Learning Spelling In Context With Spelling You See: A Schoolhouse Crew Review

I’ve always struggled with the idea of teaching spelling. Presenting lists of words for the kids to learn has never fit with my own personal teaching style or the learning style of most of my kids. At the same time, I do want to help them learn to spell often used words and to recognize spelling patterns that may help them to spell unfamiliar words. So last year I was thrilled to do this review for Spelling You See. 

Spelling You See is a very unique spelling program from the creators of Math U See, Demme Learning. Last year we reviewed one of the lower levels, and, while I loved the approach and my younger girls did well with it, it was just a little below their level I found as we went on. So this year when the opportunity arose to review two of the newest Spelling You See levels, I was very excited. We received Ancient Achievements. This is considered Level F of their spelling program.

For our review, we received the Ancient Achievements student pack ($30) with two consumable workbooks (part one and part two) and a packet of erasable colored pencils. We also received an Instructors Handbook (physical paperback book) ($14) for the Ancient Achievements level. I knew that I wanted both of my younger girls to use this- grades 4 and 5- so I also ordered an additional student pack.

The levels of the workbooks are not determined by grade level. They are determined by student readiness. I used the readiness guidelines on the site to know that my girls could do Level F. The principle behind the Spelling You See program is that children will all move through various stages of spelling ability. These developmental stages are not determined by age. Some children move through stages at a different rate than others. Basing their spelling program on these principles, the developers of Spelling You See have come up with a unique program that is an excellent fit for us. And one that I think can be very useful in helping any child learn to spell.

We use Spelling You See each day of the week. On every other Friday we have co-op, so on those weeks we occasionally do just one dictation or we carry over to the next week for the dictation lessons. After using the program last year and then again this year, I know that it’s very effective to do it a little each day. When it is done daily, it only takes us a few minutes to complete that day’s work.

On the first day of the week, we read that week’s passage. The passages in Ancient Achievements are just that- historical information about important and interesting ancient achievements. I love that the work we will do learning spelling patterns is built around the context of a passage, not a list of words. As we read through, the girls are marking something in the passage. The workbook tells them what to look for that week. They may be looking for consonant chunks-two or more letters together that make one consonant sound. They may look for vowel chunks- two or more letters that make one vowel sound. They may look for “bossy r” words where r is paired with another letter to make an “r” sound (er, ur, ir). Sometimes they are looking for more than one special pattern. These patterns are marked a certain color with the colored pencils from the student pack.

After the girls mark the patterns, we go over them, and I tell them what patterns the book has marked. The program stresses that what the child actually marks isn’t always as important as why they marked it because the object is for them to begin to find patterns that make sounds.

After we’ve checked and talked about the patterns, the girls have copywork. They copy a portion of the passage onto lines on the next page. I love the integration of copywork- which I think is an excellent way to teach spelling and good writing. The passages aren’t super long, and the copywork is only a portion of the passage each day. So all of this isn’t taking forever. The girls still do better with shorter lessons- especially my younger child when copying is involved. And these lessons aren’t too long or difficult for them at all.

On the fourth day of the lesson (D) the girls will mark the passage as usual and then they will write the passage as I dictate it. They are allowed to ask for help during this dictation. The book gives them some good ideas- like not stopping to erase but just drawing a line through and keeping on. I try to keep my dictation smooth and flowing, not repeating everything over and over. But I will repeat or give hints or help as needed. At the bottom of the page is a place for the girls to write how many words they wrote correctly.

On the last day of the lesson (E), there is another marking passage. Then I dictate again. This time the girls are not supposed to get help. Again, they can count up correct words at the bottom.

There are so many things I love about Spelling You See. Occasionally I get those review items that just click for us. And I could probably write a book telling you how wonderful I think it is. I’ll sum up just a few things I love.

* It teaches words in context. I never understood word lists. Even when I was in school and learned them very easily because I’m a visual learner with a good memory, it still didn’t really make sense to me. It makes so much more sense to present a child with a passage in context and work on spelling from that.
* It is developmentally based. Not all second graders are ready for the same spelling words. They just aren’t. I learned this when I taught second grade in a Christian school before I had my own kids. I had children who would literally cry when we took weekly spelling tests. I hated it. I had to use the tests and the curriculum I was given. But it was frustrating to expect all these kids of different strengths and weaknesses and developmental levels to all spell the same words. Spelling You See guides you in determining your child’s readiness, not by a grade level, but by what they are able to do and by their developmental readiness.
* It includes copywork and dictation. Although I’m a totally eclectic homeschooler, I definitely relate to many of the Charlotte Mason philosophies and methods. And copywork and dictation have always seemed to me to be excellent tools. How better to become a good writer than to copy good models.
* It uses good, interesting passages that are instructional in and of themselves. I’ve learned quite a bit about ancient achievements this year. And it’s always fun to be somewhere and have a conversation that begins with “Mom, the ancient Chinese did that. Remember, in the spelling book.”

I love that the Spelling You See program utilizes a variety of methods that can be effective and that make sense, and it ties these all in together. Help kids identify patterns. Help kids to memorize word forms by copying. Bring in good grammar and interesting writing that the kids are reading and writing. And “test” them by having them write the words in context during dictation. It’s a winning combination. And, for my girls, it’s an excellent fit.

The Facts:
Company- Spelling You See
Product- Ancient Achievements, Level F
Age Recommendation- Not assigned by age; find readiness guidelines here.
Price- $30 for student pack with two workbooks (pt.1 and 2) and colored pencils; $14 for teacher’s handbook
Connect with Spelling You See-
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SpellingYouSee
G+: https://plus.google.com/+SpellingYouSeePage/posts
Twitter: http://twitter.com/SpellingYouSee
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/SpellingYouSee/

Crew Disclaimer

Other Schoolhouse Crew reviewers had a look at this and at the other new level of Spelling You See- Level G. Click the banner to see what they thought.

Spelling You See Review

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