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Mar 31, 2014

Spelling you See ~ A Demme Learning Review

I'd been hemming and hawing about purchasing a spelling curriculum for many, many months. I found out through the Schoolhouse Review Crew that Math-U-See was getting a sister, Spelling You See.  We {bigfatpuffyheart} Math-U-See here, so I was excited to review another product from Demme Learning.  Spelling you See is based on five sequential stages of spelling.
  1. Preliterate
  2. Phonetic
  3. Skill Development
  4. Word Extension
  5. Derivational Constancy

Spelling You See Review

There are currently five levels of Spelling You See (A through E) with two more in the works.  Xavier is thick in the Phonetic Stage.  That just means he spells phonetically.  He uses mi for my, spel for spell, and silent letters apparently become invisible letters.  I chose Spelling You See: Jack and Jill (Level B) for him.  The levels are not necessarily grade or age based, but they are directed toward elementary readers.  We received two student workbooks, the instructor's handbook, a laminated guide to handwriting, and Crayola erasable colored pencils.

The 72 page Instructor Handbook includes the complete curriculum sequence list, including the two levels not yet available, with placement guidelines, a dictation word list, and detailed instructions and answer key for each of the 36, week-long lessons in Jack and Jill.  I found it to be complete and easy to follow.  This booklet has a staple binding.
Spelling You See Review

Each sturdily bound Student Workbook contains eighteen of the 36 lessons.  Every lesson in Jack and Jill is divided into five two page daily assignments.  The lesson each week is based on a nursery rhyme or children's song.  The lessons require considerable parental involvement, from reading and clapping your way through each passage, to dictating words to your young writer.  That was actually fine for us.  Xavier enjoyed this one on one time with me while Malachi worked on other subjects  and Merrick napped.  His favorite activity was pointing at each word as I read the rhyme out loud.

The laminated handwriting guide shows the Spelling You See printed letters with arrows indicating starting point and each line direction.  Xavier and Mal have both developed the bad habit of staring letters at the base.  They also often make a "t" without picking up their pencils, using some funky "up, down, right, left" movement that mostly *looks* right.  I have told them again and again, but if I'm not on top of every letter each of them writes, they do their own thing.  I've been using this guide with both of them and like the progress Xav is making.

One thing I do not care for is the little swoop at the bottom of the lowercase a, l, and t.  We don't use it.  Xav does weird things with that swoop, making an a that looks like a q, and l that morphs into something like a c.  Oddly, I kept thinking that the directions for some of the letters were so weird, just terribly wrong to me, but I went with it.  Then one day while I was printing their memory verses on index cards, I realized they absolutely were correct.  I was printing most letters exactly the same, but I print so seldom (and maybe because I look at the guide upside down across the table), they seemed different.  I had to laugh at myself about that one!

It was a real treat to find the *Crayola* erasable colored pencils included with the pack.  I am a Crayola snob.  Really.  I am.  Xav has driven me to distraction with his proclivity to use colored pencils in his schoolwork.  And guess what?  He makes a mistake that needs to be erased every. single. time.  And he can't.  And we both get upset.  Hooray for the erasable colored pencils and HOORAY! for Spelling You See for using them.

Xavier is so excited to get mail these days and doesn't feel he gets nearly enough (he can't seem to grasp that getting mail often requires sending mail), so he was beyond thrilled when I invited him to open the box that came in the mail.  He wasted no time sitting down to look over his loot.  He really did see this as an exciting package of goodness just for him.  He read some of the rhymes and looked at every picture in both workbooks.  He asked about the colored pencils and couldn't wait to get started.

Lesson 1A begins with Jack and Jill.  The text instructs me to read the rhyme to him and clap "in rhythm."  I prefer to clap syllables.  Next, we read it together.  Finally, I read it while he points at each word.  That's Xav's favorite part.  We're then instructed to find the rhyming words and he underlines them.  The copywork is "Jack and Jill went up the hill" and the facing page looks like this:

After a few lessons, the lower half of this facing page no longer has letters in the boxes.  Students are directed to write words that are dictated to them.  This is where a problem showed up.  Xav was not certain if /k/ words, like cut and cup started with c or k.  While this issue is covered in the Instructor Handbook (encourage the student to ask questions and don't be afraid to help them), I realized there is no real direction given for understanding when or why c is used.  Having never used a real spelling curriculum before, my research is leading me to believe that most instruction is a hybrid of phonics and sight words, so maybe that is not so unusual.

Spelling You See ReviewBy lesson four, you will begin to deconstruct words in the reading passage.  We began with the suffix -ed.  Spelling You See calls this "chunking."  We love this part!  Searching the week's rhyme or song, we look for various letter patterns, each color coded.  Vowel chunks, consonant chunks, bossy r, tricky y, endings, and silent letters each get their own colors.  This example is from the final lesson of Jack and Jill.  "Old McDonald had a farm E I E I O.  And on that farm he had a dog E I E I O.  With a woof, woof here, and a woof, woof there..."  I have no idea why, but Xav seems to be incapable of remembering the word chunking.  He calls this scrunching, crunching, or cracking.  I'm the one cracking, cracking up, that is!

Dictation and copywork passages get longer as the child progresses.  The CVC words get longer and more difficult and the boxes disappear eventually.  The student draws a picture and writes several lines about their illustrations.  For struggling or reluctant writers, you are instructed to keep the dictation section of any lesson to under ten minutes.  This reinforces to the student that, no matter what, there is an end in sight.  No one will be writing for hours through tears of frustration and anger. 

More than just spelling and writing is taught in Jack and Jill.  Xav is learning about capitalization, commas, periods, quotation marks, opposites, rhyming words, and apostrophes.  That's all within just the first ten weekly lessons.  I'm counting the rhymes toward his literature requirements for the state, too!

The nursery rhymes were almost all familiar to us, nothing too obscure.  The illustrations were all cute (except maybe Miss Muffet's spider!).  We were delighted by the illustrations and Xav enjoyed looking them all over, even studying them and asking questions or just commenting on them.

A word of warning, there are videos and PDFs available online.   The code to access these extras is on a sticker placed on your shrink wrap.  I threw the shrink wrap away.  I did not even notice a code or sticker.  If you keep your code, you will have access to the following.
  • Chunking Demonstration video
  • Letter Box Dictation video
  • Passage Dictation video
  • American Spirit Overview video
  • Writing in Spelling You See video
  • Chunking guide pdf
  • Handwriting guide pdf

Spelling You See: Jack and Jill (Level B)
Instructor’s Handbook $16
Student Pack $30

Find Spelling You See on Facebook or Twitter!

Many of the Schoolhouse Review Crew moms got to use other levels as well.  Click below to see the review linky.  Each reviewer has specified in her link up exactly which level she has used with her family.

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