The Spelling by Sound and Structure series for grades 2 through 8 is one of the most inexpensive options you will find. It uses a formal academic approach, and the early grades have a strong phonetic emphasis that shifts more toward study of word structure in upper grades. Students do extensive work with dictionary type phonetic spellings throughout the series.
The level of difficulty of the spelling words is about average. Both word lists and activity content in all Rod and Staff books reflect both Christian beliefs and their view of a kinder, gentler society.
Although student workbook pages are fill-in-the-blank approach, the teacher's editions offer a number of activities for oral or expanded written work. Consider adding or substituting some of these when appropriate. Student books are consumable up through fifth grade level.
Teacher's editions are student pages with answers overprinted. There are also sections with additional teaching suggestions and sentences you might use for giving spelling tests.
This workbook divides each lesson into two parts: Part A works on synonyms, antonyms, definitions, picture clues, context clues, and categories of words; Part B works on phonetic patterns and word structure (syllables, plurals, verb forms, etc.). There are 34 weekly lessons with some of those being review lessons. Twelve new words are introduced per lesson.
New word lists are presented in both printed and cursive forms. Words are grouped by phonetic or structural similarities so children can learn the pertinent rules. There are 34, two-page lessons with 13 words per lesson except in review lessons. Each lesson has three parts: A develops familiarity with word meanings, B teaches the phonetic and structural principles, and C works on dictionary skills.
This worktext is more detail-oriented than most other spelling programs at this level. Lessons are divided into four parts: A "...introduces one or two speech sounds and teaches the most common spellings of these sounds....", B helps familiarize children with word meanings, C teaches dictionary skills, and D works on a variety of other skills such as syllabication. Because the amount of material covered increases at this level, the print is smaller and more crowded. Although the student workbook is consumable, some students might find it easier to do their written work in a separate notebook. A spelling word dictionary at the back is handy for reference. (A revised edition has been introduced since this review was written.)
The fifth grade level book in this series is very similar in format to that of the fourth grade book. Although there is a great deal of detail and drill, the word lists reflect an average level of difficulty. (A revised edition has been introduced since this review was written.)
At sixth grade level, the student text switches from soft cover to hardbound textbook. There are 34 lessons with 20 words per lesson except for review lessons. Spelling, pronunciation, meanings, structural patterns, abbreviations, contractions, syllabication, and other concepts are taught and reviewed. Challenge activities are included for advanced students. A Speller Dictionary at the back is handy for reference. The teacher's edition provides teaching tips and answer keys.
The seventh grade student book is hardbound as is the teacher's edition. The teacher's edition has the student pages printed on the left-hand pages and teaching information/answers on the right-hand pages. It might be possible to work only from the teacher's edition, but since the books are so inexpensive, I suggest getting both books. Although the title at this level is still Spelling by Sound and Structure, the emphasis switches from sound and structure to Latin word elements—roots, prefixes, and suffixes. The content is challenging, but the lessons are quite interesting and thought-provoking. "Old English Dialects," "Abstract and Concrete Meanings," "First Bible Accounts in English," and "Old English Place Names" are typical of the side studies we find in various lessons. Consider using this text with students beyond seventh-grade level because of the quality content.
Latin and Greek roots, etymology, and words from other languages are added at this level.