Learning Spelling Without the Lists {A Spelling You See Review}

There are numerous curriculums available in the homeschooling market that claim to effectively teach your children to spell.  Some live up to the claim, but the majority of them are really just various versions of the traditional approach of weekly spelling lists that students memorize for a test. Rote memorization has its benefits, but I’ve found that when it comes to spelling, it doesn’t bring the retention that I desire when teaching my own children.

Now, from the makers of the extremely popular  Math-U-See, there is a new homeschool spelling curriculum on the block. This program is able to instruct children in an easy, yet effective way that will not only give them knowledge on how to spell, but help them remember the words they’ve learned after the lesson is complete.
Spelling You See uses a research based, developmentally appropriate and natural approach to helping children learn how to spell. I was privileged to be given the opportunity to review the first level in this new series, Spelling You See: Listen and Write (Level A).

Overall, this program contains five levels that are designed to follow the five developmental stages of language learning:

Stage 1: Preliterate: This stage is for children who are just learning to explore books, how to develop beginning writing skills, and learn that words on a page track from left to right.

Stage 2: Phonetic: Next comes the stage where young ones learn that every letter has a corresponding sound and that letters are strung together to make words.

Stage 3: Skill Development: Students begin to learn that phonetic rules have many exceptions when it comes to spelling words.  This stage, according to Dr. Karen Holinga, is the most critically important stage.

Stage 4: Word Extension: Learning the hows and whys behind rules that apply to prefixes, suffixes, syllables, and more is what happens in this level.  This area can be difficult for many children,but it is essential for future spelling proficiency.
Stage 5: Derivational Constancy: Finally, children learn about patterns that exist in our language between words that share origins or derivations. 

You can find a brief video on the Spelling You See site that explains each of these stages more in depth here.

Now for more on the level that we reviewed, Listen and Write.

Spelling You See Review

None of the levels of the program have specific age ranges because they are designed to be used with children as they progress naturally through the above stages of language development. I’d suggest that most children would be ready for this level between the ages of 4-7 or during the early elementary years.  I used this with my recently turned six year old son.  I would say that he is currently in stage two, but I also knew that handwriting isn’t his favorite thing in the world, so we started with Level A.

Materials required for this level are:

  • Listen and Write Student Pack ($20) which includes the paperback student workbook, a fun sticker pack to use for motivation and reward, a handwriting guide chart.
  • Listen and Write Instructor’s Handbook ($14) which contains a wealth of information on how to utilize the program and helpful tips.

Spelling You See Review

There are thirty six lessons to be used throughout the school year, with each lesson taking (on average) one week to complete. The lessons are clearly broken into five sections, so there is no guess work on where to start and end each day. They are labeled according to lesson number and section (i.e. 1A, 1B, and so on to the letter E on the fifth day).

Every day’s work takes up only one page in the student workbook, which I found cuts down on feelings of being overwhelmed in my son.  The program is designed to take no more than ten minutes per day.  The Instructor’s Handbook suggests that the lesson ends after ten minutes even if the student has not completed the entire page for the day.  Go a their pace, not a preconceived notion of how fast they should be working.

In the beginning, the focus is on correct pencil grip and letter formation.  This provides a sturdy foundation to help with neat penmanship.  There is a handy guide provided in the student pack that shows children how to properly form both upper and lowercase letters.

As the year progresses, children will be introduced to dictation which has been shown to help provide retention better than rote memorization.  Using writing, reading, speaking, and listening in lessons aids in more connections being made and long term banking in their memory.  Each week, the lesson focus changes.  There is a rotation through all of the short vowels including review periods then they move to blends, digraphs, and double consonant endings.

I went into this review with little expectations.  We were excited to try something new, but I didn’t know how my reluctant writer would enjoy this approach.  I was very pleased in the end. He loves the workbooks, the short lessons, and the realization that he can spell all on his own.  It’s been a fantastic confidence booster for him in this arena.  Building a solid foundation in spelling has also given him more the gumption to try to read more as well.  I love watching him crack open a book and begin to sound out words that he would have never attempted prior to using Spelling You See.

If your child is struggling with the usual approach to spelling, I’d encourage you to give this affordable new option a try.  There are four more levels available for this program:

Level B: Jack and Jill
Level C: Wild Tales
Level D: Americana
Level E: American Spirit

You can read the placement guidelines to determine where your child would best fit.

Learn more by joining Spelling You See on Facebook and Twitter.

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