Communication is God-ordained. Without proper communication we wouldn't understand Him, each other, even ourselves. Misspelled words often lead to miscommunication, obscured meaning, and confusion. Building Spelling Skills was designed to help kids avoid linguistic mayhem and communicate in the name of the Lord using phonics and plenty of good old-fashioned repetition. This is one of the more traditional spelling courses we carry—and one of the best.
How Do These Work?
Eight consumable student books cover grades 1-8. Answer keys are available for each level, and they contain answers to all written exercises; you really don't need them, but they are very inexpensive and will save time when grading students' work. Each book includes 36 weekly units with five daily lessons for a normal school year. Units are usually organized according to phonics rules and built around lists of 20 words. The first four lessons of each unit include simply writing each word, fill-in-the-blank, and other exercises, while the fifth lesson is always an end-of-the-week review test.
While most levels use each unit to cover a new phonics rule, Book 5 groups words according to theme (sports, countries, etc.), and Book 8 according to country of origin. Each text is straightforward, and while you might need to read the instructions to your student in Book 1, for each subsequent book this works well as a student-directed course. There isn't a lot of teacher support other than a few suggestions for presentation and review at the beginning of each student text, but the lessons are so clear you don't need any.
Like most spelling programs, this one isn't real flashy. A few black and white drawings illustrate, but mostly there are lists of words and blank lines on which to write them. Some of the words are fairly advanced, especially in the later grades, but this only serves to broaden your kids' vocabularies and get a sense of how to spell and decode similar words they may encounter later. Book 1 and Book 5 have both been reissued in second editions, but the only noticeable difference is that the illustrations in the new versions are less cartoony than in the originals.
Our Honest Opinion:
These straightforward texts may not make your kids love spelling, but they will teach them how to spell consistently and well. The emphasis on phonics provides a system of patterns for students to look for, while the constant review and repetition firmly plants words in kids' minds. If your kids didn't learn to read using a primarily phonics approach this may be a little over their heads at first, but if you stick with it their understanding of the language will only be deepened. Great for the ages each level was intended, these also make excellent remedial texts for those having a hard time getting a grasp for an often frustrating subject.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur.Read more of his reviews here.
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