Monday, July 20, 2009

Subject Study for Summer: Spelling and Vocabulary~

Spelling is an area that I found I needed to research a great deal in order to find the right programs for my two boys.

I decided quite early on that I did not agree with many of the spelling programs that I had seen. Where it copied how children learn spelling in compulsory schools. I did not want this kind of program where you have 15 new words on Monday and each day do an activity with them and then take a test on Friday.

To me, this is a mere convenience for the schools and teachers in this kind of setting, and it was one I intended to do away with in our home learning.

I had used this kind of program earlier on in our home education and found the boys would forget the words if they were not using them or they would get all of them correct because they were words they already knew. ( I realized I had a real dilemna and a program like this would not work).

While researching programs (which probably took me a good four months to do) I made up our own spelling program, that was specifically geared for each child, according to their Reading Program.

I found that it made no sense to teach a child to spell a word they could not read yet. If a child cannot decode the word, how can they be expected to spell it?

I used color coding for consonants and for vowels and vowel digraphs etc. I saw dramatic results quickly after only a few weeks. We made up exercises to go along with their words and they seemed to enjoy the change of pace, from using their spelling workbooks.

the original activity spelling sheet can be found here along with original lists that coincides with the Abecedarian Reading Program we use:

After much reading and speaking with specialists and educators I believe I have found the right combination for learning spelling in our home.

Each child has their own individual strengths and weaknesses. I quickly realized each child would need their own individualized program.

I took time to consider what programs and methods were working for the boys and how I could use what I had observed to help me find the right programs for them and for their needs and abilities.
Our writing program we use is IEW ( Institute for Excellence in Writing), and I had been listening to a video of Andrew Pudewa speak about spelling and how learners actually learn to spell and it sounded very similiar to how my older son needed to learn his spelling. I quickly purchased the Spelling and the Brain DVD and this helped clarify my understandings and helped me choose exactly which program that would help my oldest homeschooler. *if you click on Spelling and the Brain, scroll below to view a video excerpt of the DVD*
The program is called Phonetic Zoo. It is a heavily auditory program and my son is VERY much an auditory learner.
To learn more about the Phonetic Zoo Spelling Program you can join the IEW families yahoo group and ask and learn more about it there. They also have write ups and brochures in their files that help.
The program basically begins at a 4th grade level for spelling. It also has placements tests which I found very valuable when considering where to place my son. It has been very helpful and he has really been successful in his spelling.
I actually plan to make a mini-office of the program for him to use as a reference. We will have this ready when our studies begin this Fall.

Our youngest was a much harder fit for a spelling program. While he was successful I could see a need since his reading had been taking off with his new program and his writing was really going well, I felt he needed memory hooks to help him spell and reminders for certain words. He was not at the level that Phonetic Zoo began at and my youngest, while heavily auditory, also tends to be quite visual. I needed something much more multi-sensory and while Phonetic Zoo is multi-sensory he needed a bit more OG based with his spelling remediation.
The program I chose for him was All About Spelling. What a program! This is a very sequentially, OG, multi sensory based program for struggling spellers. It uses color coded magnets for spelling with very little writing, which is a nice change of pace. It works slowly with spelling rules, calling them "tips" which I liked... I do not use the words Rules for my youngest.. for him, rules are not meant to be broken, ( in spelling there are as many exceptions as there are rules) so, tips are a much more accurate word for us to use when learning spelling rules and patterns.
We have been working with this program and I have found it to be a wonderful fit for him and his spelling through this program and the use of dictation and written narration.
I can hardly imagine changing programs for their spelling. I believe the only way I would is if I was to go back to creating our own Spelling Program again, but feel they are right where they need to be for our spelling at home.

Vocabulary is usually where I raise some eyebrows. :) We do not use a vocabulary program. I dont think they work and they never helped me or my boys when they were in school.
What do we do to learn vocabulary it is really quite simple. We read.
* I read aloud to them and we will stop at times or now, the boys stop me and ask what a word mean.
* We do notebooking pages and when we do we might add some "new words" and write down the meaning of the word.

I have always found that learning vocabulary in context is the very best way to learn to speak correctly and to use words in their appropriate setting. My boys each have HIGH vocabulary due mostly to how I speak to them, by the words I use and we read all kinds of books from young readers to adult literature.
One thing I am going to try this year since their skills have sharpened is to challenge them a bit more and when there is a word they are not sure of I may at times have them guess and then look up the word to see how close they may have been. I think this will be fun and had gotten the idea from Karen Andreola's book Charlotte Mason Companion.

I am not sure we will do much more with vocabulary except this year they might be diving a bit deeper as I challenge them more in this area, so I believe our notebooking pages and oral narration will cover our new endeavors in this area of learning vocabulary at home. :)

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