All About Spelling (AAS) is an Orton-Gillingham style of spelling instruction.  But what the heck is an Orton-Gillingham style?  It turns out that this style of instruction hails from the 1930s and is sequential and phonics-based; it also utilizes visual, auditory, and kinesthetic methods of teaching.

My daughter has used levels 1-4 and is working through level 5 (there are 7 levels total). Now it is my son’s turn to begin spelling lessons.

But, when should you start spelling instruction:

My experience has been that it is best to wait until your child is comfortably reading short vowel words and spelling becomes even easier when they are starting to learn about long vowel sounds.  Neither of my children were super great at rhyming before beginning to read, but they both showed some interest in spelling words before I began the AAS program in earnest with them.  You can also read what the AAS blog post says about when the best time to begin spelling instruction.

I will admit that with my daughter I was super excited to begin with her and I started too early.  She did very well in the first several steps, but halfway through the program a lot of practice can be missed if the child is not comfortable with handwriting yet.  When my daughter reached this point I realized that I needed to pull back a bit and solidify her writing skills.

So, why choose AAS:

All About Spelling is unique in that it uses phonogram tiles to draw upon the kinesthetic mode of learning.  We use these tiles whenever I introduce a lesson and for the 10 word cards that accompany each lesson.  They also have cards that you can use to work on the sounds that each phonogram makes and cards that reinforce key ideas (eg. each word has at least one vowel).

Level 1 has 24 steps/lessons.  It begins with short vowel words and then introduces sh/ch/th words.  After that initial blends and final blends are introduced.  And finally compound words, plural words, and long vowel sounds are introduced.  For a more complete picture, check out the AAS Level 1 Scope and Sequence.

Where are we:

My son is currently on step 12, exactly half-way through the program.  We’ve been through all of the short vowel sounds and just talked about the sh/ch/th phonograms.  It’s at this point that simple dictation is introduced.  Each lesson

What I love about this program:

  • The tiles: both of my children enjoy using the letter tiles since it gives them a break from writing
  • Dictation: in level 1 the dictation exercises begin with short phrases and then as you move up in levels the sentences become longer and longer.

How we are curspelling dictation from All About Spelling level 1rently using the program:

  • Include the phonogram, sound, and key cards in our morning memory work
  • Day 1: Introduce the lesson
  • Day 2-3: Spell 5 words from the word cards (this is based on my son’s attention span)
  • Day 4-6: dictate 4 phrases (once again, it’s an attention span thing) that my son writes in a composition book

Currently, my son has spelling work on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while we are working through his phonics program on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  I’ve found that spelling is such a great complement to phonics instruction; it really helps to solidify those crazy rules that we have in English.  At this pace, we are moving through a lesson every 3 weeks, and we will finish level 1 by the fall.  However, once he finishes up his phonics program we will start having spelling lessons Monday through Thursday.

This post contains affiliate links.  If you click on a link and buy a product from All About Learning Press you are helping me to buy the last levels, and I hope that you and your child(ren) enjoy it as much as we have.

We began our new school year on January 4th.  This year in history we will be covering the Middle Ages through the first few US presidents with Tapestry of Grace Year 2.  My daughter is officially in the upper grammar level this year, and I have decided that it is time to start pre-reading (and taking notes) on the dialectic level books, both the core history selection and the literature selections I’ve chosen.  I’m hoping that this will benefit me in two ways:

  1.  I’ll have a better background about the historical time period without having to peek at the teacher’s notes.
  2. I’ll have some easy literature reading for myself and I’ll have pre-read the books that my daughter will read in 4 years (hence the need for notes).

We’re already in the third week of our studies, and so far I’ve been doing well.

The core history selection is H.E. Marshall’s The Story of Europe from the Fall of the Roman Empire to the Reformation.  I find it a very engaging read with relatively short chapters and mostly fact-based, but at times her bias comes through strongly.  Here is a quote from the chapter on the spread of Islam:  “So with fanatic zeal and lust of blood and of gold burning in them, the dark-faced horde swept onward.”  Still, it presents history in a narrative fashion that is very enjoyable.

The literature selections that I’ve read so far include Aladdin and Other Tales from the Arabian Nights and Stories of Beowulf Told to Children.

If you only know the Disney story of Aladdin then you owe it to yourself to read the version of Aladdin found in Aladdin and Other Tales.  For starters, there are two jinnies (spelling from the book): one of a ring and one of a lamp.  Aladdin is not an orphan in this story and there is no pet monkey.  I didn’t particularly admire this version of Aladdin as the character didn’t appear to me to be as resourceful, but the storyline is so different that I’m glad that I read it.  There are also several other tales in this collection and all were highly entertaining reads.

Stories of Beowulf Told to Children is an adaptation by H.E. Marshall of the Anglo-Saxon epic that features the hero Beowulf in a series of adventures that showcase his courage, strength, and battle prowess.  Although this is an adaptation it is certainly not dumbed down, and the language may be a bit of a challenge for children to read.  Although the Amazon description says that this book is for those aged 8 and up, I think my daughter (aged 8) would have a difficult time getting though this book on her own.  The dialogue is what proves to be tricky, as you can see from this selection taken from chapter 2:

Then Beowulf answered him, “We are folk of the Goths, thanes of King Hygelac.  In friendly guise we come to seek thy lord, King Hrothgar, the mighty chieftain.  We have a goodly message to the famed lord of the Danes.  There is no cause to be secret.  Thou knowest if it be true or no, but we indeed have heard that among ye Danes there is a great and wily foe, a loather of valor, who prowleth terribly in dark nights, making great slaughter and causing much woe.  Therefore have I come, for perchance I may be of succor to the noble King Hrothgar in his need.”

Out of curiosity I analyzed this paragraph and received a Lexile score of 1140 – roughly a high school level reading score.  While difficult, this classic story is so rich in vocabulary that I think it is worth wading through.  This story  is worth pre-reading…it’s often violent (battles usually are) and I’ve already mentioned that the dialogue can be difficult.  I think that any student will benefit from discussing this book, and it would be as simple as starting with: “Should Beowulf have done (fill in the blank)?”

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.  Buy one of the books through a link here and I receive a fraction of the price…it helps keep this site going.

At Home in Dogwood Mudhole bookAt Home in Dogwood Mudhole, by Franklin Sanders, is an interesting title for an interesting and fun read.  The story is taken from a collection of letters that the author has written over the years for his newsletter, and this first volume gives a peek into his family’s life as they become (reluctant) farmers.

Even if you are not a farmer yourself, nor planning on becoming one, this book will probably have something to offer you somewhere in its 379 pages.  One of his first stories is about how the family dog, bought as a puppy for $30, has to go to the vet for a broken bone and how it became a $400 dog.  Later, the dog gets hurt again and the author good-naturedly relates how one questions at times how much a family can afford to spend on a pet.

Although the author’s style jumps around a bit for me (at times I was wondering how events were related to each other), I found his writing to be enjoyable and cheerful.  Mr. Sanders certainly has a dry sense of humor that I appreciate, which is sprinkled liberally on almost every page.  Throughout the book you can tell how important his family and nature are to him, and that is both refreshing and inspirational for me.  Due to its conversational tone (although it even contains some snippets of Chaucer) you certainly feel that you are along beside him in his journey and it is easy to relate to the joys and sorrows their family experiences (check out the sample chapter).

As an added bonus, all of the chapters are short enough, at an average of 5 pages in length, that they can be easily squeezed in whenever you have a few minutes to spare (or kill).  I wish that I would have asked for this title in e-book format because I think that it’s style lends itself perfectly to that medium.  And, you have to love their guarantee: “If you don’t laugh, cry, gasp, hug your spouse or jump up and down, we’ll refund your money and you can keep the book to use as a door stop.”

Lastly, I feel like I need to mention that Mr. Sanders is from the South and his writing certainly reflects that (eg. the Civil War is known as the War for Southern Independence), but it is done in such a manner that only a very rare person (I hope) would be offended.  But, I just wanted to let you know that if you don’t find Southern charm all that charming then you should definitely read the sample chapter before buying.

Price: $22.95 for paperback, $16.95 e-book format


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VocabularySpellingCityVocabularySpellingCity is an online and app-based program that can be used for spelling and vocabulary work for grades K-12.  I was looking forward to reviewing this program because I have a daughter that really enjoys learning new words and (currently) proclaims that spelling is her favorite subject.  There are basic and premium memberships available and for this review I was able to try out the premium subscription.

After setting up my account I logged in and quickly realized that I didn’t know which words to use for our vocabulary study.  There are many lists out there that have been created by others that can be easily imported, but it was a bit overwhelming for me.  Did I want to focus on science or geography terminology?  Or perhaps I should use words from our spelling program that have proved to be troublesome.  In the end, I decided to use vocabulary words from our writing program and from a workbook-based vocabulary program that we had previously discarded for being too boring.  I typed in several batches of 10 word groups.  After inputting the words, you can select from available definitions and sample sentences or create your own.  For the most part I was pleased with the definitions and sentences that were already in the program, but there were a few times that I added my own.

Next up was selecting the activities that I wanted my child to complete for each word list.  There are several choices, depending upon whether you are using the lists more for spelling or vocabulary work.  There is also the option to save an activity list so that you may simply use the same sequence for each list that you create or import.  Finally, you can select if you want your child to work through the activities in order or if they can hop about as they please.

One of the best features for our family was the ability to use (almost) the whole program on the iPad (so far only available for iOS devices).  There is an app available that can access your account, provided you have an internet connection, and most of the games can be played.  When I was setting up the activities for our word lists I made sure to only include the ones that were app compatible (identified by an icon) as I knew that would be our preferred method of use.  My daughter had no problem with the app and everything was super intuitive to use.

There is also a portal in which to access your child’s progress that is available with the premium membership.  Whenever my daughter logged in and worked on the words in my lists the program tracked her progress and I could easily see how much work she had completed.

I think the only thing that I wished was different was that a definition for the word that you are playing for in Hang Mouse was provided.  With a definition it would be easier for the student to concentrate on the spelling of the word instead of randomly guessing letters.  However, my daughter has thoroughly enjoyed this program…so much so that she completed three weeks of work in just a week.

As this is a feature-rich program it is wonderful that there are loads of videos available on site describing all the different possibilities and how to perform all of the tasks so that you can tweak this program to fit your family’s needs.

Price: $29.99/ year for up to 5 students


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My son has been slowly been working on blending…some days he has no problems and then other days it is as if we have gone backwards a few steps.  But today he read the first Bob book.  “Mat sat.  Sam sat.  Mat sat on Sam.” etc.  I’m sure many of you have seen this book.  Certainly thrilling times, but I’ve forgotten how painful this beginning reader stage can be.  I used to agonize over my daughter’s lack of fluency, but now she just flies through chapter books.  So, I am anticipating the sounding every word out phase will last for a while and this time I shall try not to stress about it.