The AVKO (Audio, Visual, Kinesthetic, Oral) Dyslexia Research Foundation distributes educational materials designed to help dyslexic children and other struggling learners to learn just a little bit easier. The Foundation was started by Don McCabe, who is himself a dyslexic, among others. There are many materials available throughout the company, and I will list a few here and describe them the best I can!!
Sequential Spelling for Homeschool
Many parents have already discovered Sequential Spelling. It is a spelling program based on word families (at, bat, cat, sat, fat, etc). The great thing about this program is that it goes beyond the normal word families, to help us to see the patterns that exist and to lock in on those patterns with their computer brains. For example, AVKO believes that if you can teach a child (or an adult) the word at, you can also teach him: bat, bats batted, batting, as well as batter, etc... the student takes a test every day, and then corrects their own mistakes right then, when they make them, not hours, days or even weeks later. This is the most important difference between the traditional approach to spelling and the AVKO approach: AVKO uses the tests as a learning device, and not as a method of evaluation. They believe that the natural method of learning is to learn from mistakes, and that is why the student corrects their own mistakes when they make them - so they can learn from them!
The nitty gritty of this program is that every day the student writes a test. The words are all from word families. On day one, the words are: in, pin, sin, spin. As soon as the first word is written or the child tries to write it, you ask them what the first letter of in is. Hopefully they will know that it is an i. Now you write the I down on a dry erase board. Next ask them what the second letter is. They may know the sound, or the name of the letter, in any case, again, write it down on the dry erase board. On the dry erase board you now have the word in written. It doesn't really matter what colour pen you used to write the word, but it is helpful and recommended to use the same color for the base or word family, and a contrasting color for the beginning letters that will be used later on. If the student has the word correctly written on his paper, move on. If the word is incorrect, have them correct it right now! The give the second word, pin, along with a sentence to illustrate the word. After the child has attempted to write the word pin, you again show the beginning p written in black (or whatever colour you choose) and then the ending in written in whatever colour you chose for the first word. The student can see that all three letters together form the word pin, but they can also plainly see that the first word and the second word are almost alike, with just a different beginning sound. Carry on through all the words: sin and spin. You can also work through the words backwards! For example, for spin, this time ask what the last two letters are and then show -in. Write it in the same colour as the original -in was written. Then ask what comes before the -in sound, and ask them if they can hear the word pin in the word spin. Lastly, they should recognize the sound s in front of the word pin... Now, tell the student that if they have made all their corrections they will receive an A on their paper!! They should all get A's and be quite happy about it! The key is to correct the words immediately after they are written. Let the child attempt to write the word, then immediately correct it with them on the dry erase board! The lessons in the book are scripted, and very easy to follow. The lists get a little bit longer every day, but the jumps in difficulty are not huge. One of the keys is to speed the student through the test. There are twenty-five words, generally, per test, after the eighth day. The format is the same, give each word separately, say the word and give it in a sentence. Let the student attempt the spelling. Give the correct spelling and let each student correct his own. Then give the next word. Repeat the process of immediate student self-correction. Do not give the whole test and then correct, the AVKO people say that this method won't work, but if you follow their format, you will see success!!
The program is very thorough ... it is a simple format, and very easy to implement. It will work well for those older students who struggle with spelling. When they learn to see the word families in words, the lights will come on, and they will learn to sound things out, and spell correctly!! There are different levels, and also there are homeschool versions, as well as regular versions. I reviewed level one of the homeschool version. I would happily use this spelling course without any reservations!!
-- Review by Holly Cameron, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine
To Teach a Dyslexic
By Don McCabe
To Teach a Dyslexic is Don McCabe's autobiography. Don McCabe founded AVKO, which stands for the four modalities of learning, Audio, Visual, Kinesthetic, and Oral. The AVKO foundation was founded in 1974 to help tutor and teach proper spelling and reading methods to all, children or adult. Don McCabe is himself a dyslexic, as is his son and his grandson. Mr. McCabe also has ADHD, which, along with his dyslexia, he considers a gift that enabled him to learn how to teach dyslexics. His story is quite fascinating, and really, it shows how anything is possible. It is more than an autobiography, it is, as the back of the book states: a blue print long overdue that school systems can use to teach reading and writing. It is a very good book, and helps you to see the background of how Sequential Spelling and other AVKO products came about.
There are significant parts of the book that will help you understand what dyslexia is, and how you can teach a dyslexic. The book is also a fascinating look into how the public schools work, and why they don't work with dyslexic kids!! While not a homeschool product, per se, it is, nevertheless, great reading for any parent or educator who wants to understand more about the gift of dyslexia. I understood so much more about how to help my son after I had read this book. I will be using the Sequential Spelling program with him, as it is most probably the only program that will work, and after you read Mr. McCabe's book, his products are the only ones you will want to use!!
--Product Review by: Holly Cameron, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine
Have you ever questioned whether there was any pattern to spelling in the English language? So many of the rules just seem so illogical! Don McCabe had the same impression. He founded AVKO in 1974. The name comes from the four modalities of learning: Audio, Visual, Kinesthetic, and Oral. As a former reading teacher and dyslexic himself, Mr. McCabe brings wisdom and personal experience to his teaching. He has endeavored to find out the causal relationship between the spellings of words in English, to the nature of reading/spelling problems. His technique helps us to see patterns in spelling. For example, if the student can spell in, he can also spell pin, sin and spin. When he can spell all, he can also spell tall, stall, install, and installment. The method builds from easier words of a word family to larger, more complex words, at the same time building the student's self-confidence.
Products available include Volumes 1 - 7 of Sequential Spelling. Each volume contains 180 lessons with specific instructions for teaching this method. The Patterns of English Spelling is a huge, 800-page volume containing a complete listing of word families.
Mr. McCabe's mission includes teaching others how to teach. He also has available lesson plans for an adult community education course for volunteer tutors, entitled If it is to be, it is up to me to do it: Helping Anyone Overcome Reading/Spelling Problems. Some other interesting looking materials are included in his AVKO Foundation Catalog. 810-686-9283.
Publisher's note: The Old Schoolhouse Magazine is thankful to have received such a program from Mr. McCabe. We personally took a look at a thinner binder, The Reading Teacher's List of Over 5,500 Basic Spelling Words, Arranged by Order of Difficulty -- We plan to have our children learn every last spelling word over the next several years. We really appreciate a resource such as this one! Good job, AVKO!
-- Publishers, TOS Magazine