Thursday, November 25, 2010

SpellingCity and workbook options

The turkey's in the oven, dh is ahead of schedule on the food prep, and I actually have some spare time.... to tell you about! I have explored many MANY spelling websites, because when we first started homeschooling I had no idea what curriculum to use, and I was hoping I could find a website that was worked well enough that we wouldn't need to purchase a curriculum. And after trying out everything I could find, there is no doubt in my mind that SpellingCity is the best there is on the net - that is, the best there is for free or cheap, which was what I was looking for.

The website is well-designed, visually engaging for kids, and easy to navigate. The website is not cluttered up with ads, like so many others (though there are a few low-profile ads that you probably won't even notice). The primary "teaching" activity teaches one word at a time, spelling through and displaying each letter one at a time while it says the letter out loud. This method is great for kids who have a disconnect between their "eyes and ears", or have difficulty tracking the letters in a word as they sound it out. But that's not why I love it so much. What I love are the games and the customizable lists. You can enter in your own words, either individually or in batch-entry for bigger lists, and then set your child free to play several fun and effective spelling games with just those words. Your child can also do the "teach me" spelling activity with your custom words, or even take a regular test on that list. Additional noteworthy features include several sets of ready-to-go word lists for each grade level in various types of groupings, and fun games activities that quiz you on vocab and writing skills.

Because I tend to need something more tangible to guide my teaching, we opted not to use SpellingCity as a primary curriculum. We do rely on it heavily, though, for practice sessions on trouble-spot words, and for those times when I'm short on time and want to have the computer give him his test. I find consistently that ds9 retains difficult-to-spell words VERY WELL after having some time to play with those words on SpellingCity. Love it!!

So, now you want to know what primary spelling curriculum I DO use, don't you? :) Okay, here goes. There are many different approaches to spelling - literature based, spelling-vocab combo, chanting, handwriting, application through sentence writing, sequential spelling, etc. The method I decided on is phonics-based, and the two workbooks that I thought just nailed this method, were by BJU press, and Purposeful Design. With both, each word list emphasizes one main phonics group or spelling rule, and teaches helpful new info about the phonics group or rule whenever applicable. Both workbooks also incorporate a variety of fun activities designed to grow visually familiar with the words, and mentally familiar with the spelling rule or letter combos. Ultimately we picked the Purposeful Design workbook for this year, but it was a close call.

Note on spelling rules - there are MANY websites out there that provide useful info on spelling rules. If your child has a question about spelling, such as when the letter c makes a hard sound vs. a soft sound, simply do a google search for your question, and behold the wealth of information. I have not yet found a SINGLE website that comprehensively covers all the spelling rules out there - I have an easier time searching for spelling rules on an individual basis, as needed. But rest assured, if I do, I will surely let you know. :)

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