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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 the 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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Veronica Henderson

says:

Hello my son is 12, but his spelling is terrible. How do I know where to start?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Great question, Veronica.

Please see our Spelling Placement Test to help you decide which level would be best for your student. In this program, most students need to start in Level 1, but older students will go quickly through the first levels.

All About Spelling 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, 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.

For example, we find that many students simply memorize easy words like “cat” and “kid” but have no idea why one uses a C and the other uses a K, or that the same rules that apply to these words also apply to higher-level words such as “concentrate.” Other students switch letters or leave out letters entirely. This usually occurs because they don’t know how to hear each sound in the word. Level 1 has specific techniques to solve these problems.

Level 2 of All About Spelling focuses on learning the syllable types, when they are used and how they affect spelling. This information is foundational for higher levels of spelling. Three syllable rules are introduced in Level 2, and then more in Level 3 and up. For this reason, we don’t recommend starting higher than Level 2.

However, we encourage parents and teachers to “fast track” if the student knows how to spell most of the words but does not understand the underlying basic spelling concepts. In this case, very quickly skim the parts that he 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 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.

If you have any questions, please let me know. I’m happy to help!

Sabrina K

says:

We’re half way through with level 1 and I can already see so much progress in our daughters spelling. The approach AAS offers is not overwhelming for our daughter or myself, which makes it easy to keep going. Thank you for this awesome program!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Wonderful, Sabrina! I’m so pleased that you are seeing improvements in your daughter’s spelling already, and that it isn’t overwhelming to student or teacher.

Kristen

says:

Thankful we found this system to help my eldest son. I was going crazy with our previous learn-to-read experiences.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m happy to hear that AAR and AAS are working so well for you, Kristen.

Kristen

says:

And spell 🤣 we love both AAR and AAS!

Kylie C

says:

So much to learn in order to teach! Thankful for those who have put these materials together!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Kylie! And if you have specific questions, just ask. We’re always happy to help!

Jen Lawson

says:

I’m guilty of all 10 exampes of what “not to do”. There is a huge gap in my 11year olds reading and spellling skills. Any tips for an older child with strong reading skills starting AAS level one?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sure, Jen. We have a Using All About Spelling with Older Students blog post I think you will find very helpful!

Just so you know, older students like yours tend to move through the first couple of levels of All About Spelling pretty quickly. My daughter was 10 when I “found” All About Spelling, and she was able able to complete level 1 in just one month. (But her spelling improved markedly in that month!) You may want to order level 2 and possibly level 3 as well as level 1, to save on shipping.

Let me know if you have additional questions or need anything.

Lindsey Skiffington

says:

Wow! This looks incredible, I would love to use this program for my children.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

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

Teresa

says:

I’m so sorry for the confusion, I thought I commented on one of the All About Reading Blog post I read. No, your correct my soon to be 4 yr old isn’t reading or writing. I was thinking about the pre-level All About Reading for my soon to be 4 yr old and my just turned 5 yr old. And using the spelling for my daughter going into 3rd grade, her Reading is good but she really struggles with spelling.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Oh, that makes more sense, Teresa! Most 4 and 5-year-olds are ready for the Pre-reading level, but we do have a Pre-reading readiness placement test as well.

Teresa

says:

To be honest, I don’t know. I think my next step is printing off the test to see what level each child is at? And no matter the age, I can assess to see if my soon to be 4 yr old would benefit from this?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Teresa,
Yes, the spelling placement test can be used with any age. However, it is designed to determine if a student needs to start with Level 1 or if the student can skip Level 1 and start with Level 2. The test doesn’t show if a student is not yet ready to start Level 1.

Most 4-year-old students aren’t ready to begin spelling instruction. Our Right Time to Start Spelling Instruction blog post discusses the considerations for when to begin spelling. Students should be well begun in reading before beginning spelling, and most 4-year-olds are not yet reading.

However, if your child is reading, then the next consideration would be if they know how to write letters well and are comfortable using a pencil. You can adapt All About Spelling to minimize the writing, but considering how young your child is, it may be best to use this time to work on mastering handwriting before starting spelling instruction.

Teresa

says:

I’m new to homeschooling, and so I needed this to help figure out what to get for my 3rd grader and k- son.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Do you have any questions or need help with placement, Teresa? Let me know.

Pegi Merriman

says:

We began All About Reading without All About Spelling, and then went back and added ABS. It was a perfect strategy to reinforce the phonics and reading concepts taught!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Great to hear, Pegi! Yes, spelling does support reading and doing both does allow for the best progress for many students.

Tahrin F

says:

This was such an informative read! Thank you

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Tahrin! Glad you like the information.

Marilyn

says:

interesting points to note, especially around blends…

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Marilyn.

Crystal

says:

Just ordered for my struggling speller. Looking forward to great improvement in the days to come.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Wonderful, Crystal! If you need anything or have questions as you get started, just let me know.

Sheila

says:

We just finished AAR level 2 so now I am going to add in AAS.

Amy Collard

says:

I have switched to All About Spelling for my 2 youngest children and love it. They aren’t just going through the motion and memorizing the words. They are learning the phonics behind spelling and how to use it sucessfully.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad to hear that All About Spelling is working well for your two youngest children, Amy.

Margaret

says:

We’ve been very happy and had great success with AAR, and I can’t wait to add AAS to our curriculum this year!

Lauren

says:

I just bought All-About-Spelling Level 1 for my second grader and I can’t wait to open it up!

Winnie D.

says:

I appreciate the do’s and don’t do’s – very useful as I support my dyslexic son with spelling- memorizing lists doesn’t last beyond the test….

Maria Schreck

says:

This is super helpful info!

Erin

says:

I struggle to find a spelling program that’s a good fit. My daughter seems to always just “know” how to spell words without being taught, so learning syllable types and rules feels tedious to her. The crosswords and activities are the only things she looks forward to in a spelling program, because she can practice the words in a fun way.

Dana Turnage Chong

says:

I just finished my first year of homeschooling, and I think my son missed something during his many years of public school. He is ten years old and makes tons of spelling mistakes. Thanks for the tips on how to evaluate spelling programs.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Dana. You may find our Using All About Spelling with Older Students blog post helpful as well. Let me know if you have questions or need anything.

Sarah

says:

This was so informative, thank you!

Rachel Montano

says:

Wow, not relying on copy work was eye opening for me! I really would have thought that was the best way!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Rachel,
When I was new to homeschooling, I thought copywork would be helpful for spelling as well. But my experiences with my children showed me that while copywork is useful for learning punctuation, practicing handwriting, and such, it is not effective for teaching spelling. You may find our Why Copywork Doesn’t Always Work for Teaching Spelling blog post informative as well. Let me know if you have questions.

Alison Faircloth

says:

This is exactly what I have been looking for! Spelling is our biggest challenge. We need consistency.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad this was helpful for you, Alison! Let me know if you have questions or need help with placement or anything else.

belle

says:

I really had not considered why it’s important to teach reading and spelling separately. Thank you for this VERY informative post.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are very welcome, Belle!

Robin W

says:

I’ve been so impressed with both programs. Thank you for making something easy to implement and so effective. And being so generous with all the free content!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are so welcome, Robin! I’m pleased to hear that both All About Reading and All About Spelling have been working out well for you.

Jess

says:

Such a great article.

Karis

says:

I’m getting ready to start AAS Level 1 with three of my kids, and I’m soooo excited!

Paige

says:

Starting level 3 soon

Michelle

says:

We have completed level 2 and 3 and will be starting level 4 in September. My son’s spelling has improved dramatically!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Great to hear, Michelle!