Okay... I think I'm finally ready to type up my thoughts on All About Spelling. :-)
For the past month or so, we've been using All About Spelling Level 1....
After our track record with other spelling programs I was both reluctant and desperate to start something new. At least now I had a better idea about what worked for us and what didn't work. I thought AAS was a good way to go because it seemed to use the basic concepts that I liked about Spell to Write and Read but in a much more user friendly manner (at least for me). I really liked the emphasis on learning the phonograms first and the fact that you actually learn spelling rules along the way.
Okay... Alex is in third grade but I decided to start him on Level 1 anyway. I figured that if this was the right program for us, it would benefit us to start at the beginning (especially with the emphasis on phonograms and rules). Also AAS is written in a way that makes it EXTREMELY easy to go at your own pace. Clara will sometimes take a few days per lesson, while Alex will do more than one a day. I'm finding it very easy to modify for each child. Finally, Alex was not a strong speller (at grade level according to the test in the back of Spell to Write and Read) and needed to build some confidence with spelling... breezing through Level 1 has really helped his confidence level. I'm not planning on retesting him after this book as I don't really expect that his spelling level has increased. What he has gained from this level is a good solid foundation to build on and a boost to his confidence level and I don't think those will translate to a higher spelling score (yet).
Now, on to the program. I ordered one level one packet (teacher's manual and student material packet) plus one extra student packet. I did this because I am using this program with both kids at the same time. Nothing in this level is consumable (except for the progress chart) so you could use one set for multiple kids if you were not using the same level at the same time. The set really has everything and I was so impressed by the quality of the items!
Here is a look at Clara's card set....
I can tell this set is Clara's because she imediately tried to shut the lid of the box and mashed her first tab. Every set of cards is divided into three sections - Review, Mastered, and Future Lessons. For someone like me who is organizationally challenged... this has been wonderful! With each kid having their own box of cards, I never have to think about where Alex is versus Clara.... I just pull out the cards from the Review section of their box and start with the lesson. I love that the program has lots of review built in.... but that review is customized according to your child's own needs.
Oh... back to the cards themselves.... they are made from bright, heavy paper and came perforated (very well perforated I might add). No cutting or anything so getting started was very easy.
To get started, we practiced the basic phonograms over and over. I sometimes didn't even say we were doing "spelling", it was a game we played at meal times (the cards seem to always be on the dining room table). I also purchased the Phonogram CD-ROM so I could make sure we were pronouncing the sounds correctly. We have used this some, but not that much.... we'll see if we use it more in the future.
Once we got going good on the phonogram cards, we moved on to the sound cards. With these I would say the sounds a letter made and they would have to write down the appropriate letter. Clara really struggles with her fine motor skills and needs extra help with her handwriting so I just typed up the alphabet in StartWrite and let her find the appropriate letter to trace.
Now moving on to the parts that really sold me on this program... the "hands on" parts. Writing is the last step if you do the program as outlined which is great for Clara. With the concentration it takes for her to write, it frustrates her to be learning spelling at the same time. With this program she really knows the word by the time it comes to writing it and she can focus on the writing and not as much on spelling.
First of all, they use tokens to separate each word out into the sounds in the word. They pull a token down for each sound....
This sets the stage for the next step, using the letter tiles....
They start by putting the letters in order and then when given a word, they pull the letters down by sound, the same way they did with the tokens. We do this a lot with Clara. Alex, not so much. Clara needs the "hands on" plus she's just now really learning to spell. Alex doesn't need the hands on as much plus he already knows these words. I just let him go straight to writing the words on paper which is why we can go through a couple of lessons at one sitting. We do, however, get out the tiles with Alex for any new concepts and to illustrate the spelling rules. I love, love, love that this program has the spelling rules. I know it sounds crazy... but I was practically giddy the other day when we learned when to use c and when to use k when the /k/ sound is at the beginning of a word. Not one single program we had used in the past had explained that! (okay... Spell to Write and Read would have explained it if I had been able to figure it out)
Another note about the letter tiles - they are made of a laminated cardstock and are of a really nice quality. You do have to cut them out yourself, but that's not a big deal. They give you the option of ordering magnet backing to put on each tile, but we didn't get the magnets.
So, since I was pleased with Level 1, I placed another order the other day...
I got Level 2 for Alex and the Beehive Reader Level 1 for Clara. Alex hasn't started Level 2 yet (almost done with Level 1) but Clara has started with the reader. Clara is a good reader... she's been reading since she was 4 BUT she has always been a sight reader (she can be very competitive at times and started "reading" Dick and Jane books in order to keep up with Alex who was beginning to read at the time). I thought a good basic phonetic reader would be good for her... especially one that went along with our spelling program. She immediately took it to her room and read it in bed at night. I am, however, having her read it aloud to me. Most of it comes very easy to her but when she does stumble, it has been a good way to show her that the sounds and rules she is learning through spelling apply to reading as well. Since she is a good reader, she really doesn't need a separate reading program.... but this is a really nice supplement to our spelling program that helps her read better. Does that make sense?
Okay, to sum this all up....
I have found All About Spelling to be a good fit for us. The price is reasonable, the materials are reusuable, and the materials are of really good quality for the price. The program makes sense (to me) as far as the word lists and the progression of the program (many of the other programs seemed random to me). The teacher's manual is extremely easy to follow and requires no prep work on my part... I just open it up and get going at spelling time. The program is very easy to modify to your child's individual needs.... spelling with AAS looks very different for each of mine at this point - Clara does lots of tile work with little writing and Alex does very little tile work but lots of writing. It is also easy to choose your own pace without feeling "behind". I can't really tell that it is set up to be a school year program, if you know what I mean.
The biggest downside seems to be that it requires total "teacher" involvement. I will be honest here... I would love a program that I could just hand to my child in workbook form and have them work quietly on their own and then magically know how to spell without any tears! That's just not going to happen... we need this type of program. It really does not take up that much time (actually less time than our old workbook programs when you count in the time I spent dealing with meltdowns...sigh). I was scared about all of the review built in - phonogram cards, sound cards, key cards, word cards. But then I realized the point of the "review" and "mastered" dividers. We were only reviewing what we needed to review each time.... not the whole stack of cards.
Okay.... I think I'm done rambling! I hope that helps and let me know if you have any questions!