All About Spelling (AAS) is a spelling program that is based on the intensive phonics approach of the Orton-Gillingham methodology. It uses multi-sensory activities that should work well with most learners. AAS is presented in seven levels that can be used from first grade all the way through high school.
While the program shares many features found in other reading programs (such as working with phonogram tiles) and students will learn to read and write words, it is specifically geared toward teaching spelling. You might want to use it alongside All About Reading (also one of my Top Picks) from the same publisher since the lessons will reinforce one another. AAS does not teach handwriting or letter formation. If you are teaching a young child who has not yet learned to write, you might choose a handwriting program to use in conjunction with AAS.
AAS is a multisensory program. It addresses the three learning modalities in these ways:
Visual: spelling rules are demonstrated with color-coded letter tiles. Flashcards for phonograms, rules, and spelling words also provide visual cues.
Auditory: lessons are taught aloud and flashcards are reviewed orally. When learning new words, students hear themselves say the sounds as they write the corresponding phonograms.
Kinesthetic: children build new words with letter tiles; write phonograms, words, phrases, and sentences from dictation; and handle flashcards.
While AAS is not as multi-sensory as a program that includes songs and games, it should meet the needs of most children. And it uniquely incorporates multi-sensory learning all the way through the program, not just for young students.
AAS lessons are presented as “Steps.” The Steps break instruction into small increments that are easy for students to learn. Each Step focuses on a single concept, such as a particular phonogram or spelling rule, and includes a spelling word list that reinforces that concept. The Steps are customizable and designed to be completed at the student’s pace, so depending on the needs of the student, each one might take a couple of days or weeks to complete.
Because Level 1 teaches foundational spelling rules that apply to more advanced words in higher levels, most students should begin there regardless of what grade they are in. A placement test on the publisher’s website will help you determine the correct level for your child.
Each level of AAS requires three essential components: the teacher’s manual, the student packet, and either the Basic or Deluxe Interactive Kit.
The student packet for Level 1 contains four sets of color-coded flashcards: Phonogram Cards, Sound Cards (for dictation), Key Cards (spelling rules), and Word Cards (spelling words). It also includes tokens for segmenting words, a progress chart, and a certificate of completion. Flashcards are printed on perforated cardstock, so you’ll need to separate them and store them in your own 3” x 5” index card box or the Spelling Review Box offered by the publisher. With the exception of the Word Cards, the Level 1 flashcards are all used again in Levels 2 through 7. Student packets for subsequent levels include additional flashcards, level-specific materials, a progress chart, and a certificate of completion.
The Basic Interactive Kit includes the Phonogram Sounds app that will run on computers and mobile devices, a set of letter tiles, magnets for the letter tiles, and spelling divider cards for your index card box. (As the child moves through the program, flashcards are sorted behind dividers labeled “Review” and “Mastered.”) The Deluxe Interactive Kit adds the Spelling Review Box, sparkling bee stickers for use on the progress chart, and a custom tote bag for storing all of the components.
With the exception of the stickers and progress chart, all items are non-consumable, so you could use them with another student. However, if you are teaching two or more students simultaneously, each student will need his or her own student packet so you can customize the review portion of the lesson.
The Phonogram Sounds app gives students practice in seeing, hearing, and identifying the phonograms. The letter tiles are one-inch-square, laminated tiles for all of the letters and phonograms. The adhesive magnets go on the back of the letter tiles so you can use them on a magnetic whiteboard. Author Marie Rippel recommends using a 2’ x 3’ magnetic, erasable white board that you can also use for storing the tiles. Some children may not need or enjoy the hands-on work with letter tiles, and for those students, Rippel suggests that you write out words on paper or a whiteboard instead.
One of the most impressive features of this program is the instruction for teachers. Lessons are explained thoroughly and include teaching tips and cautions about common problems at pertinent points in each lesson. Because you learn as you go, the layout eliminates the need for you to first read through a separate manual whenever you need information. If you should need additional help, the publisher offers free phone and email support.
Step 1 in the Level 1 book teaches the sounds of the individual letters using phonogram flashcards—including such variations as the two sounds of the letter g. Parents who aren’t familiar with the sounds of the phonograms can learn them from the Phonogram Sounds app.
After introducing the letters and their sounds, Level 1 teaches students how to “segment” words by identifying the individual sounds within them. Color-coded letter tiles are introduced, first for learning how to alphabetize the letters, then for constructing words.
A form of dictation begins in Step 4 when students are asked to listen to the sound of a phonogram and then point to the letter tile that makes the sound. In later lessons, students write the phonogram on lined paper then listen to and spell words with letter tiles.
By the end of Step 11, students are writing spelling words and several phrases such as “big dog.” Step 12 introduces consonant digraphs "th, sh," and "ch," with subsequent Steps continuing to add more challenging phonograms and concepts like compound words and syllabication.
Level 2 quickly reviews Level 1 content then adds 11 more phonograms. The program emphasizes the rules and generalizations for spelling, and syllabication plays an increasingly important role. For example, students learn rules such as those on Key Card 5, which teaches that the vowel in a closed syllable is usually short and the vowel in an open syllable is usually long. The student packet includes “syllable tags” that students use in conjunction with the letter tiles to identify types of syllables.
“Rule breaker” words like of and was are taught at this level, but there are very few sight words. The amount of dictation expands to several phrases and sentences per day. The vocabulary introduced in Level 2 ranges from simple words like cake, late, and car to more challenging words like compost, humid, and prevent.
Level 3 adds suffix tiles and more syllable tags to the letter tile collection. In addition to work on suffixes and syllables, silent-e words receive more attention as students complete the Silent E Book that comes in the student packet. More challenging phonograms like the sounds of oo and ways to spell the /k/ sound are taught along with contractions and homophones. Spelling words taught in Level 3 are generally longer and more complex, with words like childhood, graceful, we’ll, and giggle being representative.
Level 4 adds prefix tiles to the tile set, then continues to advance with more challenging phonograms like eigh and the four sounds of the letter y. Syllable types, syllable division rules, and spelling strategies are also taught at this level. An example of a dictation sentence from page 20 of this level is, “None of the students took the test today.” Examples of some of the more difficult words taught are chimney, eighteen, and unhinged.
Level 5 adds phonograms such as si and ough while continuing work on other phonograms, such as those that make the /er/ sound. Students also work on plurals, including irregular plurals. One sample from the dictation on page 62 is, “What flavor is the cake you’re baking for us tonight?” Some more-challenging spelling words from Level 5 are encouraged, equipment, gnome, perfection, and volcanoes.
Level 6 teaches phonograms like mb, gu, and augh; exceptions to the i-before-e rule; suffixes such as able and ible; some “rule breakers”; and other advanced facets of spelling. Examples of the more-challenging words are agreeably, collectible, encouragement, sheik, and sheriff. Many of the words are familiar words with suffixes that are often misspelled.
Level 7 provides coverage through high school. The program covers advanced sounds, Latin roots, Greek word elements, French endings and silent letters, and some Spanish and Italian words. Examples of some of the words are extinguish, convenient, solemn, bankruptcy, transformation, and psychology. Students work on word analysis and learn to identify prefixes, suffixes, and roots. Letter tiles are frequently used for word analysis and word building.
Although All About Spelling is a rules-oriented program, incremental teaching and a multisensory approach help students to be successful.