Some kids are natural spellers. I have a couple of those. Kids like these almost don't need spelling programs at all. In fact, if all of your kids are natural spellers, it is likely with some bemusement that you look around at all of the spelling programs out there. However! There are plenty of kids out there for whom spelling is a big struggle. I give you Exhibit A - my dysgraphic Michael (10). Even though he is an avid reader, he has always struggled with writing and spelling. He has worked hard, and the older he gets, the better his spelling has gotten, but he still writes some things that have me shaking my head. Because of his struggles, I was so excited to receive Spelling You See's newest program.
Spelling You See: Ancient Achievements (Level F) is unlike any program I have ever seen. Through three distinct but interrelated activities - chunking, copywork, and dictation - students practice spelling words in the context of some really fascinating passages about famous, well, ancient achievements (think cave paintings and the Great Wall of China)! The best way to understand how Spelling You See works is to look at a sample lesson (link on this page). First, the student marks "vowel chunks" (many of which I would call dipthongs) with one color (you can use pencils, crayons, or highlighters). Then he marks "consonant chunks" with another color. Finally, he marks the third letter combination type (whatever the lesson is focusing on) with a third color. In this way, the words are broken down into their component types. The second and third days, the passage is both "chunked" and copied. The fourth day, new pieces of the passage are marked and the student does his first dictation. On the fifth day, the final dictation is completed and the student sees how many words he spelled correctly.
The Instructor's Handbook ($14.00) is a very useful tool. Not only does it have all of the answers (which is really nice - sometimes it can get hard sorting through all of that "chunking" to see if your child has isolated all of the right pairs!), but it also has a *ton* of useful information about spelling. It explains the purpose of each of the steps undertaken by your child (the chunkings and the dictations, etc.). It also presents the overall philosophy of the Spelling You See program and an overview of the entire program, beginning with Level A and going all the way through Level G (the level we reviewed is the penultimate level). It is definitely a necessary part of the program.
There are many things that are great about this program. First, it really holds Michael's interest because the subject matter is so diverse. Also, the need to "chunk" words into their component parts has the feel of solving word puzzles, which Michael really enjoys. It also requires a level of concentration that we have not typically found in spelling programs. The concentration required does not equal frustration with the program, though, and that is a huge bonus for us! Also, each day's work does not take very long. Initially upon receiving the program and looking through it, I worried that spelling would all of a sudden become a very time consuming subject, but it really hasn't. It takes about 15-20 minutes per day, the same as it always has. The difference is that the week's work truly is cumulative, something that other programs strive for, but usually miss the mark on.