When my first two children began reading at 3 years 10 months and then read all the Narnia books independently before they turned 6, I thought all my children would be the same. Same parents, same environment – no sweat. How naive I was. In fact none of my next 7 children have read that early. Some have had a struggle. I have used various curriculum over the years and are presently using “Alpha to Omega’ by Dr. Beve Hornsby and Frula Shear.
The programme is designed expressly for dyslexics but is also useful for slow readers or students learning English as a second language. My mother is a SPELD teacher and it is the resource she uses the most. I bought the book second-hand from www.abebooks.co.uk for about NZ$27 (including postage) and it arrived in excellent condition. The authors are British, so it is a relief to have New Zealand spelling and pronunciation.
The book presents a systematic teaching of all the phonics and nuances of the English language. Stage One starts at the very beginning with sounds of individual letters, moving on to one-syllable, three letter words with short vowels such as ‘sad’. Next comes consonant blends such as ‘sp,’ ‘cr,’ ‘st’ followed by consonant digraphs such as ‘sh,’ ‘ch,’ ‘wh’ and ‘th’. ‘N’ before ‘t’, ‘d’, and ‘ch’ and ‘m’ before ‘p’ as in words like ‘lunch’ and ‘lamp’ is next. My mother calls the n and m ‘hidden letters’ because often her students have trouble hearing these letters tucked in before the last consonant of the word. There is a lot of teaching on naughty ‘w’, a very powerful letter that can change the sound of some letters, is sometimes silent, can make other letters silent and sometimes changes into a vowel. I haven’t seen this topic covered as thoroughly in any of the other programs I’ve used. For each new topic the authors give a short and sweet explanation, then lists of words for the child to read and spell to demonstrate the concept. Stage Two and Three progressively cover all spelling rules.
I have been using Alpha to Omega with two children this year. One child is coming to reading and spelling at an older age and has specific learning areas which have been challenging to him. When we started Alpha to Omega he was reading some words and knew the sounds the letters made plus some of the consonant blends such as ‘br’. His spelling was almost nonexistent. (He is currently 9 years old). He has made so much progress in reading and spelling I am very excited! * I have also used it with a 7 year old who has greatly benefitted from the spelling aspect. She enjoys the explanations on various spelling rules and is using them.
Each child has a lined exercise book to write in. We discuss the new concept then I read the word list to the child. The child then reads the list back to me. Next we move onto trying to spell the words on the word list. I review each word as soon as the child has written it to see if they have understood the concept. If they get the first word wrong, we re-explore the topic. As we give out the spelling words I make up a funny sentences with the word in it. Each day we can do as much or as little as I think is right. Usually we spend 10-15 minutes every day. We repeat the same topic for several days, sometimes weeks until mastered. My mother says some things have to be reviewed often, and not to get upset when the child seems to forget their consonant blends again. Just re-teach and practice. Go back in the book for a few days. That is the beauty of not being tied to a workbook.
There are other learning activities in the book such as dictation (sentences for the child to write using the words from the list), ‘word sums’ (which is teaching children to break down multi-syllable words into segments so they can be sounded out) and lists of odd words that don’t follow spelling rules. There are game suggestions in the book but we have made our own games up to practice a concept. Using the cardboard from cereal boxes we made a set of consonant blend cards and used them to play “go fish”. This worked well as the child had to keep on practicing the blends when they asked “Do you have a ‘br’?” The last chapters of the book are all about Language Usage and writing. I haven’t explored these pages yet.
I recommend this book to anyone who wants a thorough yet affordable resource and who doesn’t want to be tied to workbooks.
*I don’t credit his progress solely to the use of this book. We do use other resources such as Pathway Readers and their corresponding workbooks. All Early readers read aloud to me each day from Christian Liberty Nature Readers or Christian Light Publications Reading to Learn Series. The use of this book has definitely given him a boost of confidence in Spelling.