Monday, August 06, 2007

Book Review : Natural Speller

There was a question on a yahoo group about a spelling curriculum I LOVE - it's the Natural Speller.

For spelling through all the grades, hands-down, I prefer Natural Speller. I cna't selpl. Neither can my oldest daughter. So I read a bunch of posts and this was recommended after you've tried everything else - so I decided to try it.
I use it by asking kids to orally spell the words until they have 10 words they don't know & they study those for a week using the suggestions in Natural Speller.

*It is E-A-S-Y to use.
*An inexpensive non-consumable investment for all my kids for 1st - 8th grade, words by category, foreign words.
*It's the word lists organized by sight/sound patterns so the kids get a bunch of words that are teaching the same thing at the same time (all the long 'a' silent 'e' words are together, etc.
*Spelling Rules (which I don't use, but you could - it's all greek to me)
*Suggested spelling practice activities / dictionary skills using spelling / grammar skills using spelling / vocabulary with spelling
*Teaching aids - letter formats for friendly, business & writing rules of capitalization & punctuation.

The question on the yahoo group wanted to know a jumping off point to starting the program. I use it like this :
  • Each of the kids works at his own pace. I begin spelling after the kids are fluent readers (usually by 2nd grade or so.)
  • I ask a kid to spell each word orally in the lists until he hits 10 missed words. Those are his spelling words for the week. I write them on index cards for them to study throughout the week and in his student planner. Natural Speller has suggestions on how to study words throughout the week on page 4 of my copy. They study them throughout the week. On Friday I test them (orally - it's quicker). If they miss 3 words or more, they have the same list with their additional 10 the next week. If they miss 2 words or less, they just have those words added to their 10 for the next week. This has worked out GREAT for us.
  • The words are based on sounds so all the -ent words are together in a list. I don't tell them which ones they got right or wrong until they've accumulated 10 wrong. I don't want them guessing to get a word right. If they don't know it, I'd rather they study it. If they study 10 -ent words in a week, I'm fine with that. I feel like studying the words they don't know as a group will give them "pegs" upon which to hang future information and allow for better recall when writing them in a real world situation.
  • There are spelling rules in the back of the book. I personally don't use them (meaning I don't make my kids memorize them). Either they are a naturally good speller and don't really need them -- or they are as rotten as their mama and memorizing the rules won't make much difference. Many people just LOVE the rules in the back, though. I checked and I didn't find the difference between -ent and -ant words in the book, so I typed in "ent ant spelling rule" in yahoo and came up with this site. All those rules are a little more in depth than I prefer to go, but some people really dig that stuff.
  • One question asked was about teaching all the kids the same "rule" or set of words at the same time on their own grade level. Since I'm so thrilled for my oldest daughter to be just 1/2 year behind in the spelling level of her grade and thrilled my middle daughter is a year ahead of what grade she'd be in -- meaning I want them challenged to the best of their ability -- I'm not so interested in combining spelling lists. I'm not sure how this could be accomplished.
My goal in teaching spelling is to make them the best they can be -- not necessarily spelling bee champs. This product helps me do that cheaply, easily (as far as how much teacher time is required) and effectively.


  1. debra8:28 PM

    Thanks so much. I am the one who originated the question on the yahoo group. Your answer has helped me get a foundation on starting this. My goal is the same as yours. I'm not looking for spelling bee champs, just kids who can write a letter or a book report and do spell correctly. Again, thanks a bunch.

  2. Hi. I am getting ready to start using Natural Speller with my (good speller) first born son, who will be in first grade. I have been googling to see how other people approach their "lessons plans" to this book. It's so open- ended. I like your idea of testing them orally in order to find 10 they don't know. Great!!! I think that will work nicely for us. What i'm curious about, though, is how to "fill" the rest of the week with practical ways (semi-independent) for him to practice the spelling words in prep for his week-end test. I've had trouble understanding Donna Young's advice on using the Natural Speller. She refers to Activities (presumably mentioned in the Natural SPeller?) that she has them do each day.
    here's her site.
    Do you have any "activities" that you use to keep things varied during the week while they are practicing their list of spelling words?
    Also, where do you have your kids record the Spelling Words (challenge words, etc)?
    Do you just go straight down the list for "a" for example?
    i'd love any help you can offer.

  3. In the orginal post, I said that I write the words on index cards for them to study throughout the week and in his student planner.
    The activities are in page 4 of my book. I also have a list of activities if needed :

    ABC order- Write your words in alphabetical order.
    Rainbow Words - Write your words in three colors
    Backwards Words- Write your words forwards, then backwards.
    Silly sentences -Use all your words in ten sentences
    Picture words - Draw a picture and write your words in the picture.
    Words without Vowels - Write your words replacing all vowels with a line.
    Words without Consonants - Same as above but replace consonants with lines.
    Story words - Write a short story using all your words.
    Scrambled words -Write your words, then write them again with the letters mixed up.
    Wordsearch II -Make a wordsearch with a friend, then trade and solve.
    Wordsearch I - Complete a word pre-made search.
    Crossword - Complete a pre-made crossword puzzle.
    Surround words - Write your words on graph paper and outline in colors.
    Ransom words - Write your words by cutting out letters in a newspaper or magazine and glue them on a paper.
    Pyramid Words - Write your words adding or subtracting one letter at a time. The result will be a pyramid shape of words.
    Words-in-words - Write your word and then write at least 2 words made from each.
    Delicious words - Write your words in whipped cream, peanut butter,or anything you can eat! Bring in a note from a parent!
    Good Clean Words -Write your words in shaving cream on a counter or some other surface that can be cleaned safely.
    Dirty Words - Write your words in mud or sand.
    Pasta Words - Write your words by arranging alphabet pasta or Alphabits. Glue on paper or bring me a note from a parent and do on a table or counter at home.
    Reversed words - Write your words in ABC order -backwards!
    3D words - Use modeling clay rolled thinly to make your words. Bring a note if done at home.
    Create an activity - Can you think of a fun way to do your spelling activities? Try it out!
    Puzzle words - Use a blank puzzle form. Write your words on the form, making sure that the words cross over the pieces. Then cut them out (color if you wish) and put them in a baggie with your name on it. When you and a friend have completed your puzzles, trade and put them back together.
    Magazine words - Use an old magazine or newspaper and find your word. Cut it out and glue it on paper.
    Cheer your words - Pretend you are a cheerleader and call out your words! (We will do this as a group activity.) Sometimes you'll yell, sometimes you'll whisper! If you want to do this at home with a parent, get them to send me a note that you've done it.
    Sound Words - Use a tape recorder and record your words and their spelling. Then listen to your tape, checking to see that you spelled all the words correctly.
    X Words - Write two words having one common letter so they criss-cross.
    Other Handed - If you are right-handed, write with your left, or vice versa.
    Choo-Choo Words - Write the entire list end-to-end as one long word, using different colors of crayon or ink for different words.
    Silly String - With a long length of string, "write" words in cursive, using the string to shape the letters.
    Backwriting - Using your finger, draw each letter on a partners' back, having the partner say the word when completed.
    Telephone Words - Translate your words into numbers from a telephone keypad.
    Flashwriting - In a darkened room, use a flashlight to draw letters in the air.
    Newspaper Words - Search a newspaper page from top to bottom, circling each letter of a word as you find it.
    30 Second Words - Write a TV commercial using all the words from your list.
    Popsicles - Make words using popsicle sticks.
    Secret Agent Words - Number the alphabet from 1 to 26, then convert your words to a number code.
    Etch-A-Word - Use an Etch-A-Sketch to write your words.
    Morse Code - Convert your words to Morse Code