Friday, March 28, 2014

Spelling You See {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

For years I've trusted Math-U-See to provide quality, step-by-step math instruction for our children. Steve Demme has taught my children to add, subtract, multiple, divide, and now calculate the derivatives of complex functions.

I was excited to see Demme Learning introducing a spelling curriculum this spring. Spelling You See uses short daily activities to teach correct spelling in a meaningful context. As a student works through the materials, he learns to visualize the correct spellings of words.

The five levels of Spelling You See programs are based on research into five developmental stages of spelling. There are no grade levels in the materials -- the student starts at the appropriate developmental stage and moves at his own pace. Lauren (our second grader) started with Spelling You See: Jack and Jill (Level B). This level works with students who are transitioning from a phonetic stage to a skill development stage. In other words, it is appropriate for students that can spell words phonetically but may or may not be able to spell them correctly.

Lauren loves to write stories in her free time, and she does a fabulous job of sounding out most of the words. Unfortunately, her phonetic spelling isn't always correct.

The Jack and Jill materials are divided into two books, and Lauren needed to start somewhere in the middle. We did about half of the lessons in book 1 so that she could get a feel for the Spelling You See approach. 

Each lesson in the first book has a reading portion, a copywork portion, and then a dictation portion. The reading assignments are all popular nursery rhymes, and the same rhyme is repeated for an entire week. The student is not necessarily expected to read it on her own, but the words will become familiar over the course of the week. Along with reading through the rhyme, the student looks at the passage to find words that illustrate a specific spelling concept. For instance, one day Lauren was coloring all the "Tricky Y Guys" green. Other lessons look for punctuation, vowel chunks, consonant chunks, a silent e at the end of words, etc. 

Vowel chunks and consonant chunks are the two (or three) letter combinations that make a single sound; they're often called phonemes by other programs. Lauren seemed to catch on to the idea of seeing these letter combinations as "chunks" that can be found within the word as a whole. In Spelling You See the process of hunting for those often tricky phonemes is called "chunking."

On the second page of each lesson, the parent gives the student dictation words. Since this half of the materials is geared towards students in a phonemic stage of spelling, the dictation words help the student to build on their phonics skills, especially in terms of listening for each sound within the word. After writing the word, the student reads the word aloud, further emphasizing the way each word sounds. Lauren was able to catch some mistakes when she looked at the word a second time so that she could read it aloud.

As Lauren worked through the first half of Jack and Jill, I could tell that she was learning to pay attention to words and their correct spelling. She often asked me (or a big kid) how to spell words, but now she asks us to help her figure out what letters make a particular sound in a word. For instance, she called out, "What makes the /ur/ sound in thur?" After a bit of clarification, we figured out that she was writing the word "their." I'm thrilled to see that she's now paying attention to the sounds within words and also that she's looking for the correct way to spell those sounds.

Last week I decided that Lauren was ready to move on to the second half of the Jack and Jill materials. The second student workbook follows generally the same pattern as the first one. We read the nursery rhyme together, she finds the chunks, and then she copies a few lines from the rhyme.

Instead of doing dictation (spelling words) each day of the lesson, the student only does one day of dictation in this book. On the fifth day of the lesson, the teacher dictates a longer passage for the student to write. At first I worried about the longer dictation passage. At this level, though, the student is not expected to take dictation from a whole passage or even a whole sentence. The teacher instructions for the first lessons of Jack and Jill are to dictate the week's nursery rhyme one word at a time. After copying the poem on the previous four days, the words are all familiar and Lauren found this assignment rather easy.

Spelling You See has quickly become Lauren's favorite part of the day -- perhaps because she doesn't realize how much she's learning when she does her short daily exercises. Instead of memorizing phonemes and learning spelling rules, she's paying close attention to the words so that she can highlight the correct chunks. Instead of worrying about spelling words incorrectly on a test, she's practicing words all week so that she'll remember the way they look when she writes them for dictation on Friday.    

Spelling You See's short daily exercises teach students to notice the way the word is spelled and then to correctly spell it in a different context. It's definitely working for Lauren, and I have a feeling we'll be using Spelling You See materials for a long time.

Spelling You See materials are ungraded, but the series is appropriate for beginning readers through upper elementary grades. Jack and Jill is designed for children who are moving from a phonetic stage of spelling (sounding words out) to a skill development stage of spelling. In most cases, these children would be in the lower elementary grades (Kindergarten through 2nd grade).

The Instructor's Handbook for Jack and Jill (Level B) costs $16, and the corresponding Student Pack costs $30. The Student Pack includes two workbooks, a Guide to Handwriting, and a package of erasable colored pencils.

Please note that in all of my pictures I was using printed copies from a pdf review copy. Normally these materials are only available as printed workbooks.

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  1. I'm watching these reviews -- I'm seriously considering Level A for Jude (he's still in a phonetic phase).

  2. Great review! My daughter is loving Spelling You See.

  3. I am getting ready to post my level B review! We LOVED this program :)



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