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The board is back in action!
It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged about All About Spelling. That’s because the materials have been sitting in my bedroom for about six months gathering dust. My son Bruce(8.5) has so much homework from school that we haven’t had time for AAS. 😦
Now [insert trumpet fanfare] Jenna(4) is a strong enough reader for Level 1. It’s so much fun to open the book, get out the deck of cards, and fall in love with AAS all over again! (More about my love affair here.)
All About Spelling is hands on, idiot proof, and fun. That’s why it’s worth finding time for. That’s why (disclaimer) I signed up to be an Affiliate.
Today I reviewed the Level 3 cards with Bruce and he aced them. Wow! He remembers!
My daughter Jenna is almost three and a half. I’ve been teaching her about letters and sounds since she was about 18 months old.
I used the same methods with her older brother, and by the time he was three he was reading Bob Books. But every kid is different, and that’s okay.
Jenna knows all of her letters and sounds, and can sound out several words on her own. More importantly, Jenna is super excited to “do reading”. She’s pulling out materials, and asking to practice on a regular basis.
Here are some of the things we have been doing:
Modified Ziggy games
I’ve previously mentioned how I bought the Ziggy game book from All About Reading, even though we aren’t actually using AAR. At this point, the learning goals of the games are way too easy for her, but Jenna still really loves Ziggy. So I’m bringing out the file folders and also pulling out some word cards.
The way we play the game is that I hide the game pieces under high-frequency words that can be sounded out. “Ziggy” asks Jenna to hand him the word that says _____. Underneath the word is a game piece. Jenna picks up the appropriate word, gives the card to me, and gives the game piece to Ziggy. Simple? Yes! But for some reason Jenna loves this.
I have been pulling cards from this deck of words I already own. It says “sight words”, but we have only been using the words that are decodable, like: but, and, cut, man etc. Then I realized that I could be making my own flashcards from the AAR activity book I purchased a while back.
Blast Off to Reading book
I purchased the AAR level 1 activity book because I was curious. I’m a former Kindergarten teacher and I don’t believe that you need to buy a special program to teach kids to read. That’s the whole purpose of my blog! But I love All About Spelling, and so I really wanted to see a little bit of what All About Reading was like. Plus (full disclaimer) I’m an AAL affiliate.
Anyhow, yada, yada, yada, AAR appears to be just as good as AAS. If you really want a program to hold your hand through the whole teaching process, then AAR would be a really good choice. I’m not personally going to use the full AAR program, but the activity book dovetails into what I’m already doing.
Leap Frog Easy Reader Phonics Kit
We have a really old Leap Pad kit that I had purchased for Jenna’s brother a long time ago for $30 at Fred Meyer. Jenna’s the perfect level for it now, and thankfully it still works! It uses the same characters as the Leap Frog Talking Words Factory videos, which is cool.
Please note, I’m including the links to Amazon for this kit at the bottom of the post, but that’s just so you can see what they look like. I bought all three kits for $30! Unfortunately, I couldn’t find that deal on Amazon. I bet there are people selling these on Ebay though. Once again, they are called “Leap Frog Easy Reader Phonics Kits”.
Talking Word Factory Videos
These are the two videos that I really credit teaching my son Bruce how to read. Unfortunately, they weren’t a magic wand for Jenna. But she still does ask to watch them every once in a while. You can probably find these videos for free at your local library.
What really seems to work for Jenna (but what her older brother Bruce was totally uninterested in), is Starfall.com. That’s been a really big help, and we’ve uprgraded to the $35/per year premium level.
Custom books tailor-made for my child? Did I mention they are free? All I have to do is make them myself. Jenna now has over thirty books that tell the story of her life. How awesome is that?
That’s my update for now. Hopefully we will be ready for Bob Books soon!
Full disclaimer: I am an All About Learning Press Affiliate. You can find out more about how much money my blog makes (yes I share real numbers) here.
For the past week Jenna(3) and I have been playing games from Adventures in Reading with the Zigzag Zebra, a Ziggy Game Book. This is a supplement to the All About Reading program published by the same company as All About Spelling.
I LOVE All About Spelling, and need to get going with it again with Bruce(7) now that school has started again. It is so much better than weekly spelling tests, and really makes a difference. So I’m sure that the complete All About Reading program would be really good too.
I’ve opted not to purchase AAR however, because I have my own free methods which I share on my Where to Start Page. However, if I had a first or second grader who wasn’t reading at grade level, I would probably take a lot of comfort in a program like AAR. Or if I felt unsteady as a teacher to begin with, then a systematic program like AAR would really help hold my hand.
But back to the Ziggy Game Book, it was under $20 and looked like it might be a good fit with what I already do. As a teacher, I was already familiar with the concept of “file folder games”. This means that ahead of time, you rip out the pages from the book and paste them onto file folders. Laminating is optional, but not necessary. I chose not to since I’m just working with one child. In a classroom setting however, laminating would be a must.
The Ziggy Game Book includes 9 games. Almost all of them use the Phonogram Cards, Word Cards, or letter tiles from the AAR kit. These pieces are not included with the activity book and must be purchased separately. But since we already own all of the AAS spelling materials, we were pretty much good to go. We have just been using the AAS cards and tiles instead.
Jenna has been asking to “play Siggy games” every single day since I first brought them out. They are not magically teaching her to read. But they are encouraging her to practice a little bit each day. She still isn’t blending, although she knows all of her letters and sounds. She also definitely understands the difference between vowels and consonants. That’s not bad for a three year old, if I do say so myself. And I do! 🙂
Here’s a fun activity to do with your 2, 3, or 4 year old that is free, builds fine motor skills, and works on phonics all at the same time. Draw a letter V on a piece of paper. Then have your child cover the V with old stickers that have been floating around your house for a while.
When you are finished, tape the V to your vacuum. Don’t forget to make a lot of “Vroom-Vroom” sounds; the more histrionics the better. Very Pretty! Very loud! Vroooooooooom!
You could do this type of activity with any letter your child is currently working on. I chose the letter V because it’s one of the letters Jenna(2.5) still needs to check off her chart for All About Spelling Level 1, Step one.
This is what her chart looks like right now at 34 months. AAS has children learn multiple sounds for certain letters like A, E, I, O, U, Y, S etc. so that’s why it’s taking Jenna a while to complete the chart. By Leap Frog standards, she has known all of her letters and sounds for a while. If this chart was in upper case, and I was just asking for one sound per letter, it would have been completed months ago.
Another problem with our progress is that I’ve been a total slacker. We haven’t done our four cards a day in weeks! So, to help Jenna finish off these last sounds, I’m going to concentrate on one letter every few days. At least that’s the plan. 😉
Jenna is 32 months right now, and we are officially starting All About Spelling Level 1. I think the ideal time to begin AAS would be between 3.5 and 4 years old, but our situation is a little bit different. Since Jenna already knows her letters and sounds, and since we already own all of the Level 1 AAS materials, I figured that we might as well start now.
Right now we are going through all of the yellow Phonogram cards and I am quizzing Jenna to officially note which letters and sounds she can correctly identify. We only do four cards a day, and then we put a sticker up on the chart to celebrate each sound that is checked off. At most, we are spending about five minutes a day on AAS, which seems like a perfectly acceptable amount of time for a two and a half year old to concentrate. Level 1, step 1 might end up taking one or two months, but that’s okay. Jenna is so excited to “do spelling” just like her big brother Bruce, that this is a really meaningful and fun activity for the both of us to share together.
Our All About Spelling Level 3 materials have arrived! I was planning on waiting until Bruce(6.5) went on Spring Break to get started with Level 3, but when he saw me punch out all of the cards he started to get excited too, and asked me if we could start now. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that in our house one spelling lesson = 20 minutes of “screen time”. 🙂
There are 28 Steps in Level 3, and our plan is to do one step each week. If we stay on track, Bruce would finish Level 3 right before he starts second grade.
This is what my box looks like with the Levels 1-3 now inside.
Here is our board set up for Level 3, including the special tags from Level 2 like the R controlled tag, and the open-door, closed-door syllable tags.
We began step one this morning while Jenna(2.5) watched half a Curious George episode on PBS kids. We still have about 5 minutes of the lesson left to complete, because we ran out of time before the school bus came.
AAS has imbedded review throughout the program, which is a really good thing since Bruce finished Level 2 almost two months ago! Today we reviewed some very important Key Cards, which we then got to see in action when Bruce built words that exemplified each spelling rule.
On a side note, it seems like every time I blog about AAS it is with a great deal of encomium. That’s not just because I signed up to be an AAS Affiliate. I signed up to be an Affiliate because I’m so impressed with the program, and because I have deep scars from living my whole life as a poor speller. That is what I do not want for my children.
I’ve made no secret that I am a horrible speller. Even though I wrote down every single word on my spelling list 25 times (no joke), all through my childhood, I never learned to spell well. This has caused no end of embarrassment, although I have learned a lot of coping strategies over the years. On AP tests and during college finals, I would simply choose words that I knew how to spell, even if I really wanted to use bigger, better words that were more impressive. I also heavily rely on spell check, but even that is not fool-proof. When I was a third grade teacher, I was lucky that the parents in my classroom were very understanding when I once sent out a classroom email about the read aloud book we were doing, Loser by Jerry Spinelli, and spelled it L-O-O-S-E-R!
I really want things to be different for my own children, which is why I’m willing to count my pennies, and invest in All About Spelling. So far Bruce(6.5) has completed Levels 1 and Level 2. The strange thing is, I have been amazed at how much I have learned in the process.
As parents it is really easy to give all of your time and resources to your children, but I decided to be a bit selfish, and do something daring last month. It may sound crazy,but I bought AAS Level 6 for myself! Deep down, there is still a flickering hope that I might be able to learn to spell, and I am hopeful that Level 6 is the vade mecum I am looking for.
Since I am an adult using this program, I am doing thing a little bit differently. For starters, I am using the green cards diagnostically to find out how many words I don’t know. My teacher and quiz partner? That would be my son Bruce, who loves his new role as spelling master! We are going through 30 word sets at a time, and Bruce is really enjoying his power-trip.
I can already see how much I have learned from Levels 1 and 2, because a lot of words that I have previously misspelled like “accident”, or “occupy”, I am now getting right. I can picture the AAS “open door”, “closed door” syllable tags in my head. For the first time, I understood why there are two Cs! I’m also picturing the tiles, moving around in my brain. This is monumental for me, because I have never been a person who could see how a word was supposed to look before. I still can’t visualize the whole word, but I can see the tiles for some reason.
As it turns out, most of Level 6 is too easy. Level 7 would probably be a better choice for me once it is released this year. But I’m still going to read and work through the lessons, because I am making so many new spelling connections that I can hardly believe it. Just ripping out the green cards to begin with, taught me a lot because it showed me the patterns in words, and how I could use those patterns to be a stronger speller.
If I can spell “raccoon”, then I should be able to spell “account”. If I know the difference between “angle” and “angel”, then I should also be able to spell “camel” and “nickel”, without reversing the E-L. If I can picture all of those words as little blue and red tiles moving around in my head, then I don’t need to be a spelling L-O-O-S-E-R after all. 🙂
I’m writing this on the last day of my first grade son’s Christmas vacation. Bruce was halfway through AAS Level 2 when school got out, and after two weeks of working on this consistently every day, he has now finished the book. Since we are an Afterschooling family instead of a Homeschooling family, I told my son that we will hold off on Level 3 until Spring Break.
For the most part, Bruce has really enjoyed our AAS lessons. But admittedly, cranking through the book at breakneck speed these past two weeks hasn’t been the best way to go about it from a “fun” stand-point. As my Dad would say, “Tough noogies”. I know that AAS is really helping Bruce, and a good compliment to the Evan More Grade Two spelling book he is doing at school (only way better).
At the start of vacation when we were still on Step 15 I quizzed Bruce on the remaining Word Cards in Level 2, and pulled the ones that he did not know how to spell. For me as a teacher, this is one of the truly amazing things about this program. I don’t know if the picture is big enough for you to see (you could try clicking on it), but that fan of cards was like a visual slice of Bruce’s spelling brain. I could tell just by looking at the cards, the type of words and word patterns Bruce needed the most help with. That didn’t mean that I only had to teach Steps 23, 24, and 25 though. The spelling rules and patterns that were important for those steps were introduced or “pretaught” in earlier Steps. So we still went through Level 2 step by step, but I was careful to put some extra emphasis on what was needed to complete Steps 23, 24, and 25.
My husband and I were having a causerie about AAS Level 2, and in our brief chat I told him about the fan I made from the green cards. I said I was tempted to purchase Level 6 and start using it myself! I am such a horrible speller, that I would love to see what the Level 6 fan of green cards I couldn’t spell would look like for me. The nice guy that he is, my husband pointed out that only doing Level 6 wouldn’t help me very much, because there have been rules I have been unfamiliar with in both Levels 1 and Levels 2. Maybe by the time I’ve taught both Bruce and Jenna I’ll know longer feel so stupid. 🙂