This year, we needed something different for spelling. We decided to give the program, Sequential Spelling a try.
Over the last few years, I thought I’d do spelling simply. I just printed out the Dolch sight words list and broke it down into groups of 10 words per week. Each week, the boys would work on their list through games, activities, and daily written “tests.” But as the words got harder, spelling time led to frustrated, confused children. Nothing made sense. The problem with using the Dolch list is that the words are all words that don’t follow phonetic patterns. There is no rhyme or reason – they are words you just have to know. So they were hard to learn. We fizzled out.
I knew we needed a different approach or I’d be destined to answering the “Mom, how do I spell…..?” questions forever.
After much research, I landed on Sequential Spelling.
This spelling program uses a building block approach to learning words. It’s kind of like LEGO. Words connect with other letters to make new words. For example, the word at can become cat. From there you grow to scat, then scatter, then scattering. Words can become quite large rather quickly, but it all makes sense and it’s easy to figure out. The key is to understand the root first and make sure they know how it is spelled before adding more letters to it.
The key is to understand the root first and make sure they know how it is spelled before adding more letters to it. So, instead of just reading off a list of words, having the kids write them all and then going back to see if they got their words right, Sequential Spelling deeply emphasizes the need to do a single word at a time. So, they write word one. Together, you check if it’s right. (I like to make them spell the word out loud to me to re-enforce the spelling orally, but you can spell it to them if that works better for your kids.) Your child makes corrections as needed. Then, you can move on to the next word.
Honestly, this has been such a major change in our spelling work this year. My boys who were feeling frustrated and like they were horrible spellers are confident and competent spellers. Instead of asking “How do I spell….?” they are asking me, “Mom, is this how I spell ….?” We’re only halfway through the first book and it has already made such a terrific impact on my kids.
To do this program, you will need (at least) the teacher’s guide. This thin book is very basic – surprisingly so. I love that it’s not a huge, overwhelming teacher guide. It’s essentially a list of 25 words each day put together on a chart. (Don’t panic. I thought 25 words was CRAZY when I opened the book for the first time. I couldn’t even get my kids to write 5 words before that. Now, 25 seems easy!). Under the charts are little notes about homophones, heteronyms, and what word families you are focusing on in this section. Every 40 days there is a “test” – basically just a review of the words you’ve been working on. The beginning of the book has a simple explanation of how to use and teach with the program as well as extra practice ideas.
The student books, in my opinion, can be optional. I’m sure you could use your own notebook if you wanted. They are quite thick – because each of the 180 days has a full-page for the 25 words, plus a daily activity on the back to reinforce the list, plus give some thinking to the meanings and uses for various words. These include word scrambles, word searches, writing sentences, etc. I am glad we are using the official student books though because it again makes it simple and easy. There is plenty of space for my son who likes to write it large block letters and also space around the words for my doodler. It’s not too distracting with a zillion graphics (although there are a few), and that’s a big perk for me since I have kids who like to get distracted easily.
Is there a downside to this program? The only thing I’ve really raised an eyebrow over is that I’ve found the some combinations of words in a single lesson somewhat confusing. For example, one lesson focused on words with both -ode words and -oad words (think rode and road.). Although it was easy enough to break them apart and explain how just because words sound like they are the same, that they aren’t always and then using the key words to help build from there. But it was one of the more challenging lessons for my boys who would get confused by the rapid family change.
As a Canadian, I’m always a little nervous of using programs that aren’t intentionally Canadian, but this program has been great because it includes both a US spelling AND a British spelling of words. We’ve actually been able to have conversations about the differences and let them spell both versions, so they are familiar with both.
We started with book 1 this year. The author recommends that this is a good book to start with kids as young as 6, but it was a good point for us to begin. If you start this from Grade 1 level, you could use this program straight through to Grade 7. We’ll just keep chipping away at the levels offered, until we get to the point that we don’t need spelling practice anymore.
Another side benefit of this program for us has been handwriting skills. Typically, my boys hate writing, but doing this spelling program has forced them to write every day. Plus, if their writing isn’t legible, it’s nearly impossible to self-edit. This has definitely helped us hone in on weak spots in their printing. I fully intend it to develop into a daily cursive writing practice as they get more confident in that skill as well.
All in all, this program is a keeper for us. We needed something that would work for confidence and success. From all that we’ve achieved so far – this program is exactly what we needed.
You can purchase Sequential Spelling from stores such as Learning House.
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