Based on the idea that spelling must be taught as an integrated element of a good language arts education, Rod & Staff's course emphasizes the practical side of spelling. The authors identify four types of vocabularies each person develops: the listening, speaking, reading, and writing vocabularies. The listening vocabulary encompasses all words a child can hear and understand; those words he can speak comprise the speaking vocabulary; the reading vocabulary includes all words he is able to read; and the writing vocabulary includes all words the child can write properly. This course unites these distinct vocabularies in an attempt to give students not just knowledge but proper understanding of spelling rules.
How Does This Work?
The curriculum covers grades 2-8 (K-1 are devoted to reading and phonics instruction). There are 34 lessons per level, each to be taught on a 3-4 day per week basis. Daily instruction and assignments should take up no more than 15-20 minutes. This is a teacher-directed program, but you won't need to spend a lot of time preparing lessons (though you will want to take some time to study and understand the instructional and course philosophy at the beginning of each teacher's guide). While you could have your kids simply complete the exercises in the workbook without using the teacher's guide, all the instruction and useful information about spelling rules, etc. is in the teacher's guide, and you can't implement the course as it was meant to be without
For each grade there is a teacher's guide and a consumable student workbook. The teacher's guide includes lesson plans, fully reproduced student pages with answers to all exercises, tests, and supplementary instructional material. The student texts are black and white with minimal illustrations; while they aren't particularly inviting, there is nothing to distract students.
The authors stress that spelling should not be taught by itself. The purpose of learning to spell words properly is to facilitate clear communication through writing, so exercises focus on developing these skills, mostly through vocabulary building. In grades 2-5, spelling words are written by students as answers to questions or to complete sentences. Most of the exercises for grades 6-8 involve students reading a definition and then writing the word being defined, thus building students' vocabularies as well as their spelling skills.
Because spelling and speaking are interlinked, parents should encourage their kids to speak properly and to enunciate well. If a child consistently mispronounces words, he will have a much harder time spelling them correctly; if he learns how to say the word properly, there is a much better chance he will be able to spell it properly as well. This program involves a strong oral element in which spelling words are consistently spoken aloud by both student and teacher, thus reinforcing the memory of the word and its uses.
The word lists for each grade level include the words research has shown to be most commonly used. Attention has been paid to ensure there are no offensive, obscene, or in other ways inappropriate words on the list, and that the words included are not only common but useful. Students and teachers are reminded consistently that the reason we learn to spell well is to write well so that we can effectively communicate the message of the Gospel to others.
Our Honest Opinion:
Like all Rod & Staff courses, this one is Bible-centered. You won't need to worry about inappropriate content, and many of the exercises are intended to illustrate virtue. The approach to spelling instruction is time-proven; there aren't flashy innovations, just straightforward instruction designed to help students spell correctly using their reading and speaking skills. Because it draws on students' most fundamental uses of the language, the program seems much more organic than courses that simply have kids memorize long lists of words out of context. While there are more "fun" spelling curricula out there, this is one of the best as far as instructional approach. It's also one of the least expensive.
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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