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All About Spelling, worth it for an older student?


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I'm wrestling with what to do about spelling for my daughter. She's a very advanced reader and has an expansive vocabulary. She's never struggled with spelling, however, I've noticed lately as she's writing more sophisticated passages that her spelling is based solely on exposure. If she hasn't seen it, she can't spell it. Overall her spelling isn't poor, but I'm concerned that basing her spelling solely on memorization won't scale as time goes on. 


We've been using Spelling Workout, level F. My daughter likes it -- finds the exercises fun. We do read the spelling rule together and she typically gets all or nearly all words correct on the weekly test. Sounds great, right? All is well! The other day, however, I had a suspicion that she wasn't retaining anything. I went through all words in our "retired" pile and she spelled the majority of them incorrectly, although she had no problem on the spelling test. 


I've been considering moving to a phonics-based spelling curriculum. A friend of mine uses All About Spelling and recommended it. I've seen many recommendations on this board and elsewhere on the web as well. My only concern is starting my daughter out at such a low level. She strongly resists anything perceived as "babyish" (her words) these days and I may have a colossal fight on my hands. But perhaps the slow slog in the beginning will have a long-term payoff. 


Am I overthinking this? Is all the expense/time worth it if she's not really doing poorly on her lessons now? I'm just concerned that what we're doing now is mimicry vs. learning.


Appreciate any advice from those that have walked in my shoes!

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I have only used AAS, so I can't comment on another program that would suit your needs better, but I would not go back and start AAS with anyone over 10 years old. (I am not sure how old your daughter is.)


Can you borrow from your friend? You would go through the books so quickly, hardly using the program at all. The expense does not seem worth it unless you were planning on using the books with a younger sibling.




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I think you need to take a closer look at why she is struggling. For example: missing words in her writing could just show that she needs a separate editing time. She may remember more of those words when she's looking for spelling errors than when she's working on getting her thoughts out. Make sure to give her a separate editing time.


It could also be a sign that she needs more review. You mentioned words in your "retired" pile--did you go back and re-test those, or just look for them in her writing? If you retested them, then put them into a daily review cycle. Flip through some words daily (mix up the patterns) and keep them in review until she spells them without self-correction or having to stop and think about them. You can get a lot of review done in just 3-5 minutes a day.


Does SWO work on reasons for spelling patterns? Have her identify what's tricky to remember about a troublesome word, and then what will help her remember it (if there's a rule, if she has to remember it visually, if it's a muffled vowel sound and pronouncing for spelling will help, and so on). Help her use any skills the program teaches her to work on and retain the words. 


I did start over with AAS with my 6th grader, and I'm very glad I did. He had significant spelling difficulties and needed the incremental instruction and lots and lots of review. It made a huge difference in his confidence and in his writing ability overall (the progression of dictations and writing activities made the transition to a formal writing program easier). Not all kids need that, but for kids who do, even junior high and high school isn't too late to make significant progress. All About Spelling was designed to help students retain what they have learned. There are several built-in features that facilitate this–check out this article on "making it stick."


If you do decide it would help her, use the "fast track" method when you start. How you present the idea to her can make a difference. Let her know that you know she can spell the easy words at the beginning, so that’s not going to be the focus.  The focus is seeing if there are any concepts she doesn’t know, that will help make spelling longer words easier.  When you fill in those gaps, then she’ll have the building blocks for spelling harder words.  You want the longer words to be as easy for her as the shorter ones, would she like that too?

It helps some kids understand if you compare to something like a video game or swimming lessons.  Even though level 1 of a game or of lessons is easy to do, that doesn’t mean you should jump ahead to level 10.  But it does mean that you can go quickly through the earlier levels, learning what you need to know so that when you DO get to the higher levels, you aren’t overwhelmed by having to learn too much at once.
HTH as you decide how to proceed. :-)





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