Spelling Power is a single volume that can be used to teach spelling to all of your children, ages eight through adult. It serves as instruction manual for the parent or teacher with all of the word lists needed for all grade or ability levels making up the bulk of the book. Students complete work with their word lists each day on two forms: Daily Test Sheets and 10-Step Study Sheets. These are then compiled in a binder or record book.
Spelling Power might seem overwhelming at first. There is a great deal of material for parents or teachers to read. However, the “Quick Start Steps” at the beginning of the book walk you through placement and instructions for using the program. Once you understand how the program works, it is relatively easy to use.
The newest (2006, fourth) edition of Spelling Power comes with the Quick Start DVD and the Teacher's Resource CD-ROM. The Quick Start DVD makes getting started easier than ever since it walks you through actual lessons with a student so that it is very understandable. Watching at least the first few segments on the DVD is the best way to start, and you should have your book in hand so you can follow along.
This very comprehensive spelling program uses a base list of about 5,000 frequently used words. A list of the 12,000 most-frequently-used and most-frequently-misspelled words is included on the Teacher's Resource CD-ROM. This list is used to choose words for review as well as for supplementing the basic 5000 words already taught in the program. These 12,000 words are coded to show when each is taught by grade level and in correlation with Spelling Power.
The 5000 word list in the teacher's manual is broken down into eleven levels of frequency. Each level is further divided into 47 possible groups based on common elements such as phonetic principles or spelling rules
Diagnostic tests place each student at his or her proper beginning point in the list. From that point, rather than working on predetermined, weekly word lists as in other spelling programs, Spelling Power has children pretest words but then study only those with which they have trouble. This should be much more efficient and effective than typical classroom programs although it does require more parental direction. Each student progresses at his or her own rate. Frequently misspelled words are reviewed periodically to insure retention. There are six levels of built-in review in the program.
A ten-step study process is used to study each word to be learned. This ten-step process should help even poor spellers improve their skills.
The book itself has been rearranged for this latest edition to make it easier to use. I especially appreciate the pictures of student pages/worksheets placed in the instructions where they are discussed. The majority of the book is made up of the word lists, resources for teaching, and helpful suggestions for dealing with children with specific needs. This is not a student workbook. You still need to present each lesson's spelling pretest of the words and select the skill building activity designed to reinforce spelling words and skills.
Direct instruction will be required at first, but children will be able to work more independently as they learn how it works. Even after students become familiar with the program, parents or teachers still need to spend five minutes per day in direct instruction. Students should spend about fifteen minutes total per day on their Spelling Power lessons. The interaction required between teacher and child in the early grades actually makes this program more ideal for homeschoolers than for the regular classroom.
Suggestions for games and activities are included in the book. In addition, optional Spelling Power Activity Task Cards provide drill activities, games, skill builders, writing prompts, dictionary skill work, and other types of activities. Within each category of activities, cards are color coded into four categories corresponding to age and skill level groupings covering all grade levels. Most activities can be completed by a student working alone, although a few require a partner. The Activity Task Cards come with a very helpful teacher's manual. The manual tells you how to use the cards, offers suggestions for making your own letter tiles, cross references to Spelling Power lessons, and includes answers for the appropriate cards. Activity Task Cards might also be used along with any other phonic-based spelling program. I highly recommend purchasing the Activity Task Cards since they help address the needs of various learning styles.
The companion Teacher's Resource CD-ROM is installed directly onto your computer. The CD includes the Spelling Power Digital Tutor, a spelling tutorial program for independent study. Parents or teachers need to enter word lists for students, but then students can work with the words—listening, repeating, and typing them into the computer. The CD also features a huge library of printable resources that include student worksheets, record keeping pages, rules charts, and teaching aids, and printable “cards” with skill building activities. (Note that the activities are the same as those in the book but do not include all those on the separate set of task cards.) The printable forms make it easy to create your own student record books, but you still might want to purchase the pre-printed, bound versions from a Spelling Power distributor that are designed with lines appropriately spaced for different ability levels. When used properly, the student record books eliminate extra record keeping by the teacher.
Note that the Teacher's Resource CD-ROM is not compatible with Mac systems. Those with Macs may contact Spelling Power for an alternate way to access skill-builders and printable forms, but they will not be able to run the Digital Tutor. Since the Digital Tutor is not essential to the program, this should not be a significant drawback. Also, the DVD and CD-ROM are sold separately and will work with older editions of Spelling Power.
The DVD and CD-ROM plus the improvements in the book itself make a great program even better. I think parents who were overwhelmed by the explanatory information in previous volumes will find the latest edition far more user friendly.