Topic | Spelling for the older child

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  • crazy4boys

    I have a 13-year-old who is a rather bad speller.  He’s done copywork for most of his life, and some dictation.  We’ve read a bazillion books outloud to him, and he reads a lot of books solo.  We’ve gone through 3 levels of All About Spelling.  He spells fairly well in his spelling lessons (mabye 75 to 80% right) but in his written narrations and creative type writing it’s truly awful.

    Other than increase dictation and continue with copywork…is there a program out there that helps OLDER learners?  I know that he’ll balk at anything with baby stuff.  Maybe tweak something babyish to not be so young?  I’ll most likely continue with AAS unless I can find something that will work better.  He struggles with language; it’s one of his learning challenges.  Spell check on the commputer doesn’t help because his spelling is so off the computer can’t even recommend anything.



    You could try Phonetic Zoo from IEW. It’s basically self directed and straight forward. They suggest was levels 1-3 and then starting Phonetic Zoo.

    Alicia Hart

    You could also try Spelling City – might be too young but maybe not ?  My 12 yo still likes it.


    My boys are a bit younger than yours….aged 9.5 and almost 11.  But FWIW, at one point we were trying combintations of Phonetic Zoo and Sequential Spelling.  I REALLY wanted to love Phonetic Zoo; I truly hoped it would be the solution for spelling for us.  But within a short time (8 lessons) I saw what I see with most “list” programs.  My sons were passing the list tests and then 3 weeks later spelling the words from that list incorrectly.

    The only one that has worked for us (to solve that particular problem mentioned….and REALLY make the spelling stick) is Sequential Spelling.  We now do this program Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday (I don’t want 2 days off in a row).  It’s really working well for us.   The patterns are unusual, but they work — they are a really different way of driving home spelling.  We use SW dication alongside of this.

    I also make a note of words spelling incorrectly in written narrations and keep a “word book” of these.  I try to have my boys at least look through their word book once a week.  Every once in while I pull out the word book, hand out a whiteboard marker and quiz them on these words on our white board (talk about a spot test!)  I am so “mean” that lately I’ve even been quizzing eldest on his “word book” words while we’re on the chair lift together waiting to get up for skiing!  Keeping this “word” book was an easy way for me to keep track of the “common” errors (he was often forgetting to drop silent “e” before adding ing…. the word book showed me that this was a pattern/habit for him, so then became easy for me to “quiz”…

    Lishie’s idea above could work here too…you could put the “word book” words into the spelling city program and he could do a word find game on them…


    HTH, Angie


    Have you considered Logic of English?  Maybe even watching her free videos will give you some ideas. 



    We are working our way through Level 3 of AAS and I’m also trying to decide whether to continue with Level 4 or switch to Logic of English.  It looks like a great program for struggling spellers that are a bit older. 





    Wow – just watched the video for logic of  english.  (I watched the one on the curriculum in general, not the words list video)  Impressive!  That appears to be one very well put together curriculum. 

    To the OP – I noticed at the end she mentioned that some people wonder whether learning spelling via “short” and “easy” words will be a turn off for older struggling students.  The remark was something about older students questioning whether the program is too easy (I’m paraphrasing… but that was the general thought)  I found that remark interesting and it reminded me of what you said about your son.  She follows up the comment by (bascially) saying that it’s only when students learn the hows and the WHY of these short, “easy” spelling words that they be able to apply it to multi-syllable words.  That’s why so much time is spent on the “easy” and short words.  And it’s true that our kids need the practice on these early lessons; I would just hope that there is ample time, practice and focus spent on that last step of applying all you learned in the bulk of the program (short words) to multi-syllable words.

    Again, the only program I’ve seen that doesn’t take this approach of starting with “short words” (seeming baby’ish to older kids) is Sequential Spelling.  SS mixes single syllable and multi-syllable words from very early on.  It’s not phonetic based however, and I suspect that’s the deal-breaker for many.  For my oldest two, I just decided to give up on that aspect and went for SS anyway.  They do it with headphones, using the DVD on computer screen, and as I mentioned above it does seem to be sticking; because they do it independently it never gets missed so I suspect the consistency is playing a role in our success as well.

    Good luck!


    Rachel White

    I started my then 12 yr. old son on Megawords 1 last year. I’m beginning to see an improvement. I have him skip some parts.

    Also, I started him reviewing Spelling Rules, doing a rule a week, with review there-on-out; and the Megawords Rules daily, then multi-weekly, using Quizlet. That way the rules become inbedded into his memory, as I obviously didn’t do enough of that when he was younger as I should’ve.

    I had also tried SS and thought that he was improving inititally, but not having the phonetics be more directly taught caused that program not to have real-life application when he came across a word he didn’t know how to spell.


    Thanks for the suggestions and ideas.  I’ll be researching each of them.

    To clarify the comment I made about being too ‘baby’….I’m not worried about the shorter words, but some programs have pictures of cute bunnies and puppies.  Or the sentences they use are very simplified.  I know he’d hate studying out of a book like that.  

    What I don’t understand is how he can get it right (mostly) in the lessons but everything goes out the door in his other writing.  Even the most basic sight words.  He can read them just fine…just can’t spell them.

    If we were to start using Spelling Wisdom for copywork and dictation, would I start him in the first level?  When I’ve looked at the placement tests for each of the programs thus far he would test into Level 1 on all of them.  

    Rachel White

    I would suggest Megawords 1 to start off. There are no too youngish symbols. It’s designed for grades 4+ and specifically done to avoid that type of thing.

    Yes, Bk. 1 in SW.

    Your description is of mine exactly. What I think happened is that he became such a quick and advanced reader so early, I think I didn’t “do phonics” enough as I should’ve. I did with my dd as she was a struggling reader and she has excellent spelling.

    It’s funny, though. My son does excellently in grammar and my dd is just the opposite.


    Well, I’m with you in that dd is a struggling speller. We’ve tried AAS and got to level 3 but the rules were just not sticking so I didn’t want to toss more money at a program that didn’t seem to be working for her. We used Spelling Power last year and it was good in that she only works on up to 5 missed words for that day. Any words she misses, they get back on the list.

    But like you said, she doesn’t seem to make the connection between the words she practices and the words she uses in her personal writing.

    I mentioned all the details to a few people and due to the other fact that she doesn’t sound out words either, they think it’s a phonics issue and I need to start her on Spalding. But if that’s all learning rules, that didn’t seem to work last time. However, trying Spalding alone, no other programs or other grammar or writing, was thought to make a good impact so I might try that route for a couple of months and reevaluate.

    I think I need to find her reading level and have her read lots, too.I thought I knew what it was but really I don’t know. She goes for books that seem too easy for her age so I don’t think she is where she can be.

    Oh, and it seems that “Teach your child to read in 100 Easy Lessons” might be the culprit, too. I’ve heard from others that their child used that and now has spelling issues. Of course not all kids will fall in this camp.


    I used Sequential Spelling for my teenage son with some success. He has LDs that include spelling difficulties and this is the only thing to show any benefit. AVKO has an adult version if you think that might go over better for your son.


    For those of you that tried new programs; how did they work out for you?  My 6th grader read a bible passage aloud to me the other day and it was awful.  And she even said it was awful.  She reads so fast and doesn’t sound out words that she mispronounces words.   When she writes she spells almost all her words wrong.  She spelled edible, edibull and happen, hapin.  Even words like what, when, where, and water she gets wrong.  I haven’t been using a formal spelling program with her but had been taking words from her dictations and making them into spelling lists but obviously this is not working!  I don’t even know what kind of program I should be looking for.


    My son is an intuitive speller so we never used a curriculum for spelling in his schooling years. My daughter has been a different story. We did use some curriculum with her but I have found copywork and dictation to be the most helpful. I also noticed that it took a little time for her spelling to improve but after a year her spelling improved dramatically.

    So, I’m curious about others’ experiences with copywork, dictation and spelling. How many have used these methods faithfully for spelling and had success? I know for us the key was consistency. It wasn’t until I became deliberate about including these methods on a very regular basis that I saw improvement in my daughter’s spelling.



    Has anyone used Strategy for Spelling or My Speller Dictionary from I use the reading(Reading Reflex right now) and love it.

    I will try it in a few years for my dd.

    Besides this one, I like Stevenson Spelling(, which uses memory clues.

    I use All About Spelling’s letter tiles with Reading Reflex. My dd responds well to magnets.

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