A few months ago, my 8-year-old son asked me to buy him a spelling curriculum. A true homeschooler-at-heart, he had a hunch that if he was struggling with spelling, there must be a book out there somewhere to help him improve! When given the chance to review Daily Spelling Practice, we considered it divine providence. We have not been disappointed with this spelling program.
My middle son very much enjoyed Daily Spelling Practice. We both enjoyed how short the exercises were. I was amazed that he learned so much in so concise a time. My son’s spelling has improved greatly. He feels more confident because of the spelling keys he learned and therefore makes fewer random guesses in his spelling. I would love to go through Levels 2, 3, and 4 with my son, but the price of the Teacher’s Guides may hold me back awhile.
The guiding principle behind Daily Spelling Practice is “If you teach students how to spell a word, they’ll spell it correctly on Friday. If you teach them how to spell, they’ll spell every word correctly every day!” Author Dawn Burnette does not simply give spelling lists for children to memorize, because she believes that children will only commit these lists to short-term memory. Instead, she systematically introduces several spelling “keys” that unlock the secrets of spelling. Burnette then provides daily practice to help children commit these keys to long-term memory.
Daily Spelling Practice is divided into four levels, each with a Teacher’s Guide and Student Workbook. Our family’s experience is with the Level 1 Teacher Guide and Student Workbook. A student can begin Level 1 as early as second grade or can wait until fifth or sixth grade to begin. However, the author strongly suggests that students, regardless of age, always begin with Level 1 because the books build upon one another.
The Teacher’s Guide provides an overview of the curriculum, a pretest/posttest page, samples of the student workbook and overhead transparencies, and reprints of all the pages from the Student Workbook with correctly filled-in answers. It also has suggested weekly assessment spelling lists and the scope and sequence of all four levels of Daily Spelling Practice. The Student Workbook is a consumable book with fill-in-the-blanks for all exercises.
Daily Spelling Practice is broken down into 25 keys, each meant to last a week of study. There are five review weeks sprinkled throughout. Besides the keys and review, Daily Spelling Practice introduces several “adding on” rules dealing with affixes and syllables as well as 25 spelling confusables. This is all done in the format of daily exercises, exercises that should take less than 5 minutes to complete.
The exercises for each day have been carefully crafted. Let’s walk through the daily exercises from Week 5 for specific examples. You can see a sample of Week 5’s workbook page (and more!) by going to the Spelling page of DGB Publishing’s website and clicking on Sample Set.
On Monday, the teacher goes over the new key with her students, in this case introducing the “u” sound in nut. Next the teacher dictates from the Teacher’s Guide several words utilizing that key, reminding students to do their best but telling them it is okay if they spell a target word wrong on Monday. This week’s target words are hut, bug, hum, hug, and run. The teacher then asks the children to come up with their own words that use this spelling key and fill in the blank spaces for those words. The last exercise for Monday involves this week’s memory word--surprise. Memory words may be words that represent exceptions to a week’s key, or they may present a word that utilizes the key but is otherwise difficult to spell. The children write the memory word three times in the workbook.
During Tuesday’s exercises, students are asked to add on to their target words. They will learn a prefix or suffix or practice putting syllables together to create longer words. For example, Week 5 teaches students that “when a one-syllable word ends in (or is made only of) consonant-vowel-consonant, double the last letter before you add a suffix that starts with a vowel (nap + ing = napping).” The student chooses three target words to practice this rule on and fills in the blank spaces with “added-on” words. The student then picks three more words from earlier weeks to practice this rule on as well.
Wednesday’s exercises are about spelling confusables. The children are given definitions and sentences for two words that sound similar but have different meanings. In Week 5, the children distinguish some and sum. The children then write a sentence using each of these words correctly.
On Thursday, students are given sets of words and asked to underline the words spelled correctly. Students will find words from the “adding on” rule, words from weeks past, and words that use this week’s key--but not target words. The author purposefully does not provide practice with the target words, even though they will be on Friday’s assessment, because she wants the children to learn how to spell, not just memorize a set of words. An example of this exercise from Week 5 is: fun/fen and peting/petting. Also on Thursday, children are asked to look over the page and circle any words that use this week’s key.
Friday is assessment day. The Suggested Friday Assessment Words are found near the back of the Teacher’s Manual. Burnette hesitates to call this assessment a “spelling test” because it is not about simply memorizing a list. She purposefully includes words that are not the target words but still follow the key. Also included on the assessment are the memory word of the week, the spelling confusables, and words that use the “adding on” rule. The test is intended to assess the students’ understanding of a concept rather than their knowledge of individual words.
In the introduction to the book, the author says that the Student Workbooks are strongly recommended but not necessary. Students could write down the information into blank notebooks, copying the text from the teacher’s notes on the blackboard or from overhead projector sheets (also sold by DGB Publishing). Although these ideas make sense for the classroom budget, I think that the Student Workbooks are too valuable a component in a homeschooling situation. The workbook made Daily Spelling Practice easy and fun, especially for a one-to-one student/teacher ratio.
Daily Spelling Practice was created for the classroom but would not take much tweaking for homeschool use. In fact, my only complaint about this program is the price. The Student Workbooks are inexpensive (only $5.95 each), but the Teacher’s Guides are a whopping $29.95! If you purchase all four levels, you will pay almost $120 for the Teacher’s Guides alone. The Teacher’s Guides really do not have much more information in them than the Student Workbooks do. The explanation of how to use the program (which is also available in the sample on the website), the target words of the week, and the list to be used for assessment are the only extras provided in the Teaching Guide that would be helpful to home educators. The filled-in answers on copies of the workbook pages are also provided, but I can’t imagine needing the answer key (at least for Level 1)--unless you are teaching several students in the same level at the same time and you need the answer key to quickly correct the books. I would like to see a Home Educator’s version of the Teacher’s Guide published. A Home Educator’s Guide could have just the target words and assessment lists--leaving out the filled-in answers--and be offered at a much cheaper price.