My experience with All About Spelling
As an occupational therapist, one of my great passions is helping children overcome their struggles with handwriting. Teaching children correct letter formations is mostly a cognitive skill and is only the first step to handwriting fluency. Children who struggle with the legibility and speed of handwriting may understand completely (at a cognitive level) how to make letters but may not have the necessary motor-memory skills. If a writer is lacking motor-memory of letter formations, they will be unable to focus on spelling or composition. After learning correct letter formations, children need to develop handwriting automaticity. Handwriting automaticity is well researched and is a fancy word for legible handwriting that is executed at a motor-memory level.
One of the things I was surprised to find out when I started reading handwriting research is that handwriting is the most significant obstacle to the quality and quantity of written language composition. Now I’m finally going to get to my point: guess what the second most significant obstacle to written language composition is? You got it, spelling.
After I teach letter formations to children, I use focus words to build motor-memory skills. In the past I used the child’s classroom spelling lists to provide the next level of “blocked” handwriting instruction. While the spelling lists gave me what I needed as far as raw materials go, I didn’t feel that I helped the child build spelling skills. The children I work with often do not gain much in the way of spelling skills with those weekly lists, word sorts, and Friday tests. So I decided to use high frequency words. However, although using high frequency words does help with very basic written communication, it does not build long-term spelling skills. Therefore, given the needs of my current clients, most of whom struggle with various levels of dyslexia and dysgraphia, I started digging around the Internet and found All About Spelling.
All About Spelling
After using the first two levels, I wanted to write this blog post review because I have found All About Spelling to be extremely useful. Here is what I love:
- Both the reading and spelling programs use an Orton-Gillingham approach – the gold standard of phonics instruction.
- Both programs are structured so that parents, teachers, coaches, and therapists like me can easily open the manual and teach the next lesson.
- All About Spelling is not a grade level approach but more of a developmental model. It uses multisensory methods to teach phonics and spelling rules. It build on skills one step at a time and is therefore accessible even for those children who struggle with profound dyslexia.
- The program is reasonably priced, and you can use it with one or several children. If it does not work for your child, you can return it within a year – in any condition!
- Customer service is pleasant and timely.
- All About Learning has a Facebook group for user discussion and questions. The moderator chimes in with helpful responses.
- They have an informative blog that regularly gives away supplemental activities.
- Kids like working on spelling in this this system because they feel successful. The program is interesting to me and the parents of the children I work with because we are all learning something new.
- As an occupational therapist who works with children with dysgraphia, I have found that this program provides optimal subject matter for working on automaticity skills. I am thoroughly enjoying developing handwriting activities for my clientele.
- All About Spelling has two supporting apps, one of which is free and is invaluable for teaching phonograms (the sounds that each letter makes).
- It’s hard not to fall in love with Marie Ripple, mother/educator who developed this system. Here is her heartfelt video about her very personal motivation and success story.
- The bottom line is: I believe this method can help so many students who struggle with learning to spell. Different students have different learning styles, and a multisensory approach such as this one reaches kids with the experiences they need.
As a reviewer I should also mention a couple of shortcomings to the system.
- In my years of practice I have witnessed the vital link between handwriting and learning to spelling and reading. While All About Spelling does include writing by hand at every step, it does not provide structured materials to support handwriting for a variety of learners’ abilities. This is not an issue for me because handwriting is my area of expertise. But for parents who are supporting children who avoid writing or have difficulty with motor learning, not having structured materials could be a stumbling block.
- All About Spelling is an adult-dependent program and has little in the way of independent learning materials for children. This is fine for parents who can sit with one child and repeat the lessons until learned, but for teachers, therapists, or tutors who want the child to review concepts between weekly visits, the program could provide more supplemental materials.
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