SWR: An Exceptional Phonics and Spelling Program
Melodie Adams of Hillsboro, Oregon, 3/1/2011
After teaching five children how to read using Spell to Write and Read, I would enthusiastically recommend this program to all parents desiring a rich, comprehensive, and fascinating program for teaching their children how to read. Teaching reading gets a bad rap for being a boring and difficult subject to teach. This method, however, has inspired me to learn more about the history of the English language. I love how it keeps me mentally engaged and enables my children to love words and make discoveries on their own. Please read the Senate Hearing Speech that Wanda Sanseri wrote; it sums up beautifully why this program works so well! Now, I would like to clear up two misconceptions I commonly hear about SWR.
First misconception: SWR is too labor-intensive for the teacher.
What could save more time for you as a teacher than having your children know how to read and spell very well at the beginning of their education? Reading is the foundation for every subject they will encounter, and if the foundation is not well-laid, they will struggle and need remedial help all along the way. Yes, this program has a learning curve. Yes, you should visit for a few hours with someone who has successfully used it with their own children. And yes, it would be a great idea to actually take a class from Wanda Sanseri or one of her endorsed reading instructors. Why wouldn't you want to put out some time and money on the most critical component of your children's education? Don't skimp or take short cuts on this one. Although your children may learn how to read with another program, many children struggle with spelling later on. Why not teach both reading and spelling with one seamless program and give them an appreciation for the English language along the way?
By the way, I never took the official SWR classes, but I did meet with friends who gave me the heads up on how to use the program. The manuals are not confusing, but they are packed with so much quality material that it helps to have the big picture in mind before focusing on the details. And one more thing, after teaching the first child how to read, the teacher prep time goes down to about 10 minutes per week. If you're planning on teaching several children, the original investment of time and money will pay off very quickly.
Second misconception: This program is boring and tedious for the child.
Teachers and parents seem to be convinced that children will lose their motivation to learn how to read if they are not reading small books by the second month (or earlier?) into any reading program. This has not been my experience with SWR. I have never had a child get bored with this method because they are fully acting upon each and every word. They hear it, say it, write it, see it, and mark it up. All gates of sensory input are used, so children learn regardless of whether they are visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learners. The children make discoveries about spelling patterns and get so excited that their faces are beaming and they are filled with delight and confidence in the language. They believe, rightly so, that English is a sensible language (although complicated due to its history) which they can master.
With SWR, my children learned their 26 alphabet phonograms in about 3-4 weeks, and thereafter they learned 10 spelling words per week, making a total of about 360 words during the first year. The instruction time took a total of about 20 to 30 minutes daily, four to five days each week. This is an efficient and effective use of the child's time. Each child started the word list (W.I.S.E. Guide for Spelling) at about five years old, read short readers (think Bob Books and Go, Dogs, Go) by 6-10 months, and read fluently (think New King James Bible) after 10-16 months. That may seem like a long time, but here is the difference: they not only know how to read and spell well beyond their grade level, but they LOVE to read and are well-prepared to set forth on their quest for knowledge, wisdom, and understanding.
Completing the entire program (2000 words) takes 4-6 years and provides children with a great foundation in the English language: spelling rules, basic grammar, compound words, prefixes and suffixes, analogies, antonyms, synonyms, homonyms, etc. The W.I.S.E. Guide also includes many composition and dictation exercises. There are no worksheets, no copying and memorizing words apart from the spelling rules which govern them, and no pressure to read sentences and stories before the child has truly grasped how English spelling works. SWR is never boring or tedious; it is always challenging and rewarding.
I love how SWR has given my children confidence in the English language. After four years in the program, they have smoothly transitioned into composition, grammar, and Latin studies. And as for their mother, she is still looking forward to teaching more children how to read with this wonderful program.