Saturday, 15 September 2012

All About Spelling - our new spelling curriculum

Before I even start, I am now paranoid that I will make some dreadful spelling error, in my post about our spelling programme.

With that thought hovering, I will begin!! *grin*

Since we started our home schooling journey, we have tried using various different spelling programmes.  Our first curriculum had its own spelling/word building programme, but the 2 children who used that curriculum seem to struggle with spelling.  I don't think it really taught them the rules very well.  We tried a workbook type programme, but my oldest became overwhelmed with the 20+ words to learn per week, and the amount of writing and memorising he was to do.  I tried using a plain old, simple, spelling list - from a published list of spelling words.  Again, it was based on write/cover/check style learning, and memorising.  It wasn't really working, either. They didn't get any teaching of rules, with that, at all.  I was kind of at my wits end, because I really want my children to be able to spell well.

I came across All About Spelling, whilst looking at a spelling programme via IEW. I looked at both the one from IEW and AAS, and after asking some advice from those that have used both, decided to go with AAS.

Another bonus is that there is now a UK supplier - Conquest Books!  They only have a few products up on their website, but they are adding more in the next week or so.  They will be able to provide most things that are available from the US website.

So, what is it?  This is a great video, which tells you a bit about it, and who this programme would be suitable for.

Yes, that's right.  Anyone!

Several of those descriptions certainly summed up my children.

So, what does a lesson look like?

You can see samples of the lesson plans on this page, about half way down.  But, I will give you a glimpse of my lesson with Daniel, yesterday.

Before starting, we have the letter tiles all laid out alphabetically, ready for action. (Apologies for the blurry day over the rainbow, I will have a good camera)

To begin the lesson, you usually review previously taught concepts/words/sounds/rules.  There are 4 categories used in AAS - Phonograms, Sounds, Key cards & Word Cards.  There are cards for each of these areas, which are yellow, red, blue and green - as illustrated below.   And, yes, I found a Really Useful Box that was the perfect size to store them in!!! You didn't know I was obsessed with this brand of box?  Read here to see how much I love them!   If I remember correctly, this one is a 1.6L box.

You can also see, inside the box, that there is another, smaller box, which contains the letter tiles.  I will be needing a bigger one, soon, as there are more letter tiles to add, as you go along. The letter tiles have magnets on the back, so you can use them on a magnetic white board, if that suits your home-school environment.   If you look on Pinterest, you will see examples of people doing this.

Isn't it cute? 

We also use these in some lessons - they are used for segmenting words, or counting syllables, as well as other things, I am sure! As we haven't been using it long, I am sure I have not found all the uses for these counters!

Moving on....

So, having reviewed the previous lessons, you start by teaching the new concept.  All of the lessons are scripted, so it is easy to know what you are doing, and simple to follow on from the previous lesson.  

The child will have a new set of words, to go with each newly learnt concept. After being taught the new concept, they will be told a word to spell out.  They may use the counters first, or may go straight to the letter tiles.  They say the word, sound out the sounds in the word whilst pulling down the appropriate tile, then verbally repeat the word.  

Having done all of that for each new word, they will then have the same list, but this time they write it down on paper, saying each word once written.  

Very studious looking fellow, don't you think?! *chuckles*

You can see here, one of the words he has just gone through the process with. Here is the card I read from.

Here's another - THIS is one we have arguments about in this house.  If you don't know why, you don't know about the accent difference we have going on here.....

Once they have done, you file the cards away - either to be reviewed, or once they have it nailed, you put it in the section for words they have mastered.

You can see, then, that it is incredibly multi-sensory.  I can already see it working, only having used it for 3 weeks!  They may then be dictated 2 or 3 words to spell on paper, which will include previously learnt concepts.  So, there is also more than one method of review. Plus, for each concept there is a secondary list of words, which reinforces the concept, in addition to the list which are the core spelling words.  You can use it if needed, to build on the concept they have learnt, or as extra review. 

My oldest was a little reluctant with AAS at first, thinking the words too simple, but he soon saw the benefit of the process, as he found the odd word he hadn't learnt a rule for! They recommend, you see, that you start ANY child at the beginning, due to it being a building block plan, where you need to learn the first concepts and then build on them as you go on.  With the oldest two (who are learning at the same pace and level), we are whizzing through the easier levels, and will soon be on the Level 2.  

What are the Pro's and Con's then?

Pro's = multi-sensory; fun; bright; interesting; based on Orton-Gilllingham approach; access to a forum of other AAS users; covers "sight" words; easy to teach; you can reuse the cards for younger children as they start to use the programme; cheaper than buying each child a consumable workbook programme.

Con's = you have to purchase quite a few bits to get started; it's American, so there may be a few alterations required in some sounds or words; it's teacher-led, so more time consuming for the parent; some of the extra  bits are not available in the UK (they are not essential for using AAS, though); you have to get all the materials ready - pull apart the cards on serrated sheets, put magnets on the back of letter tiles and separate them, get boxes to file the cards into.

I did have a slight panic about the teacher-led aspect - imagining how many hours a day I would need to spend, one-to-one with each child, doing spelling (plus our Writeshop curriculum is one-to-one!).  Until I realised that, as they get older, they won't need to do spelling any more (I certainly don't remember doing spelling in high school!!), and will take less time with the older children, too.  Panic over. I have actually found, contrary to what I expected, that they get their work done FASTER, as I am supervising them.  They are all, most of the time, spending more time doing independent reading and learning, whilst they wait for me to do their one-to-one work in the mornings! Win-win!

If you like to send your children off to work on their own, and you feel you don't want to have to get so involved, this is not for you.  

If you like to see your children learn, get involved with their learning and encourage multi-sensory and thorough learning, then give it a try. They have a money-back, trial type system, where you can return it if it has not worked for you.  Personally, I doubt I will be returning anything in a hurry! Hmmm, I guess that's why they can do it - very few people return it?!

Oh yes, just remembered - the website has a spelling resource centre to help your child with spelling - useful, no matter which curriculum you are using! 

*I must let you know that I am an Affiliate for AAS, so if you are in the US, go to the website through one of my links on the side, and I get paid a small amount for any purchases you make.*

I hope I have not missed anything out, but if I find I have, I will come back and add it on to the bottom of the post.  


  1. Thanks for the detailed post and video! I recently purchased All About Reading for my daughter and am looking forward to using it.

  2. I enjoyed reading your post, as we're on our 3rd years of AAS, and I didn't know anyone in the UK used it. I normally purchase all my curriculum when I'm in the US and bring it back here with me (every 18-24 months or so). I'm glad to know there's a UK supplier now. I also used WriteShop last year and loved it! I didn't do it this year, only because my son is already doing a lot of writing in other subjects, and I didn't want to overwhelm him. He did like the program, though (he normally hates writing).