While A Beka's early reading program uses a phonics approach, their spelling and vocabulary course seems to abandon this in favor of mere rote memorization. If your kids are able to keep up they'll acquire a pretty good-sized vocabulary, but without phonics rules to tell them why they're spelling words a certain way many students will likely become lost. Still, the books are kid-friendly and fast-paced, and like all A Beka offerings, specifically designed to be student-directed.
How Do These Work?
The series covers grades 1-12, with a poetry memorization text for kindergartners. At the core of each level is a consumable student book with teacher key and a quiz or test book with key; there are CDs for aiding poetry memorization for most levels, as well as a Spelling Challenges book of word lists to give excellent spellers an extra challenge. All you really need to complete each grade is the student text, though the tests are very useful for review, and the teacher keys will help reduce your grading time significantly.
Each student text is self-contained, with easy-to-follow instructions for each of the 34 lessons. Lessons consist of a word list and one or two pages of exercises ranging from word games to fill-in-the-blank. Spelling and vocabulary are covered together, while the poetry section comes at the end of the book and is designed to improve memorization and enunciation skills. Words are generally grouped according to theme (as in birds, sports, etc.), though there are some lists that seem to be fairly haphazard.
Teacher keys include answers to all exercises on reduced student pages, along with notes for presentation and information teachers may want to use to supplement student lessons. Most of the phonics information contained in the course is found in the teacher keys, and even then it's not a lot. The keys do offer sentences to be used for dictation, though you could easily make up your own from words included in the word lists of the student texts.
Our Honest Opinion:
This is a solid course as far as the word lists go. Your students will learn a wide range of words quickly, as well as how to use them in sentences. But they won't have a real firm grounding as far as why words are spelled the way they are, and almost none concerning the origin of words. Occasional inset boxes about the history of English provide some background, but not enough for students to use that information to decode words on their own. A lot of parents get frustrated with A Beka spelling and vocabulary because of the difficulty of the words and the sheer number of them—neither of which would be a big deal if there was more coverage of the reasons behind the variety and nature of English spelling and usage.
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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