Sunday, March 6, 2016

A Review of Spelling Workout B

Rose finished Spelling Workout Level B a couple of weeks ago, which means it's time for a little review!

I love the cover of this workbook! It's so bright and cheery. 

I have used the Spelling Workout series pretty consistently with my kids over the years, except for a brief period when we tried (and failed at) Spelling Power. I will try to talk more about my other kids and spelling in a later post ~ Christopher is currently working on SWO H, while James is doing SWO E.

Spelling Workout is a workbook approach to spelling, so I will make no claims that it is the flashiest or most fun spelling program out there. I briefly looked into All About Spelling for Rose, because I kept hearing so much about it, but I decided it is a bit too frilly for my tastes right now. Spelling is one of the few things Rose can do mostly on her own, and with three other kids to teach, I just didn't want something teacher-intensive for this subject. I am a big fan of simple curricula for our basic subjects. If it is easy to use and requires little or no prep work, it's much more likely to get done around here!

Prior to completing Spelling Workout B, Rose completed Spelling Workout: Level A . I had her start spelling when she was about halfway through The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading, as suggested in The Well-Trained Mind. I am going to review SWO Level B here but A is quite similar, except of course that the words studied are easier, and there is less writing required on each page.

The Book

Spelling Workout books are consumable, soft-cover workbooks with black and white illustrations. They are available through Amazon and Rainbow Resource Center for around $10. Each book consists of 36 lessons, and each lesson will take one week to complete if you do one page of spelling four days per week. According to the publisher's website Level A is for first grade and Level H (the last book) is for eighth grade.  The Well-Trained Mind recommends moving through the books more quickly - finishing Level H in sixth grade. I initially tried to move through the books at the recommended pace, but my handwriting-phobic children often can't handle doing more than one page per day. So Christopher will finish SWO H this year, his seventh grade year, while James is working on Level E in his fifth grade year. Rose is currently using Level C in her 2nd grade year.

The Lessons

The Spelling Workout lessons are pretty predictable, which at first glance might seem boring, but Rose actually seems to enjoy this. She knows what to expect each day and has gotten much more confident in reading directions and working independently. Each lesson starts out with a page called "Spelling Words in Action" - a little essay containing some of the spelling words for that week.

The spelling words are shown in bold print in the essay. This particular essay is from lesson 9, and it is about how to make nachos. It includes the words true, you, few, use, and rule, all of which are list words for this week . I used to read the essays aloud, but now that Rose's reading has taken off she reads them to me. At the end of this essay we were asked to say each of the words in bold print and think about what vowel sounds we could hear.

 Each lesson starts the same way, with a short, interesting essay featuring some of the spelling words from that lesson. Each essay ends with a short oral exercise, such as identifying vowel sounds in the words, looking at the endings of words, or identifying consonant blends. This level includes essays on Johnny Appleseed, flying fish, and jumping rope. There is a nice variety of topics.

Rose does the first written page of the lesson right after we read the essay.  This page is titled "Spelling Practice". It begins with a spelling tip, which I read aloud. This week it says "Each list word has a long u sound. The long u can be spelled ew, as in few; u_e , as in rule; ue, as in true; and ou, as in you." Beneath the tip are the ten list words for this lesson.  I have her read the list aloud to me, to make sure she knows all the words. In later lessons, the words are written in both print and cursive, which I think is a nice touch.

 Next, Rose is asked to write her list words under the heading that shows their long u sound spelling. Is the word spelled u_e like in June, ew like in new, ue like in blue, or ou like in soup? This is her least favorite page, because she thinks it's boring. The spelling practice page varies lesson to lesson. Sometimes list words are grouped according to their consonant blends, sometimes they are to be written out with prefixes circled, or written out according to their "c" sounds. But this page always involves the child writing out each spelling word.

The next day, things get a little more interesting (according to Rose). This page of spelling varies lesson to lesson. For this lesson, she read a silly sentence...."We sang a happy rule in our holiday concert." Then she figured out which of her list words should replace the underlined word. In this case, tune makes much more sense!

Next up is a story that is missing some words. Rose filled in the words from her spelling list that made sense.

Like I said, this third page of each lesson differs week to week. Here's a look at just a few of the activities this level includes.

Word addition for learning contractions

Word searches

Word puzzles

 Other activities involve unscrambling list words, writing the list word that belongs with a group of other words, or reading clues and figuring out which list word matches. There are usually two activities like these in each lesson.

The last page of each lesson is the "Spelling and Writing" section. First, there is the proofreading section. Students are asked to identify mistakes in sentences, such as capitalization errors, missing punctuation, and list words spelled incorrectly. They use proofreading marks to edit each sentence, then write each misspelled word correctly. By the end of the book they have worked up to editing short paragraphs of about five sentences.

Each lesson concludes with a writing prompt. In this particular lesson, the student is asked to write about a favorite food and how to make it.

You can see that this prompt is blank - because we don't do them! Rose does Writing Strands and Writing with Ease, and that is enough writing for her right now. The prompts are short and interesting though, and if you wanted more writing practice they would be a pretty painless way to get it in.

 It is suggested that students keep a notebook of spelling words, but we don't do that. We just do the pages and move on. Every five lessons there is a review lesson covering the previous five lessons. The review lessons  always end with a "Show What You Know" section, which is Rose's favorite part of Spelling Workout. Here, she is asked to fill in the bubble next to the misspelled word in each line. She gets a kick out of the silly ways words have been spelled to try to "trick" her.

The book ends with a dictionary section including each spelling word; I know it is there but we have never used it for anything.There are teacher's guides available for this series, but I have never purchased them. The first few levels are so easy that an answer key is unnecessary. The teacher's guide says it includes extra teaching activities but I prefer to keep spelling simple, so we just use the workbook.

My kids would never say they love spelling but I notice they always complete it without my nagging them, and that's saying a lot around here! We don't use workbooks for much else, so I think Spelling Workout is kind of a novelty. I also think there is something satisfying about doing a workbook - at the very least there is an obvious end point!

So, I like this program. It is easy to use, requires zero prepwork, and Rose can work on it independently. Level C, which she is using now, is quite similar to Level B, with more challenging words.  

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