therese Allan

says:

Thank you for all the information. I homeschool my 3 kids and spelling tends to be tends to be a little challenging for all of us.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Therese,
You’re welcome! Let me know if you would like more information about All About Spelling or need help with placement or anything else. Spelling was challenging for more than one of my children, and All About Spelling made a world of differences for them!

Shannon Alexander

says:

Wow, I didn’t realize schools were giving up on spelling now too! It is such an important subject. We are looking to improve spelling skills this year.

Merry

says: Customer Service

It really is–both for writing and because it can reinforce and strengthen reading skills too. I hope you have a great year teaching your kids and helping them improve their spelling skills!

Heather Humphries

says:

Great post. Thanks for sharing.

Molly

says:

This is a great explanation of spelling programs. I think AAS would be a great fit for our family.

Molly

says:

Thank you for such a clear explanation of spelling programs. I think AAS will be a great fit for our family.

Andrea H

says:

Great learning materials!

Joy H.

says:

My kid spells pretty well, but I’d love to teach spelling rules, phonograms, and such that is included in AAS. We tried aas1 and it was so below his level that we had to go back to the lists that went with his literature curriculum. I was told by someone that it is not advised to skip levels, but how can we get past the way-too-easy levels and on to the levels he would particularly benefit from and enjoy.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Joy,
It is correct that All About Spelling really isn’t set up to skip levels. It is a building block program with each level building upon the previous one. The rules and concepts learned in Level 1 are applied in Level 2, and then those are applied in Level 3, and so on. Placement for spelling is based on the student’s knowledge of spelling rules and concepts rather than grade level, reading level, or the words a student has memorized.

We recommend older or advanced students fast-tracking through the lower levels. Very quickly skim the parts that your child already knows and slow down on the parts that he needs to learn. Pull out several words as examples. Make sure he understands the concept being taught and that he can demonstrate it back to you with the tiles or app, and then move on. This blog article on Using All About Spelling with Older Students has a good example of how you might fast track.

However, he may be able to start with level 2 and then fast track through it. Please see our Spelling Placement Test to help you decide which level would be best for your student.

I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have questions or need more information.

Angela C

says:

This was helpful!

Amber Giganti

says:

Wonderful advice!

Ashley May

says:

That is very helpful

Diane Clark

says:

Would love to win. Thanks

julie

says:

I am so thankful for all about learning! it makes me feel confident in what my children are learning.

Ashley May

says:

Trying to figure out if it is a good fit for my daughter. But the price is what is stopping me.

Ashley

says:

I went ahead and order it today along with the all about reading as well.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Wonderful, Ashley! Let me know if you have questions as you begin or ever. 😊

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Ashley,
Do you have any questions about All About Spelling and how it would fit for your daughter?

I would like to point out that we have a one-year money-back “Go Ahead and Use It” guarantee if you order directly through us. If you buy All About Spelling, use it for a while, and find it is not a good fit, you can return it for a full refund.

Let me know if you need more information.

Denise

says:

This is such great information. My little man had fallen through the cracks in public school unfortunately. We have started homeschooling and I’ve heard so much about this program and how many other homeschool parents love it. I am excited to try it!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Denise,
Let me know if you have any questions or need help with placement or anything else.

Amber Wallen

says:

This is exactly what I have been looking for! Thank you so much. My daughter is autistic and I have been looking high and low for a spelling curriculum that would fit her. This has always been my first choice. Thank you for the pointers!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Amber. If you haven’t seen it already, I think you’ll find our Teaching Reading and Spelling to Children with Autism blog post helpful. Let me know if you have any questions.

Sally Chancellor

says:

Many of these were new or good reminders for me, thanks for sharing!

Kelly Thompson

says:

This is great. I’ve used these books for three kids and they love them all and the instruction.

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