After taking a look at this well-organized program that teaches spelling by word families, it's not surprising that we've had so many requests for it. It has a very satisfying appeal. Imagine lists of words that are organized by word families but that go well beyond a simple vowel family (i.e. c-at; b-at; etc.) right from the start. Although the first day's word list includes only four words - in, pin, sin, spin; by the third day, the "in" list has expanded to pinned, skins, twins (and other "in" words) and started on the "e" (i.e. b-e; sh-e) family and even includes a crossover word (begin). By building from the easier words of a family to important power words, the program builds self-confidence. Traditional spelling programs introduce words vocabularily - in other words, when the child is likely to encounter the word in reading, or based on a chosen theme. As a result, word sequences are odd and incomplete. In Sequential Spelling, the phonics necessary for decoding is being presented through the back door, so to speak.
Every learning channel is employed with this program. Here's the process: a word is given verbally and used in a sentence (audio); the student attempts to spell the word (kinesthetic); the correct spelling is given using colored markers on a white board to differentiate between family and other letters (oral interaction & visual); students correct their own spelling (kinesthetic). Utilizing the simple educational techniques of having students correct their own mistakes when they make them - not hours, days, or even weeks later - and creating a positive learning environment by maintaining that mistakes are opportunities to learn produces eager learners and definitive results. Tests are used as learning devices, not as a method of evaluation. If you feel compelled to give grades, written tests (reproducible) are available after the 40th, 80th, 120th, 160th, and 180th days.
The first several days of lessons are laid out in detail - completely scripted. In addition to the teaching process, a positive can-do attitude is being modeled in these lessons. After the eighth day, the process is continued as established. Lists of 25 words along with sentence suggestions are provided for 180 days; with common words appearing in bold typing. Homophones (same pronunciation, different spelling; i.e. bare and bear), heteronyms (same spelling, different word and different pronunciation; i.e. bow your head, bow and arrow), and words that do not follow the normal pattern (like "gyp") are all marked. Review and repetition is built in as you progress through the days (lists).
Books are progressive but do not really conform to grade levels. For instance, the ending lessons of Book 1 include words like breathless, hedging, horrifying, and basically which would never be seen in a first or second-grade spelling book. Because they are introduced as parts of word families, they become doable for the early grades, but this also means that an older child starting at Book 1 doesn't feel like he's way behind. (By the way, the parent is given complete freedom to drop some words from the lists if they feel it will be preferable for their child.) So, the bottom line is that you can start any grade level child at Level 1 and proceed through the books in order. It is recommended that children are reading at a second-grade level before beginning Level 1, so children in first grade may or may not be ready to begin, depending on their reading skill. Older children may or may not need to start with Book 1; you may want to check out the placement test at www.avko.org.
The Student Response Book for Sequential Spelling is designed to provide the writing space for students participating in the program. To look at it, you would scratch your head. The column for the 1st day words is in the middle of page 3 (with the 61st day on the left and the 121st day on the right). We don't see the 2nd day column until page 5. This peculiar arrangement is designed to prevent the child from copying words and/or word family parts from one day to the next, a tendency which gets in the way of truly learning the pattern. Once you figure out the system, it makes perfect sense. Although a student will need one book per level, the response book is not level-specific.
This year the publishers have begun revising the Sequential Spelling series and have made a few format changes. In the revised editions, there is a teacher book and a student book; the Student Response Book is no longer needed. Both teacher and student are necessary at every level, however. The Teacher's Guide holds introductory teaching information and an overview of the approach as well as all 180 word lists (and sentences for the homophones and heteronyms), and an answer key. The much-heftier Student Workbook holds pages with blank spaces for each day's spelling lesson (in sequential order) and an additional activity on the following page that uses words from the lesson. Activities vary, including using words from the lesson in a sentence, unscrambling words, filling in blanks, writing the definition of words the student is not familiar with, and listing words that contain a particular word family (like 'ake'). Please note that the revised editions will replace the older, "classic" editions which will eventually become unavailable. Levels 1-4 are available as revised editions now; others will follow shortly.
We now offer sets of the revised editions that include both student and teacher books and also sets of the classic editions which include the book and Student Response Book. ~ Janice