Spell To Write and Read

by Kim

Last year we started using a new curriculum called Spell to Write and Read (SWR). It is by far the most awesome curriculum I have ever worked with.

My son is so different than my daughter. He finished Kindergarten barely reading three letter words. Lots of that is because he is just wasn't interested. Mom, however, was highly interested in seeing him become a great reader by the end of the year. That didn't happen and it was frustrating. He is very smart but not very motivated to want to read. It took a while, but I realized that he is not behind. He is right where God wants him to be; otherwise, he wouldn't be there. Everyone learns at his own pace. We all learn to walk and talk at different times. Reading is no different. It took a lot to get me to that point of understanding, but I am there.

My daughter, on the other hand, is an awesome reader, but not that good of a speller. Good readers do not always make good spellers; however, good spellers always make good readers. I was looking for something that would incorporate spelling into our reading both for my son and daughter. That is when God led me to find SWR.

I read about Spell to Write and Read (a lot) and was sure it was just what we needed. I knew it had a big learning curve going into it. (A big learning curve for me, not so much for their little sponge brains.) It is very much teacher led; not one of those "here's your spelling list, memorize it and we'll have a test" kind of things. It is for all ages from Pre-k to college. Wow, and that is all in one(two) books. That works for me.

I did go to a workshop to teach me how to teach it, but that isn't required. The trainer treated us as Kindergarten students the first day and fifth graders the next. My brain came home with so many new wrinkles!!! I couldn't wait to get started.

I could see, from this workshop, that this was totally awesome. Here is why:
1. It teaches spelling in a most unique way that uses most of the senses and it doesn‘t isolate spelling. Spelling and reading should be taught together.
2. It incorporates the rules of spelling. (Finally, a dependable set of rules.) These rules don't fail and have few (very few) exceptions. They don't use faulty rules like, "when two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking." That only happens 27% of the time. What about the other 73% of the time?
3. It teaches all the sounds of a letter or phonogram (single or multi-letter) at the same time. For instance A doesn't just say /a/ as in cat for the first year and then it says /A/ as in apron or cake later on. It teaches that A says three sounds: /a/, /A/, /ah/(as in wasp). So when the kids have a pretty good working knowledge of these 70 phonograms, they can read anything AND they can spell. They can decode words they have never seen without waiting until they learn that A can also say /A/ and /ah/. This means you do not have to have a set of readers that are made specifically for the program. They can read anything.
4. They do not teach blends, such as bl or cl because these can easily be figured out by sounding out. It is also confusing when you are taught blends and then come across phonograms like ch, sh, ph. Learning blends just adds unnecessary clutter to the code of learning.
5. It doesn’t have any sight words. Using the 70 phonograms and the 28 spelling rules, you can phonetically explain 99% of the most commonly used English words. My daughter was taught sight words and did well with them. She can read well, but spelling is another story. She wants to guess at the letters and guess at larger words when reading rather than sounding them out. That is because of the sight words. We have had to reprogram her.
6. It doesn't teach letter names, only sounds. Knowing the letter names doesn't help you spell or write.
7. It doesn’t group words by patterns, such as say, may and pay because this causes the reader/speller to start from the right and read to the left. That is not good especially if there is any dyslexic tendencies. Also, all words that look like they are from the same pattern family are not. Take for example, gas, has and was.
8. It teaches grammar and writing at the same time as you are teaching spelling.
9. The most amazing thing I notice abut this curriculum is how much logic it teaches and how it sets the ground work for learning new languages. I can't say enough about it. They even have a Yahoo group where the writer of the curriculum, Wanda Sanseri and the trainers will answer questions you have. Where else can you get that?

I would highly recommend that someone interested in a good phonics based spelling program read Wanda Sanseri’s senate hearing speech. It will be eye opening. You can find it here: http://www.swrtraining.com/id27.html

Now for the negatives:
1. Spell to Write and Read is a massive program and a lot to learn for the teacher in the beginning. What program wouldn’t be if you were given K-12 all at once. It is overwhelming to look at all of it at once. If it is taken one step at a time, it is much easier. It is worth the extra work, plus you know exactly where your child is in all those subjects.
2. It requires the teacher to interact with the student. I personally don’t see this as a negative, but some may. You can’t just throw a workbook down and expect them to fill out some pages. By working in constant interaction with the student, the teacher will also learn things they never new.

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