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Spelling Made Simple Review by Courtney Larson

Benjamin Gerten

Spelling Made Simple is spelling software that allows you to create spelling lists and test your child on these lists. This can be used for all ages, from kindergarten through adult. Spelling Made Simple allows you to enter information for several different users, so you can use it for all of your children.

After installing Spelling Made Simple on your computer, you will need to create spelling lists. There are three ways to do this. First, you may use your spelling program and enter custom lists into the software. There are fields that allow you to document the lesson number and the book title if you choose to do this. The second way to create a spelling list is to download one or more of the lists available on the Spelling Made Simple website. The third way to create a list is to copy and paste text from a document into the Spelling Made Simple software. This option allows you to test your student on words they've used in their own writing.

Once a list is created, audio files may be downloaded for the list words (there are 17,000 words recorded). If a word wasn't found (or if you prefer), you may also record your own audio files as long as you have access to a microphone that works with your computer. You may record the spelling word by itself, or you may record the spelling word and a sentence using the word.

To give a spelling test, you select from the drop-down menu one of the lists you've created. When testing, you have the options of seeing the word on the screen (for an amount of time you set), hearing the word (without seeing it), or seeing and hearing the word at the same time. If the student still isn't sure about the word after seeing and/or hearing it, he can click a definition button to be automatically directed to an online dictionary site for a definition of the word.

In addition to standard testing, there is a continuous test option. Spelling Made Simple will keep track of how long it took your child to spell a word and whether they missed the word or got it correct. Based on this information, the software will then rate words and test your child on the words that need the most practice. There is also an option to have a new spelling list created from the words missed during any given test.

The software will keep track of statistics for each of your children. It will generate graphs that show how many and which words were missed and how long it took to take the test. It can then send a report with this information directly to your email.

Unlike a lot of computer software available today, Spelling Made Simple is not very intuitive, and there is a learning curve. However, the creator has provided a video tutorial on the website that I found quite helpful. It also takes time to create custom lists. It took me over an hour to set up 12 lists for my three children (four lists per child). This included downloading the prerecorded audio files. My children and I had a hard time understanding many of the downloaded audio files, which led to testing difficulty if I turned off the option to see the word during a test. My children didn't know which word to spell. This could be eliminated, though, if I recorded the words myself and included a sentence using the word.

Spelling Made Simple is a very flexible program. It would be great for a struggling speller or for someone who is preparing for a Spelling Bee. It would be helpful if you have several children who will be using the same lists over time, since the spelling lists will be saved and can be reused with another child. Also, my sons loved using the computer to practice their words. (Anything that has my boys requesting to do their spelling is nice.) If you are able to take the time to learn this software, I think it will add value to almost any spelling program.

Product review by Courtney Larson, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March 2009