Zaner-Bloser Spelling Connections
There are two distinct characteristics of this well-constructed spelling program: word sorts and connections. Word Sorts is a review and reinforcement technique used throughout the series that illustrates the patterns in words and their relationship to each other. Connections emphasize the idea that spelling skills are interrelated to other language arts skills: word study, phonics/vocabulary, reading, and writing. The weekly lessons (units) are organized around these connections.
Focus on Word Study (Day 1) covers one or more spelling concepts/constructs: for instance, specific consonant sounds /k/ or /s/. Weekly word lists are presented two ways, in print and in cursive. The words are also given in a sentence. Word Sorts are used right on Day 1 dividing the word list into groupings within the concept. For instance, write words with /k/ spelled c, ck, or ch. Or, write the words with /s/ spelled c + e or c + i. You can see how the student is encouraged to remember the words by noting these patterns.
- Day 2 is Connect to Vocabulary (or Phonics in the early grades). These activities involve categorizing words or identifying their meanings. The student is asked to write the dictionary phonetic spellings for some words.
- Connect to Reading (Day 3) shows the relationship of good spelling skills to reading comprehension. Sentence completion and other activities involve making inferences or using context clues. Other activities might include analogies, understanding idioms, or synonyms.
- Day 4 covers Connect to Writing. Proofreading/editing exercises ferret out misspelled words in a passage before the student rewrites it.
- Extension and application activities include more word sorting, building new words, identifying words from clues, determining parts of speech, or hunting for new words with similar spelling patterns (in articles from other subject areas).
- An assessment (i.e. weekly spelling test) completes the lesson week.
Every sixth lesson is a review of the previous five units. Practice exercises, suggested word sorts, games/activities, and applying word patterns to new words are all part of this review. Six syllable types are highlighted within and across grade levels and identifying these syllable types are part of the review lessons.
The colorful Student Edition is a consumable worktext that provides word lists and all the Connect, Extension, and Application exercises. Appendices include handwriting models and short sections on how to use a dictionary and a thesaurus. The 2016 and 2022 editions added a QR code to each weekly lesson. Scanning this code takes the student to an online spelling practice test that includes word repetition, letter-by-letter spelling, and sentences. While this online resource is readily available to all users of the student text, other online resources are not.
The spiral-bound Teacher Editions are a wraparound format (reduced answer-filled student pages surrounded by teaching tips and instructions). They provide detailed daily lesson plans for each unit, five-day and three-day weekly schedules, instructional segments, teaching tips for all levels of EL support, and word sort suggestions. Differentiation options are outlined here. These include separate word lists for on-level, emerging, and challenge students as well as methods for determining placement and addressing the needs of each.
Like many series, some of the material originally found in the over-sized teacher edition has migrated to online platforms (after hanging out on CD-ROMs for a brief period of time). MyZBPortal.com (referenced often in the TE) is a website that offers reinforcement activities, a Teacher Resource Book (includes masters for card sort materials), and hands-on practice suggestions. Unfortunately, registration through a school is required so this material is not currently available for homeschool students. While it can be frustrating to know there is material that is unavailable, the program is very robust without these extras.
We carry several editions – the new 2022, the 2016, and the 2012 (which still provides a CD-ROM). Word lists and teaching methodology are basically the same across all three editions. The 2022 Edition has been streamlined, though. Both teacher and student books are thinner and frankly, this makes the TE easier to use. Student books have less color shading, and a column on the edge of student pages (for writing answers) has been eliminated, although the exercises themselves provide writing space. A weekly writing assignment and periodic composition instruction is no longer part of the course. The 2022 Ed does not include a Kindergarten level or Grades 7 & 8.
Spelling Connections is a traditional spelling program that emphasizes the interrelationship of spelling with reading, writing, and vocabulary. A valuable program using just the student books, it is full-bodied and multi-faceted when using the TEs. The series is organized primarily around phonics constructs but while this predominates in the younger grades, other categories are added in at the upper levels such as commonly confused words, frequently misspelled words, Greek and Latin roots, etc. The Kindergarten and First Grade student books differ in appearance from the upper levels. Their emphasis is largely on phonics, word families, and sounds/letters. The orientation is horizontal with more handwriting practice incorporated. There are no weekly word lists in the K book and it is much smaller with 54 pages. Grade 1 has six words per week; Grade 2 has 10; Grade 3 has 15; and Grades 4-8 have 20.
Homeschool Bundles include both the student and the teacher editions. Unless you need daily lesson plans, notes on differentiated instruction options, or answers to the student book, you and your student could probably function without the TE. ~ Janice