Spelling You See: Jack and Jill (Level B) uses a nursery rhyme theme to introduce words in a fun and meaningful way. Because nursery rhymes are easy to say and learn, your elementary child can be introduced to new vocabulary and sounds through repetition and rhyme.
The program consists of two main components:
- Instructor’s Handbook $16 Contains a “Getting Started” guide with an overview of the philosophy, concepts and skills in this level, information on the organization of the lessons, as well information about letter chunking, “no rule day”, dictation, answers to frequently asked questions, and additional passages for dictation.
- Student Pack $30 Includes Student Workbooks, a Guide to Handwriting, and a pack of erasable colored pencils.
Five levels are currently available. Levels are not graded, but are based on spelling readiness, and placement guidelines are available to determine the level your child is ready for. See samples and frequently asked questions to learn more.
Thirty-six lessons are divided into 2 books - Part 1 and Part 2.
I reviewed Jack and Jill (Level B) with Eliana, my 1st grader.
Each day, she does two worksheets. On the first worksheet, we read the nursery rhyme, clap in rhythm to each syllable, and follow the directions on the worksheet. I help her find different details within the rhyme. With this, she is learning to follow directions and search for common patterns in words, like punctuation and capitalization. Finally, she copies a portion of the rhyme on the lines provided.
On the second worksheet, she fills in a set of letter boxes, focusing on short vowel sounds. The boxes are designed to help the brain learn sound-to-letter correspondence. (As she writes each letter, I am instructed to encourage her to say the sound, and then create a word from individual sounds). First she copies the words into the boxes, and after lesson 3, she writes the words I dictate to her. I chose 6 new words each day, focusing on a different vowel each week. (I wasn't told specifically which words to use, rather was given a list of words to choose from in the Instructor's Handbook).
Part 2 continues the nursery rhyme theme, but now the teacher guides the student to find vowel and consonant patterns in each passage, and students begin more advanced copywork. Once a week, students have a "No Rule Day," where they have a chance to be creative. They can write, dictate or illustrate a response to the weekly nursery rhyme.
Pencil grip technique and correct letter formation is emphasized, and manuscript writing is encouraged in the program since everything they see is in manuscript (or print).
I read through the Teacher's Handbook to familiarize myself with the program before starting. The program is open and go after this. (I received an advanced PDF copy of Level B to facilitate this review.)
A Week in the Life of Spelling You See
Each weekly lesson is divided into five parts, labeled A through E.
On Day 1, we first read through the rhyme "Jack and Jill," clapping the syllables as we read.
I reminded her that each syllable gets its own clap, and some words have more than one syllable. This is something that we have practiced in her current program, but have not yet used in the context of reading.
Then I have her point to each word as she reads it.
Then, I am guided to help her find the two rhyming words in the poem and underline them.
Next, she writes the first two lines of the rhyme as copywork.
On the second page of the lesson, she traces letters and words, and then practices writing letters and words through copywork.
My first thoughts:
- I like it.
- It was easy to do.
- It is more like a workbook approach, with the instructions on the student page, so it's not scripted.
- It would be easy to take the lessons anywhere.
- She enjoyed the quick lesson (less than 10 minutes).
- Using nursery rhymes means my daughter can "read" words she has not been taught yet.
- I like that spelling is being taught in the context of reading and writing (copywork and later dictation)
- I'm thinking I would like this as a writing program!
Day 2 is very similar to Day 1, except today we find and underline all the capital Js in the rhyme.
Day 3 follows the same pattern, except today we are looking for punctuation. I help her find and circle all the commas and periods.
Day 4 again follows the same pattern as Day 1, except today we learn that names start with a capital letter, and I have her find and underline all the names in the rhyme.
In Lesson 1E, Day 5, we again follow the same pattern, except today I have her find and underline what Jack broke.
I asked Elli what she thinks so far:
- "It's easy."
- "It's fun."
- "It's easy and fun!"
You can see that it is simple, repetitive, and "easy and fun."
Lessons 2 A-E follows this same format, but with "The Wheels on the Bus," and both lessons focus on a short vowel sound, details in print, and rhyming.
Then, in Lesson 3 dictation is introduced and used in each lesson thereafter.
We have completed 6 weeks of the program. I really appreciate that you are encouraged to not spend more than 10 minutes per lesson, and are even encouraged to move on to the next week, even if you don't finish all of the previous week. However, towards the end, Elli started to feel like it was a lot of writing. She was always done in less than 10 minutes, but it wasn't as much fun as in the beginning. I also noticed that she was guessing at the words, and not really "reading" them. I noticed this in week 6, because two lines of the poem are backwards from how we learned it, and that is how she "read" it.
I feel like we are just getting into the heart of Spelling You See. Here Elli is finding all the words with "ing" and marking them with pink.
What I Think
According to Spelling You See, copywork and dictation help the student develop a visual memory, as the brain is focusing on the way the words look in print. Hence, Spelling You See!
I noticed that the spelling words for copywork and dictation are not related to the rhyme the child is reading and copying each day, however. So far, each week, we are learning CVC words focused on a single vowel, and none of these words are used in context. I bring this up, because learning words in context is emphasized in the program. I'm assuming that the context comes in when marking vowel combinations (referred to as "chunks"), coming up in the program.
Spelling You See stresses that without something meaningful to connect the words to - without linkage, the brain simply reverts to rote memory, storing the words for a few days and then discarding them. So, the words never make it into long-term memory.
They also say it takes a long time for spelling to become implanted and automatic. Until that happens, I will continue to see spelling errors in her free writing. This is not something I expect in our current program, once a concept has been taught.
Furthermore, I feel that a consistent copying of the same passage multiple times is learning how to spell words by memorization.
Spelling You See stresses that the goal is to create a visual memory for non-phonetic words; however, it is using this method for phonetic words as well.
In fact, Spelling You See, stresses that phonics rules need to be de-emphasized beginning in this developmental stage because they are no longer needed to help the student learn to read. They claim that over-teaching phonics at this stage can actually create unnecessary confusion in spelling. I appreciate that they stress that spelling must be connected to context in order for new information to be linked correctly and permanently to long-term memory, but I am uncomfortable with de-emphasizing phonics at this stage.
The focus of Spelling You See is to master spelling patterns and irregularly spelled words though copywork/dictation alone, and later in the program by "chunking" vowel combinations to improve visual memory.
I learned to read by memorization in the first grade in a California private school. When my family moved to Montana, I was held back and had to repeat the first grade so that I could learn to read by phonics. Because of my experience, I personally want a program with a strong emphasis on phonics, but would love this approach of connecting spelling to context to reinforce a strong phonics based program.
I like that it is "easy." Easy as in not a lot of extra work for the teacher - it's not teacher intensive at all. It would be an ideal program for a natural speller, to reinforce a phonics based spelling program, or as a writing program since it incorporates copywork and dictation. But, I am uncomfortable using Spelling You See as a spelling program alone.
- Ideal for visual learners and natural spellers
- Short, easy lessons - never longer than 10 minutes
- Instills confidence in my child because she is familiar with the passages
- Puts spelling in context by incorporating copywork and dictation
- Not a "list of words to learn"
- Not teacher intensive
- Relies on visual memory alone
- Phonics are not emphasized or reviewed, and in fact, are de-emphasized
- Students are not taught why words are spelled the way they are - spelling rules are not taught
- Spelling errors are expected until the words become "automatic," but students are not given the tools they need to learn to spell effectively
- Not mastery based - spelling skills are not taught or reviewed
- Cost per level and that it is consumable (I would have liked to see the Teacher Handbook be included in the cost of the Student Workbook price, since it is an integral part of the program.)
While Spelling You See as a spelling program is not for us, I did take away an idea to help us in our current program: I like the idea of having her "chunk" vowel combinations, and plan to have her highlight beginning and ending blends in her dictation.
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