Monday, February 2, 2009

Consideration of Spelling Programs, adding it all up ~and what to do when it does'nt ~~

Having home schooled for two years now, I begin to get the sense that I am finally catching on to how my children need to learn. After hours of research and speaking to authors of programs and reading books and listening to videos, at some point you have to step back and look to see if what has been working and what has not worked. I think this could also be said for all subjects.
After having just finished watching a DVD on Spelling and the Brain ~ I believe I now know and can help my sons and others when it comes to spelling.
The first thing I have realized about spelling or any other program and subject is that it is entirely up to the learner. NOT the program, not the teacher, not the aides or manipulatives that are used. All of these things help and can truly make a clear difference but the true success to any program, workbook, teaching method is the student, the learner and their strengths.
I think this quote explains it best for me:
"Education can’t be fixed as long as we believe this basic myth. The myth is that it is possible for one human being to educate another. The fact is that the only person who can fix education is the student.
…Great teaching will solve our educational problems… Teachers teach and students educate… There are two types of great teachers which consistently motivate student-driven education: Mentors and Classics."
Oliver Van DeMille, A Thomas Jefferson Education, 2nd Edition, pages 12-13
Andrew explained something that really makes a lot of sense to me, “ insanity is when you continue to do what your doing but expect to have different results”. I remember when way back when I found out the boys were dyslexic and I researched and researched and found the “perfect” program for them. (the name is irrelevant, why because what did not work for my boys might surely work for someone else and research had proven that it had) I tried and tried with this particular reading program but each session ended with tears and my boys feeling worse about learning to read and spell than ever before. I knew at that point I was not seeing any progress so it was time to move on. (most doctors and authors of programs recommend a 6-8 week period to give things a good try, before ending the program with your child) – I could see by my 5th week I was not going to be continuing this style of remediation with my children.
Back to spelling, Andrew recommends in his workshop to” get off the paper and into the ear” philosophy – that we need to auditorally “hear” what we need to spell because so many times children are visually immature and when they see something it is not the same as when they “hear” the words, then in turn write them.
I could see how his mention of spelling variables – Frequency (repetition) Intensity ( stimulation of the words, ie., acting them out, humor with the words) and Duration – ( frequency that is over a certain time period) can really help in learning to spell. He mentioned how these variables can change with each individual student and why workbooks just do not work because of this.
I learned that if I want my sons to be really “good spellers” they have to learn like the children do who are so successful in the Spelling Bees. They learn the origin of the word/ syntax of the word (use it in a sentence) / definition of the word – all are ways the help spellers become proficient.
While learning to spell it is very helpful and important to introduce Greek/Latin roots this helps even the youngest children make connects to words and their meaning and as a result help children through these mental connections become better spellers.
While there are many spelling programs out there and each one can help a particular learner it is important to look to see what might be the best program for that particular kind of learner.
Currently, my 12 yo will be working with Phonetic Zoo ( a multi-sensory, heavily auditorial spelling program) – he is an average reader with a very high vocabulary but spelling has always been sort of a problem for him. He can spell the really hard words but actually misses most times on the smaller words like “beauty” or “dollar” etc.. it became quite frustrating until I watch a video on the IEW site that helped me understand that I might be able to find a spelling model that could help him become proficient in spelling. Here is the video:

After watching it I knew I had to find out more information about Phonetic Zoo. I did and am very pleased with what I have seen so far. ( Note* he will also be working Greek/Latin roots with a to continue with his vocabulary etc…)

My other son who is not yet able to begin Phonetic Zoo is much slower in all areas of reading and spelling. While I have seen great progress in reading his proficiency in spelling could be better – I have been working on activities
with him, having chosen words from our current reading program (AbeCeDarian) and am pleased but after much research have seen that there is a bit more I can do to help him become a better speller and also in turn a better reader.
I have looked extensively at AAS – All About Spelling and found it to be a good fit along with our Reading Program. For my son the multi sensory- OG based approach for his beginning skills to spelling will be adequate and helpful in learning spelling rules – not so much for rote practice in spelling but more for memory connections toward the spelling.

As you can see, both children have dyslexia and other learning difficulties/differences that are almost the same, yet I chose different programs for them both, as I will with other programs if a change is needed.

Anyone interested in purchasing the DVD Spelling on the Brain can look at the IEW website under spelling:

Happy Spelling!

~ Tracey

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