The primary difficulty of spelling, says author Benjamin Ludwig, is the unpredictability of the English language. While many spelling programs attempt to overcome this problem by identifying word/sound patterns, Ludwig points students toward phonetic spelling as an even more consistent pattern of identification. Phonetic spellings are those found in dictionaries, substituting certain symbols and accented vowels to denote specific types of pronunciation.
Ludwig interprets these symbols and demonstrates how students can identify words with the same phonetic spelling, providing word lists based on these patterns rather than the more artificial similarities found between English words in their normal state. A three-stage process helps students discover which words they've misspelled in their own writing, determine the cause of the errors, and ensure that they never make the same mistake again. A template is provided for each stage, and below each word list in the book is a place to add one's own words.
Word lists are grouped according to phonetic spelling. Students will need a dictionary to properly identify phonetic spellings of words not found in the book, but there is enough information included that not every word encountered needs to be looked up elsewhere. The word lists are in place to help students see all the words with a specific spelling/pronunciation combination and thereby help prevent similar errors in the future. An emphasis on repetition helps students internalize each word before moving on to the next.
Sound Spelling is addressed directly to the student and is primarily useful as a remedial text. Younger students can use the program with the help of a parent or older sibling. Students will need to have someone else go over their written work initially to find misspelled words (as the student in question will presumably not know the errors he or she has made). The greatest weakness here is that students aren't provided a means of decoding unfamiliar words, only for learning to consistently spell words already encountered. This isn't a phonics or reading course by any stretch; but for reinforcement, it can be a valuable tool for older students who still struggle with proper spelling.
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