Before writing the Reason for Spelling series, the authors spent a long time in research discovering which spelling instruction methods worked. The result is a user-friendly, thorough spelling program that's both fun and attractive. Catering to a variety of learning styles, teachers lead students in word games, tactile activities, and visual exercises that are proven to increase spelling abilities. But be forewarned: this is NOT a student-directed course. You can't use the workbooks independently of the teacher guidebooks; they just won't work.
How Do These Work?
The course is designed for grades 1-6, with one student book and one teacher guidebook per grade. Grade one is "Level A,"grade two is "Level B," and so on. Levels A and B have 30 lessons; the rest have 32. Each lesson is designed for one week, five days a week, and should take about 20-30 minutes a day (longer including teacher prep time).
Each lesson begins with a Bible verse that students are expected to memorize. Then comes a story illustrating some aspect of the verse. This story is read from the teacher edition and students answer related questions. Students grade 3-6 are intended to keep a journal with entries concerning the story and the verse of the week. While this is only a spelling course, many of the assignments will reinforce reading and writing skills, as the subjects are all closely linked.
The teacher guidebooks are full of support material, so you shouldn't need supplementary texts (this is elementary spelling, after all). Lessons are not fully scripted, but bringing the information together to present to your kids shouldn't be too hard or time-consuming. Everything is clearly laid out, and student worktext pages are included with answers in reduced form in the teacher book. Many of the word lists and exercise instructions appear only in the teacher guides, so again you will need to buy both items if you plan to use this course.
Student worktexts are colorful and engaging. While this may distract some kids, most will be drawn in by the illustrations and fun activities (which include everything from mazes and connect-the-dots to simply writing out lists of words). The authors have attempted an integrated instructional approach, using both most-used word groups and phonetic rules for instruction. The pretest-review-posttest format gauges each student's prior knowledge, reinforces what he may or may not already know, and then finishes with a test to show whether he's "got it" or not. While this may sound repetitive, most students will profit from the constant exposure.
At the beginning of each book there is a placement test for students just entering the program. If they do well, you can give them extra "challenge words" with each lesson to keep them ahead. If their score is average, just have them complete the basic lesson requirements. If they get none to few of the words right, you may want to consider starting them at a lower level, or planning to go at a much slower pace. These placement tests are also available online, so you don't have to buy the book before starting.
Levels A and B include thirty days of supplementary phonics lessons. This is not a phonics course, so you can't really use it in place of one, but there is some good reinforcement here that will help kids learn to spell words correctly even if they aren't previously familiar with them.
Our Honest Opinion:
This is an excellent spelling course, but it will take some work on the teacher's part. There is a lot of information in the teacher guides, and while this is very helpful, some parents find it too much to wade through. Also, advanced students may find some of the activities (molding words in playdough, for instance) under their level or unnecessary to grasp the concepts. However, most of the activities and some of the exercises aren't integral to the lessons themselves and you can easily skip them. All in all, you would be hard pressed to find a more comprehensive or thorough spelling course, especially at the relatively low price.
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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