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The editors at EPS understand that good reading is best facilitated by good spelling, and that good spelling is the result of a solid understanding of phonics rules and usage. Offering a number of programs to aid both initial and remedial spelling instruction, their goal is not for students to just memorize words but to truly comprehend why words are spelled the way they are. To that end, each workbook is accompanied by a teacher's guide that explains the rules and offers tips for helping students—even students who genuinely find such study difficult—internalize the information.
Spellwell is the most traditional in approach. Intended for grades 2-5 and including two consumable student workbooks and a teacher's guide with answer key for each year, students learn to decode words based on the phonograms and their formation. On Monday students take a pretest so teachers can gauge each student's level of knowledge and ability, and on Friday they finish with a posttest; for the intervening days the kids finish homework assignments on their own, about 15 minutes per day. Exercises include crossword puzzles, word searches, etc. The information is presented in small doses so students don't become overwhelmed, and memory exercises are implemented on a daily basis so eventually what they learn becomes fully ingrained. The teacher's guides include the philosophy behind the program and answers to all exercises.
Intended more for students who have, or have had, difficulty learning to spell, How To Teach Spelling is a teacher guide that blitzes through the basic spelling rules and all the phonograms. It can be easily used to teach a single child or an entire classroom and is intended for all grade levels, whenever a student needs help. The lessons are progressive, so you can't skip around, and all of them utilize phonogram cards (not included). There are four consumable student workbooks available which contain age-appropriate presentations of the basic material in the teacher's guide, as well as exercises. Answer keys for the workbooks are available separately, but you shouldn't need them as the answers are generally included in the lessons themselves. Workbook 1 is for first grade, Workbook 2 for grades 2-3, Workbook 3 for grades 4-6, and Workbook 4 is for grades 7-12. There is some overlap in content between the workbooks, but each one is arranged according to grade level, so you don't need to worry about kids just doing the same work over and over (if you even need to use these in more than one grade level).
For high school and adult students needing remedial spelling instruction, The Spell of Words and Spellbound, both by Elsie Rak, offer a crash course in phonogram idenitification and phonics rules. Spellbound covers phonics rules exclusively, beginning with easy and moving to difficult ones. The Spell of Words focuses on phonograms, word groups, morphemes, etc. Each book is a consumable worktext and is accompanied by a teacher's manual with answers to all exercises. Because this is remedial, and therefore most students will have already encountered the material, Rak emphasizes the need to move swiftly and yet not to let students fall behind in work or comprehension. Both books should be used in conjunction with a reading program, since the author's intent is to increase reading skills and ability.
A Spelling Dictionary for Beginning Writers by Gregory Hurray is a compilation of around 1400 words demonstrated to be those most often used by beginning writers (first to second graders) and grouped alphabetically for easy reference. There are no definitions, just the words, so kids can look up spellings on their own instead of bugging their teacher or parent. Lines at the bottom of each page provide a place for students to record words they look up in a traditional dictionary on their own. Appendices in the back include a mini-thesaurus and word lists grouped according to subject (like "sports" or "body parts"). While this is an excellent reference for kids, it is in no way curricular, and should not be used to teach spelling.
Each of the books described here is easy to use and, while none of them are student-directed, require little from the teacher other than a brief presentation of material. All of them center around phonics-based spelling instruction and all of them are intended not only to improve spelling skills but to make students better communicators, writers and readers in general. The authors as a whole have been heavily influenced by the Orton-Gillingham approach, hence the recurrence of phonograms as a road to spelling mastery. Whether your student spells well already, or needs remedial coursework, these books provide excellent instruction and reinforcement.
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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