Review In A Nutshell:
Title: Spelling Smart: A Ready-to-Use Activities Program for Students with Spelling Difficulties
Author: Cynthia M. Stowe
Overall Rating (1-10): 10
Value (1-10): 8
Flexibility (1-10): 10
Ages/Grades: Grade 4 – adult
My helper for this review was my son, a fourth grader who exhibits difficulty learning and retaining spelling lessons.
At first I found the sheer size of the book overwhelming. But I found the book to be generally well laid out and easy to grasp.
The book relies on students building on what they already know by presenting information in a variety of ways, repeatedly, until it becomes internalized.
The problem with past spelling programs is that they present words based on context or subject and rely on students to memorize these words. Many children pick up on these spelling rules just through exposure to words in books and traditional spelling programs. But other children, like my son, need the rules to be more concretely explained. He needs spelling words introduced and organized by spelling rule.
One of the beautiful things this spelling program does is encourage children to discover the spelling rules on their own. It seems obvious that if a child makes the discoveries about spelling rules on their own, they are MUCH more likely to be internalized and carried forth to other similarly spelled words. When a child discovers the rule, it sticks.
Once the child discovers the word pattern or lesson on his or her own, a list of words sharing that pattern is introduced. The program is flexible, allowing for shorter or longer word lists which really appeals to me.
Another important aspect of this program is that it involves NO parental correction at all. It calls on the children to really notice their own work. This program slows the child down and trains them to stop and really look at what they wrote. Often this is all it takes for a child to notice blatant spelling errors. And when a child finds his own spelling mistakes, it enforces to that child that he isn’t quite the poor speller he thinks he is – he is capable of self-editing! The parent/teacher is called on to guide the child to discover other errors he might have overlooked instead of the traditional method of the parent just marking the incorrect words wrong. The book stresses that the goal is to never correct any spelling for the child and empower the child to use what he knows and the information you will provide to self-correct.
So this is, in short, how the program works:
Children are given spelling words based on spelling rules and lessons. The word lists can vary in length. When the child is ready to move on, sentences are introduced. Again, the number of sentences can vary but the book suggests 4. My child found this to be a great number – enough to practice but not at all overwhelming like other programs. Soon reinforcing activities are added in. The great thing about these is the child is allowed a large amount of choice. There are so many fun and inspirational ways to explore writing in non-threatening ways with little repetition throughout the book.
I found that this book really does work! It increases confidence, interest in writing and spelling ability. We are not even close to being done yet, but we are on our way!
Bottom Line: This book sells for around $30 which is a bargain for all the content, instruction and inspiration it provides. It is a valuable spelling program for any child who has difficulty conquering the world of spelling.