Wednesday, October 5, 2016

All About Spelling: Recording My Dictation

I love All About Spelling and have found what I consider a simple improvement ("life hack"?) for teaching multiple students.

After a brief attempt to use other phonics programs with my then four-year-old firstborn, I switched to All About Learning Press--with its All About Reading and All About Spelling programs--and have used them happily for five years now. I recommend these programs enthusiastically to every parent who asks me, whether their children are academically advanced, average, or have learning disabilities.

Too dark photos

Currently, I am teaching three elementary-aged children out of three levels of All About Spelling, while being an Animal Tamer for the circus that is my three-year-old and one-year-old boys. I love how well my children learn to spell using AAS, but I admit to struggling now to keep up with daily dictating about four sentences each times three students.

I'm not alone in this challenge. Several times, I've had fellow homeschooling moms tell me that they loved AAS but switched away from it because of the time it takes to dictate the sentences.

Well, I may be slow--five years slow, apparently--but I hit upon an idea that is working fantastically: now I dictate my sentences all at once and record them as Voice Memos on my smart phone. Voila! The children can work independently!

Here's how it is working:

  1. I sit down (or hide in the laundry room with the door shut) to record the dictation sentences for the whole week, dividing them up over four school days (as we are at co-op on Fridays). I enunciate well and repeat each sentence twice.
  2. I name each file by day and child, e.g., "Monday spelling for John" or "Wednesday spelling for Mary."
  3. I teach the lesson content one-on-one on Monday, then for the rest of the week, the child should be able to do spelling independently.
  4. Each day, the child asks to borrow my phone and grabs his spiral notebook. The child plays the recording of the day, pausing the recording as necessary in between sentences.
  5. When the child is finished, the child retrieves his AAS book and checks his own work. Any words that are incorrect, the child writes correctly.

So far, my children love this new system. A parent has to judge one's own family situation, of course. A smart phone should have some protections on it, and it shouldn't be used as a tool with a child who is having trouble avoiding the temptation of using the phone to access the Internet without permission. A parent who tries this may want to require the child to be within some degree of supervision--within eyesight or earshot of Mama--just like when using a computer with Internet access.

This idea is so simplistic that I feel ridiculous sharing it on my blog, yet I know I can't be the only one who didn't think of it! I know several moms who have switched spelling curriculum solely because another system (which they don't like as much as AAS) offers dictation on a CD, or is computer-based. Now, I get to continue using the spelling program I think is superior but with an added convenience!

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