All About Spelling (AAS) comprises six levels, of which
I reviewed the first five. Level Six should be available
in spring of 2010. This intensive, multisensory program teaches
the entire Ayres word list (a list of the 1000 most frequently
used words, compiled by Leonard Ayres in 1915), plus many more
commonly-used words, using seventy-two phonograms and assorted
spelling rules and generalizations. This approach is called
the Orton-Gillingham method.
AAS uses direct instruction--clear, scripted lessons that involve
plenty of interaction between parent and child. The program
is multisensory; students see letters, phonograms, and words (visual),
segment words into their individual sounds and syllables (auditory),
and write words using both letter tiles and pencil and paper (kinesthetic).
The program also teaches students four main spelling strategies
and several minor ones. The major strategies are phonics,
spelling rules, visual memory, and word meanings. The minor
strategies are dictionaries and spell checkers, reading tips, "troublemaker" strategies,
mnemonics, and a personal resource list.
The heart of the AAS program is the teacher's manual and student
material packet for each level. Each teacher's manual has
between twenty-four and twenty-eight lessons. The author,
Marie Rippel, suggests working on each lesson for about fifteen
minutes a day until you feel your child has mastered the new material.
A lesson may take a day, a week, or longer, depending on your child.
Ms. Rippel advises shorter, more frequent lessons rather than longer,
Starting with the second lesson in Level One, each lesson begins
with a brief review to help children internalize previous concepts
using word analysis, word banks, and flashcards. Word analysis
involves looking carefully at a previous spelling word (or words)
and reviewing a particular rule, generalization, syllabication
pattern, or other special spelling strategy. Word banks
are groups of words organized by similar vowel teams; frequent
reading of these word banks help children develop visual memory
of the correct way to spell many common words. There are
four kinds of flashcards included in each student material packet:
phonogram cards, sound cards, key cards, and word cards. These
cards are printed on perforated cardstock and must be folded and
torn apart. Phonogram cards have a phonogram on the front
( g, for example) and the sounds and key words on the back (/g/,
/j/, goat, gem). Sound cards prompt the child to write a
sound; for example, the teacher may ask the child to write the
phonogram that says /g/, /j/, and the child writes the letter g.
Key cards drill spelling rules and generalizations; for example, " G
may say /j/ before ____?" (The answer is e,
i, or y.) Finally, the word cards include all the main list
words taught in each level. The cards for each level included
labeled dividers and fit nicely into a standard-sized recipe box.
Next comes the new teaching. Each lesson begins with a
clear explanation of the new concept and tells you exactly what
materials you will need. Each list includes ten main words.
Words that are similar are taught together, unlike other Orton-Gillingham
spelling programs that seem to throw a lot of unrelated words at
children all at once. Children spell words using the tiles
first, and then write them on paper. The sturdy, laminated
tiles must be cut apart--a paper cutter comes in handy here. Magnets
are available separately if you want to use the letter tiles on
a large, magnetic white board. A tabletop will also work
perfectly fine, the only downside being that you have to set up
the letters every day. Using letter tiles allows children
to focus on spelling without having to worry about handwriting
right away. They also give children good practice with alphabetization
skills as they pull down and put back each letter in sequence.
The tiles are also used to analyze review words at the beginning
of many lessons. The different colors used for vowels, consonants,
and various letter teams really helps children see and understand
phonics and spelling generalizations. These letter tiles
are a lot of fun and provide some variety to spelling lessons,
but if your child does not like using them, the author recommends
using paper and pencil instead.
Finally, some kind of reinforcement is provided at the end of
every lesson--more related words that are not on the Ayres list,
phrases, or sentences for dictation. Beginning in Level
Three, a writing station suggests ideas for practicing new words
in original sentences. In addition to the Ayres words and
other related words, important concepts that are included in the
All About Spelling program are syllable types, alphabetization,
contractions, abbreviations, dictionary skills, plurals, homophones,
and prefixes and suffixes.
The student material packets include all the flashcards, letter
tiles, and any other materials necessary to teach that level.
Ideally, each child would have his own packet so you can customize
his review work; however, this may not be practical for large families.
In addition to the flashcards and letter tiles, each student material
packet includes a variety of special materials. All levels
come with a progress chart and completion certificate. Level
One includes tokens for helping children learn to segment a one-syllable
word into its individual sounds. Levels Two and Three provide
syllable tags to help children learn to identify the main types
of syllables: open, closed, vowel team, R-controlled, and consonant
+ le. Levels Two and Three also include a jail for "rule
breakers." Word banks and syllable division charts are included
in Levels Two through Five. Level Three also comes with
a Silent E book, suffix tiles, homophones list, 1-1-1 Rule chart,
and an ED word sheet. Level Four also contains a spelling
strategies chart, prefix tiles, and a Y word sheet. Finally,
Level Five also includes an alphabetizing word sheet, Make It Plural
book, and a Doubling Rule chart. These special materials
make the lessons interesting and memorable. My children
particularly enjoy throwing rule breakers into jail! Many
of these special materials are transferred from one level to the
next, so you will need to purchase the previous student material
packets if you did not begin with Level One.
A phonogram CD-Rom is an optional aid. The phonograms are
grouped in similar categories and color-coded according to the
letter tiles. Simply click on the phonogram to hear it clearly
enunciated. This is a no-frills CD-Rom and probably won't
be necessary for most people. A full set of phonogram cards
is also available separately, in case you didn't start at Level
One, or if you want to introduce all seventy-two phonograms from
the beginning. Otherwise, phonograms cards are provided
in the level in which they are first introduced. Once you
reach Level Five, you will have accumulated the entire set of seventy-two
The AAS lesson plans are very clear and easy to follow, and the
book layout is superb. Best of all, no special training
is required to use AAS, unlike other Orton-Gillingham programs.
Simply open the book and get started--you will learn what you need
to know when you need to know it!
I see only one drawback to the excellent program. You have
to do a fair amount of juggling materials between the teacher's
manual, tiles, and each set of flashcards, especially if each child
has his own set of materials. Because my time and finances
are limited, I am using only one set of materials with my two youngest
children. It seems to be working fine, and both boys are
improving dramatically in their spelling ability. In addition,
parents need to understand that this is a teacher-intensive program
and not something that you just hand to your child to do on his
I have always appreciated the Orton-Gillingham approach to spelling
and reading, but the other programs I tried were too complicated
and required special training. I use Phonics Pathways to
teach my children to read, so I really just needed something to
reinforce phonics and teach spelling. All
About Spelling is just what I was looking for.