Is… (Drum roll please!)
Hands down. Seriously. It rocks! Sequential Spelling is multi-sensory and scalable from one student to twenty or more. It comes in a traditional paper and pencil form, a CD-Rom course and a web-based online format. I am a huge fan of the traditional paper and pencil, parent/teacher and student interface system. It works, and since Sequential Spelling is very pleasant, I think it’s good for the relationship between the parent/educator and child. That being said, it seems like people are always looking for online and computer based learning tools, so I would be remiss not to mention these options. No matter which format you choose, Sequential Spelling is the most efficient method for conveying the solid spelling skills that form the foundation of a good written vocabulary.
Sequential Spelling takes a student from beginning to advanced levels. It is best used every single day, so it is of limited applicability within a weekly cooperative setting. It was designed with a very powerful, intrinsic multisensory system from the very beginning. Both printing and cursive handwriting practice can easily be incorporate in this program, saving time for both the parent/teacher and child/student.
Time Out for a Look at the Big Picture
Before talking about spelling programs, I think it’s a good idea to talk about when formal spelling instruction should begin and when It should end. Formal spelling instruction should begin when the student’s handwriting is adequate and his phonemic awareness is such that he can easily read blended letter-sounds such as “ight,” “th,” “ing,” “ph,” “oo,” and “tion” as single units. Before this point you can begin some very simple spelling exercises to accelerate the student’s growth in phonemic awareness. Formal spelling instruction should cease when the student begins a level of instruction in composition where he is regularly producing essays and research papers. At this point it is helpful to make note of the student’s misspellings within his compositions, correct misspellings within his working vocabulary, and help him to expand his working vocabulary through his reading habits. The return on investment of continued formal spelling instruction is too low to justify the time expenditure. From this point onward the student’s working vocabulary will be dependent on his interests and advanced studies. Successful students and adult professionals need diverse working vocabularies to function in their various fields. There is no “one size fits all” vocabulary for adult life.
Why Sequential Spelling is the Most Effective Formal Spelling Instruction System
Sequential Spelling is designed for English speakers who have the correct level of phonemic awareness and English as a second language students. It is not grade-specific; it is designed for all students who are ready to learn to spell. Sequential Spelling has an extremely good track record with students who face extra learning challenges. It is scalable to use with a single instructor and student or an instructor with as many as twenty-five students.
Sequential Spelling makes full use of scientific research about how people acquire new knowledge, and uses a highly effective multisensory approach. It has an outstanding track record with learning disabled children, the general population of English speaking students, adults seeking to make up for gaps in their primary educations and English as a second language students of all ages. Sequential Spelling is designed to make the student feel capable and confident. From the beginning this system emphasizes building on what the student knows and encouraging the student to appreciate both his current abilities and his increasing competence.
The Bare Necessities
The book form of Sequential Spelling comes with a teacher’s guide and a student workbook. The Teacher’s guide and a composition notebook is all that is actually needed. It contains the spelling list and directions for using Sequential Spelling successfully. All the student needs is a place to write their answers – hence the composition notebook. The evaluation tests are available free of charge from Slideshare.
A Classic Sequential Spelling Lesson
Seat the student comfortably, with good lighting and an appropriate paper and pencil for writing his responses. This can vary, depending on any special needs the student may have. Say the first word. Use it in a sentence. Allow the student ample time to write the word. (Encourage the student to verbalize while sounding out the word, or form the sounds with his mouth while writing. This engages more areas of the student’s brain, accelerating his acquisition of new skills and memories.) Immediately spell the word correctly, writing it clearly where the student can see. Use at least two different colors, one for the part of the word which follows the spelling pattern which is the focus of the lesson, the other for the remaining part of the word. Encourage the student to correct his spelling immediately. Repeat the process for the next word. You can incorporate your student’s particular learning strengths into the lesson. My own children, for instance, are extremely verbal. It helps them to spell each word out loud correctly before moving on to the next word. Whatever your student’s strength is, leverage this strength to help him learn more effectively.
The Student Workbook
There is an excellent and economical student workbook which is designed to go with the Teacher’s Guide. Each lesson page can be torn from the workbook if desired. There are conventional spelling exercises on the reverse side, apparently added to accommodate consumer demand for “more of the same.” I am not fond of such exercises, as they are too often unnecessary busy work. If your student loves crossword puzzles, word searches, unscrambling letters to form words or figuring out fill-in-the-blank exercises, or if they serve as valuable extra practice, then by all means use this very inexpensive resource. You can also create such exercises on your own at no cost except your time and ingenuity.
Progress You Can Measure
Sequential Spelling lessons are engineered to build your student’s ability to spell words that aren’t even on their lists, because these lessons teach spelling patterns and skills. These lessons use the very best practices to harness how your student’s brain works. The instant feedback removes all anxiety from the lessons and allows your student to focus on learning the correct spelling and putting his new knowledge to work immediately. This cements the new skill much more quickly than the conventional systems, which tend to force the student to wait a very long time for feedback. Progress Evaluations come every forty lessons in this system, and are intended to be a celebration of the spelling patterns mastered, rather than a spelling test. Your student’s confidence in his ability to learn and willingness to attempt to spell unfamiliar words will immediately improve. His actual skills will improve as well. You will be able to see this in the evaluations, his approach to each spelling lesson and in all his written work.
Optional Materials and New Formats
I am very fond of the traditional form of Sequential Spelling, because I believe that this type of interaction is good for both the parent/educator and student/child. The parent can make subtle adjustments to improve the student’s experience, and the daily victories inherent in this program are a little more fun when they’re shared.
That being said, there is a DVD-ROM version which many teachers and students prefer. This allows the student to work independently on each lesson, while still getting most of the multi-sensory benefits of the traditional version. The student can write his answers down on paper or type them into the computer. I strongly recommend that you insist students write their answers down on paper, as handwriting is strongly correlated with better retention of new information. I also suggest that the parent/educator not entirely absent herself. It is important to look in on the student and make sure he is diligently focused, verbalizing as he sounds words out, and generally engaging in the same memory-enhancing exercises you would encourage if you were actively teaching the lesson. For many homeschooling families with intensely interactive lessons or busy schedules, an independent Sequential Spelling lesson is a very welcome change of pace in their daily routines.
Sequential Spelling Online is arguably the least expensive Sequential Spelling option, and for some people it will seem to be the most convenient. The student’s progress is entirely tracked by the website. The parent/educator need only peek at their student/child’s progress from time to time by visiting the site. I have misgivings about this, because while your initial investment per student is only ten dollars, you do not own the curriculum set as you would if you bought the Teacher’s Guide or DVD-ROM. You have a year to push your student through it, and then your subscription expires if you choose not to renew. Further, it’s a web-based program. It won’t travel with you the way the other formats will, and hand-written responses are not an option. For just a little bit more money you could buy one of the more effective, versatile formats which you could reuse for subsequent students or resell.
How Using Sequential Spelling Can Make You a Better Educator
Sequential Spelling is a well-designed curriculum that teaches kids to spell. That’s wonderful and that’s why so many families have purchased it and used it for child after child, even from one generation to the next. The effectiveness of Sequential Spelling is reason enough to use it, but there’s a subtle bonus that I encourage you to appreciate: using Sequential Spelling correctly trains you to become a better teacher. The techniques you are using here are multisensory, low-stress, prone to lead to positive affect, and generally applicable to many, many other skills you will need to teach. As a homeschooling parent, you will be amazed to discover how much better educated you become as you educate your child. You will learn many, many things, and you will hone your ability to teach beyond your wildest hopes and dreams. The better the curriculum you use, the more research you put into your instruction, the more effective you’ll be.
I encourage you to leave comments and reviews of your own below. Feel free to send me a message if you have any questions. I answer all my comments and messages daily, so you will get a response in very short order!
All the best,