I had our 2nd and 3rd grade homeschool curriculum picked out, and it wasn’t until after we started that I thought I needed extra help teaching spelling. My kids have recently taken to writing more on their own, from lists to letters to comic style drawings. With that has come a LOT of “Mom, how do you spell…”
I was hesitant to add anything else to our days, since our Brave Writer literature guides technically have spelling words each week.
But I wanted more direction on how to teach spelling.
Now that we are done with All About Spelling level 1 with my 3rd grader, I’m sharing how we used this program, how much we covered in a day, how often we used it, and what to expect in a lesson.
I love it so far because I feel like we have a plan that is working.
I’ll also share what you need to buy to start using it, and how All About Spelling is designed to teach you how to teach and teaches your child how to decode words, not just memorize them.
If you’re new to homeschooling start here
If this is your first year, be sure to read How to start homeschooling for the total beginner: curriculum, schedules, socialization, and legal.
Still trying to figure out your “why”? You’ll want to read Pros and Cons of Homeschooling vs Public School
If you’d like to know some real numbers for homeschool expenses, I’ve shared our homeschooling expenses with 3 kids here and what we spent with just one child in kindergarten here.
What wasn’t working for us for spelling
I’m not a great speller in general. I know how to spell *most* things I need to write down, but no way of explaining why it’s spelled that way other than it just looked right! That was pretty useless to them.
Spelling lists in our language arts programs also didn’t seem to be sticking long term. We had spelling lists using Language Lessons For A Living Education in 1st grade and part of 2nd, and spelling lists in our Brave Writer Darts.
But these didn’t seem to help with long term memory! At least not with people who are less visual (myself included).
Was teaching spelling truly just memorizing thousands and thousands of word lists and patterns? Was it just writing them over and over again? How many times? Did we just need to memorize hundreds of “odd words”?
There’s an easier way, thank goodness.
I was also growing tired of just telling them how to spell most words for every writing project! While I’m there to help, it’s not a great long term plan.
So let me reassure you that you don’t need to know a thing about teaching spelling or how to spell to do All About Spelling!
All About Spelling teaches your kids the spelling rules so they can decode words on their own
This program uses the using the Orton-Gillingham approach, the same as our phonics reading program does.
Until All About Spelling I had no idea knowledge of spelling rules beyond “i before e except after c”. So it either looked right or it didn’t, and autocorrect would help me with the rest.
I was drawn to this program after reading scores and scores of Facebook recommendations for it from parents saying they’d seen a huge improvement in their kids’ spelling.
What you need to set up before you start lesson 1
You’ll need to set up your spelling box with all the color cards from the student pack. The book tells you exactly how to do this! Or, watch my video below to see how to set up the spelling box and sound tiles.
Level 1 unboxing on YouTube
Which level of All About Spelling should you start on with older kids?
The program recommends beginning at level 1 no matter the age.
Really, there’s no age that’s “too old”. If I’m learning as adult teaching this…your middle schooler or high schooler can learn too.
Having just flown through level 1 in about 2 months with my 3rd grader (who knew how to spell almost all the words), I’m very glad we started at the beginning! Here’s why.
- I learned the teaching style while words were easy and simple. Each step (they call lessons steps) follows the same pattern.
- We didn’t accidentally skip any spelling rules.
- It gave him confidence there’s a LOT of words he already knows. And word patterns.
- We learned to break words into sounds. I’m not sure it that’s taught in level 2 or reviewed, but it’s critical for this program.
- It got obvious when we got to his level because we had to slow down and cover less per session. More cards went into the review pile than previous lessons.
Is All About Spelling easy to use?
Yes! I had no knowledge of how to teach spelling and felt this was way out of my league!
i was confused about a few things though.
- What do I actually do? A whole lesson? Part? There’s no daily checklist. The book simply has 24 steps for level 1.
- Is it a daily program? Once or twice a week?
- All the tiny tile pieces seemed cumbersome and just like A LOT to me. Were they necessary?
- How to use this with two kids at the same time?
I’ll answer all those questions below!
What it’s been like to use All About Spelling so far
This is 100% parent led. Just know that! It will not be a worksheet that you give to your kids…in fact All About Spelling level 1 had zero worksheets.
You’ll figure it out after a week or so of just doing it.
Steps 1-3 will be pre-spelling skills where your kids learn all the sounds a letter can make, learn to segment words by breaking each sound apart, and lastly learn to use the letter tiles.
Step 4 on you’ll see this pattern:
- Review from the spelling box flashcards covered but not mastered
- Segmenting Words: Your child will break apart the sounds of a few new words using tokens and eventually the magnetic tiles.
- New Teaching: Some new concept is taught, and practiced. This can be covered over as many days as you like, or if your kid seems to get the pattern you can move on more quickly. This is where you’ll eventually cover all the flashcards too.
- Spell on Paper: Once your child can spell the words by segmenting their sounds, they’ll spell them all again on paper. Later in level 1 they’ll also spell 2 & 3 word phrases that you dictate to them.
- Reinforcement: More practice words to segment or write. We usually skipped these if my son breezed through the concept.
The scripted text tells you exactly what to say
Each lesson tells you exactly what to do, even what to say. Plus lots of “teaching tips”. So don’t worry about knowing how to teach it!
You read whatever is in quotes out loud.
There are also pictures inside to help give you visuals when you need to lay letter tiles out a certain way.
There’s no daily amount to cover…we just aim for 10 minutes.
All About Spelling is nice because you can go as slowly as you want. It’s mastery based…so you stay on a topic as long as needed, and practice as much as needed before moving on. Plus lots of review.
You’ll have to decide how much to do each day. I like SHORT. 10 minutes seems to work well for us! We put a bookmark in, and pick off where we left off the next time.
In the early lessons with an older child, we just flew! If he totally knew a spelling concept I wouldn’t make him do any extra reinforcement section, or the letter tiles.
I know this isn’t recommended to do that, but if he knows how to spell it already…then in my mind extra steps become busywork.
If he had any trouble, we’d go back and segment the words by either pointing to the letter tiles for each sound or just verbally segmenting the word into sounds.
That saved him time…he really didn’t like having to pull each word down and put the tiles back in order on the fridge.
We added spelling to our daily school list, 4 days a week
I enjoy doing shorter lessons 4 days a week, but I see we could do just two days a week and go slower. Or two days a week with longer lessons if my son’s attention span allows. It’s flexible!
If he gets a pattern, i skip all the extra bonus words. If he knows how to spell if without using the tiles, I don’t make him do the tiles.
Level 1 was so basic that my 3rd grader will easily finish level level 1 & 2 this year.
You can also take the placement test here. Or, just fly through level 1 and be sure you’ve covered the very basics.
All About Spelling is self paced and mastery based.
There are 7 levels, and generally speaking a level can take up to a year.
With 24 steps in level 1, you can see that would end up being a little slower than a step a week.
However, if you’re walking an older kid through level 1, the beginning material will seem easy and you may just fly through a step a day. That was our experience with my 3rd grader.
We slowed down towards the end when they introduced some new-to-us spelling rules.
What are all the color cards in the box?
All the flashcards for level 1 come in the student pack, and are organized by color.
BLUE: Key cards
These are the spelling rules and a few other basics.
What spelling rules do they learn in level 1?
Here’s what blue “key cards” we’ve learned or reviewed from level 1. I read the first part and my son is learns and memorizes the part in parentheses.
All cards get reviewed regularly and stay in review until they go to the mastered pile.
- The vowels are a,e,i,o,u, sometimes y
- A consonant is (anything not a vowel)
- names start with a (capital letter)
- Every word has at least one (vowel)
- A vowel’s first sound is (short)
- C says sss before what 3 letters? (i,e,y)
- What letters are often doubled at the end of a one syllable word? (f,l,s….taught as “floss rule”)
- CK is used only after (a short vowel)
- What are 2 ways to spell the sound of /k/ at the beginning of a word? Which do we try 1st? (CK…and try C 1st)
- Plural means (more than 1)
- 2 common ways to make a word plural are by adding (s or es)
- The vowel in a closed syllable is usually (short)
- The vowel in an open syllable is usually (long)
RED: Sound card
You’ll say the sound on the card, and they’ll write it down. For example you say mmm, and they write an m.
GREEN: Word cards
170 word cards are learned in level 1. They introduce 10 at a time all with a similar pattern.
YELLOW: phonogram cards
The phonogram cards teach kids ALL the sounds that a letter can make. For example when you show them an “a” they’ll learn to repeat “aaa, A, ah”.
This gets repeated out loud till your child can see the letter and repeat all the possible sounds it can make. For example, a can say
How can you use it with more than one child?
I originally planned to use this for my 2nd and 3rd grader at the same time, and it was CLEAR after 1 lesson we couldn’t do it together. My younger child was answering way faster than my older, and so I had no way of being sure what the other one knew.
They are fiercely competitive.
Turns out this program is designed to be used one on one for that very reason! So just note that if you have 2 or 3 or 4 kids doing spelling, you’ll have to plan in 10+ minutes per kid of extra time.
Why we are planning to get each child their own spelling box
All About Spelling recommends each child get their own spelling review box.
At first, I was just going to combine kids into one, but that would be a disaster for my brain. Keeping their progress and level separate just makes so much more sense to me.
Why I’m waiting to start All About Spelling with my 2nd grader until she’s in 4th grade
Initially, I had plans to start my 2nd grader on level 1 of All About Spelling at the same time as my 3rd grader. However, while she can spell words already like cat and mat and hat, it would be much trickier for her once words got longer.
She’s reading very beginner books at age 7.5, but has no where near the experience my oldest had at her age. She’s just not as interested. And that’s ok with me! But I feel like we’d have to work a LOT harder at level 1 with her if we do it where she’s at than if we wait a year.
She could learn the rules to decode things, which is the whole point. But I just think another year or 2 of reading will do her more good than rushing into a spelling program.
Update 2023: I thought I’d delay her starting All About Spelling till 3rd, but actually decided to wait till 4th due to the influence of Charlotte Mason’s methods. This encourages kids to read, and do copywork, but nothing more formal untii around age 10 (which will be 4th grade for us).
If you have younger kids, even a first grader, you could do level 1. If they’ve finished a phonics based reading program, you could do level 1. But ask yourself if it’d be easier on everyone to wait a year? Or 6 months?
Ask yourself if they are eager to start? If not, I don’t think it would hurt to wait and the level may be easier on you as a parent if you wait!
The minimum you need to buy to get started with All About Spelling level 1
To get started, here’s where you can get everything you need for level 1.
At a minimum you’ll need to buy the:
- Level 1 teacher’s guide
- Student book which includes colored flashcards plus bee stickers and progress charts that are purely for tracking and just for fun.
- The basic interactive kit which includes the tiles, magnets for the tiles, and dividers for all the cards.
Should you teach reading and spelling separately?
One of the best convincing articles I could find for teaching reading and spelling separately is this post from All About Learning.
In a nutshell, you can often read words you can’t spell. Such as entrepreneur, mischievous, and cantaloupe. (Yep, even typing those out I had to use autocorrect…) If your child is a strong reader but can’t spell, let them read at their own pace and spelling can come behind.
Generally better readers are better spellers. This isn’t always true, but it’s the reason I prefer to focus first on getting a solid reader before even thinking about putting time and energy into spelling.
Most of us can decode a word we read, but encoding when we spell gets trickier. You have to think about which is the right way to spell the sound.
For example: your kids may read the word “neighbor” easily. But they may wonder if it was spelled “naybor” or “naibor” or “naybor”.
What All About Spelling has to say about invented spelling
This program really discourages inventive spelling, if it’s a rule that they’ve learned. They recommend correcting anything that is a spelling rule they have learned by showing them why it’s wrong.
While I understand they don’t want incorrect pictures forming in their brain of the words, I tend to be pretty hands off if my kids are doing any writing just for fun and don’t seem to be asking me for spelling help.
But more often than not, they’re asking “Mom, how do you spell…”
Save this post for later!
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