Friday, March 28, 2014

Spelling You See Review

Spelling You See Review

I am so happy to share with you a new curriculum called Spelling You See! I received a PDF copy of the Spelling You See: Listen and Write (Level A) Instructor's Handbook and Student Pack to review. We needed to print out the activity pages for this product and we used a dry-erase sleeve for each page, so they could be reused as often as needed. We typically try not to waste paper, so using the dry-erase sleeves saves on needing to reprint pages. The cost of the product is $14 for the Instructor's Handbook and $20 for the Student Pack and is fairly inexpensive, considering how much material they cover, which is a lot! They only come in physical copies, however, as the PDF was only available for reviewers. There are over 200 pages to be printed between the Instructor's Handbook and Student Pack. I did not print off the Instructor's Handbook because I  read it on my computer. Though there are some extremely helpful pages that I do plan to print off to have on hand, such as the daily dictation lists. And I print off the next 7 pages we need from the Student Pack at the beginning of the week. It was recommended to complete one page per day, so I prefer the week-by-week printing, so that we don't accidentally get ahead of ourselves.

Spelling You See Review

We work on these pages almost daily (usually 5-6 days a week, depending on how many days we spend out of the house). We focus on one page per day, though occasionally Bean will request a second. I only allow a second page during weeks when we have missed a day and typically I'll space them a few hours apart. We aim for the completion of one page per day, but I let her complete the page as many times as she wants. This happens if she is trying to rush through the page the first time, and then calmly completes the page during her second attempt.

Munchkin, who is 2 1/2, is much more interested in learning to read, rather than learning to write. He enjoys fine motor activities, but besides colouring, he hasn't quite mastered tracing letters. We work on lots of simple tracing activities with him (straight lines, zig-zags, curves, etc.) that will eventually lead to working on letters. So for now, we focus on reading the letters and words. This product will be perfect for him next year or possibly the year after, depending on his progress. 

Bean, who is 4, utilizes this product more. She enjoys tracing the letters and words and likes that she is learning to read the words. She reads aloud the letters and words as she traces them. She enjoys this type of multifaceted learning: learning to read, while learning to write, while honing her fine motor skills. These worksheets are meant to help her visual memory and connects the sounds to the letters and words she is working on. We do lots of hands-on activities like this throughout the day and it has been the best way to teach them. 

Spelling You See Review

Level A came with a fantastic Instructor's Handbook that was especially helpful for me. This is our first year homeschooling, so it was a perfect way to familiarize myself with this teaching style. I read through it before I started using the Student Pack with my children and I occasionally look back to it when I have a question, because they have a very thorough explanation and walk-through of the course. It explains what the five developmental stages of spelling are and how you can tell what level your children's spelling level is.

Spelling You See comes in five levels, A-E (which you can download samples of from their website). The first level is Listen and Write, the second Jack and Jill, the third Wild Tales, the fourth Americana, and the fifth is American Spirit. This is the kind of engaging product that I want for my eager learners. Each level builds upon what you learned in the previous level, though you can start on the level your student is currently at. The first few levels could be used for remedial work for an older student who needs it and it doesn't seem like you definitely need any other level than the one your student is currently on. From our personal experience with Level A, I know that we would prefer continuing this series in order, since the teaching style is working for us.

For example, my children are using Level A, which is for a beginner reader who is learning letter names and sounds and is working on how to hold a pencil (we use dry-erase pencils). But if your child was a bit older, perhaps a first grader and knew this step already and could write lowercase letters easily and knows the sound of long and short vowels, he or she would be ready for Level B: Jack and Jill. The age range for the Spelling You See products is 4-10 years old. Most 4 to 5 year olds are in preschool or kindergarten and learning to write, so Level A would be perfect for them. Level B and Level C seem to fall into the first or second grade area. Level D is recommended for an 8 year old and Level E is recommended for a 9 year old. But it is suggested that if your 10 year old is struggling with spelling, they should start with Level D: Americana. Younger or older children can still benefit from this product if they are ready to learn how to spell or if they need to work on their spelling. 

For Listen and Write Level A there are 36 lessons divided into five parts, A through E. Each page is a worksheet that is meant to be completed in ten minutes. While it is recommended to complete as much of the page as you can in ten minutes and then put it away, even if incomplete, we do not. My daughter normally finishes before the timer is up, but occasionally she will take longer, and it upsets her to not finish it. She's a young perfectionist and has to make sure her worksheets are complete before she puts them away. I don't stress over giving her a few extra seconds to finish up.

You're meant to complete one worksheet per day and move on to the next the following day. The first fifteen lessons work on three letter words and introduce vowels one at a time. After that they move on to four letter words and then five letter words. Each page will have a focus for the worksheet at the top of the page and all of the letters are contained in boxes, which is supposed to make the brain learn sound-to-letter correspondence. Correct pencil grip is stressed and reminded for each worksheet. The Student Pack also comes with a Handwriting Guide, which is used to teach the students how to correctly write letters. Recently my daughter has been able to write a few letters completely on her own without having to trace them! 

This product also focuses on lowercase letters and not on uppercase letters. This is so that the student understands that uppercase letters are only used at the beginning of the sentence. They also focus on the importance of single stroke letter formation, excluding f, t, k and x, so that the student doesn't become confused with how to write the letter if they pick up their pencil mid-way through a letter. This is something that I have to stress with Bean, because she will often pick up her pencil or dry-erase marker mid-way through writing a letter to "fix" a part of it. So I have to remind her to write the letter all at once and that it's okay to make mistakes because she will become more efficient the more times she does it. I also have to remind her to say the sound of the letter, rather than the name. She is steadily becoming more familiar with the sounds of the letters and we have been doing letter sound activities, like matching and sorting, to go along with these lessons. 

The Spelling You See Level A product works well with our phonics activities. We originally used phonics flash cards, but now we sometimes use the dictation lists. Each week I add the words that we worked on to our "sight word/phonics word" tree, which is a simple brown tree with removable green leaves. The leaves are laminated and I write the words on them with a dry-erase marker. As they learn each word, we take the word out of the leaf bowl and add in to the tree. This way they can see their progress on the word tree. This is also the part I work on most with my son, since he does not participate in the writing part of this product. 

Spelling You See Review

While an experienced homeschooler may not feel the need to buy the Instructor's Handbook for each level, I would still recommend it. Each level comes with a dictation list that I found to be very helpful and Spelling You See does a great job explaining each level and its purpose in educating your child, what this level is going to teach and how you should go about teaching it to your child.

There is also a questions section, in case you need to look up an answer. For instance, if your child is struggling with the timed assignments, what should you do? My daughter likes challenges, but seeing the timer makes her feel like she has to rush. She quickly works through the page and then we wipe it down and she calmly starts again seeing that she still has plenty of time left to finish. As she gets more used to the timed assignments, she is becoming more comfortable with seeing the timer start and quickly working through her page, but taking her time where she needs it. On stressful days, which don't happen often, I'll remove the timer from the activity. But the timer is there to teach the student to work quickly and efficiently.

This product combines visual, kinesthetic and auditory learning, which is helpful, because children learn differently and this addresses the problems they may have with another educational product that may only focus on one or two of these learning types. And this isn't a product where you can just sit back and let your children do it by themselves. You can help them when they need it and you will be there step by step to remind them what to do and to sound out each sound with them. Or that may just be my personal preference for teaching. I don't want this to be just a boring worksheet for them, so we use these as inspiration for other activities. Like continuing the activity by bringing out our salt tray and practicing to write the words in the salt or scrambling up the letters with our letter tiles and seeing if they can arrange the word correctly (we have only worked on 3-letter words so far).

Will we continue using this product? Yes, most certainly! Have we seen improvement? Yes, but not immediately. It took more than a week for my daughter to become familiar with the routine, but now she understands what she is doing and quickly works through the worksheets. I still remind her what to do on each step. Would we pay for products from Spelling You See in the future? Yes, we plan to purchase Jack and Jill Level B when Bean completes Level A, but only when she is comfortable with continuing on to the next level.

If Spelling You See sounds like something that might work well for your children, you may also want to consider checking out their math program, which is called Math-U-See and is a division of the same company (Demme Learning). We would love to check out their Primer level and see if it works just as well with Bean! The Math-U-See products are a bit more expensive than the Spelling You See products, but from the reviews I have read, it works just as well!

Was there anything we didn't like about the product? Not specifically. While this product is very to the point and teaches easily, I did not see anywhere any suggestions on other ways we could use this teaching style or suggestions for activities that can be used to encourage them to continue learning while not working on these worksheets. We love hands-on learning and engaging learning is always more enjoyable. We are definitely learning a lot from these worksheets and I bet they will certainly pay off. But at the end of the day, they are a ten minute activity. So I find other ways to engage them with what they are learning, like using our salt tray to practice writing the words they used. We often combine our literacy and math activities with our fine motor activities and occasionally with our sensory activities. So for now, until we reach the other levels that will involve less of these hands-on activities, we will continue combining the worksheets with other activities that focus on what they learned.

~ Spelling You See Social Media Pages ~

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