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Reason for Spelling and A Reason for Reading, A Review by Heather JackowitzConcerned Communications
Do you love how A Reason for Writing gives children a reason for practicing good handwriting? Well, now they can be similarly inspired to be better spellers. Using a verse from the Living Bible as the theme, A Reason for Spelling begins each new week with a story that elaborates upon the principles found in that verse. The story and discussion questions are contained in the teacher's manual. Each day of the week, students are encouraged to work on memorizing the verse. The A Reason for Spelling method is based upon extensive research, and there is an impressive bibliography of thirty-two sources in the teacher's manual. The student workbook contains daily activities based on this research. Day One begins with the story and discussion, then proceeds to a pretest with immediate correction of errors. Sentences are included in the teacher's manual and are based on the theme story. Students then fill in word shape boxes that help them form correct visual images of each word. An additional activity, such as coloring all the vowel pairs in each word, further reinforces spelling patterns. On Day Two students study their words using the "Hide & Seek" method: look, say, hide, write, seek, and check. Then there are four "Fun Ways to Spell" to choose from, such as spelling out words with playdough or using rhythm instruments. Day Three offers activities with spelling words, such as alphabetizing, dictionary skills, rhyming, word usage, and games. On Day Four students take dictation using old and new spelling words. Dictation sentences are based on the theme story and are included in the teacher's manual. Proofreading exercises use standard proofreading symbols as well as standardized test formats. Students then study their words using the "Hide & Seek" method described earlier. On Day Five students take The Big Test. The teacher's manual provides instructions and reproducible masters for creating a progress chart, a personal dictionary for troublesome words, and a weekly journal. Appendix A also contains a reproducible worksheet for each week's "Other Word Forms" activity for students who need the extra challenge.
I reviewed Level C, which corresponds to third grade. (A placement test is included in the teacher's manual -- also, look for placement tests on their website.) I really like the student workbook; it is colorful, neat, and full of wonderful activities that make spelling fun. The Bible memory verses and journal suggestions such as, "Write a paragraph about all the things you can rejoice about." reinforce the Christian values we are teaching our children throughout the day. There are a lot of great ideas for teaching spelling in the teacher's manual, and some of the student workbook activities would take some improvising without it, however the student workbook could stand on its own if you just want the word lists and worksheet activities. In our homeschool, I use the Spelling Power method, but I use MCP's Spelling Workout because I like having a workbook. I like the A Reason for Spelling workbook as much, if not better, than Spelling Workout. However, be aware that some of the journal suggestions and board games refer to the stories in the teacher's manual and won't make sense without first hearing the story. With a little creativity, the inconvenience should be minor.
As much as I like the layout of the student book and the activities it contains, I would not purchase the teacher's guide because I dislike the weekly themes. The stories revolve around a modern Christian school classroom to which my children would not relate, and the topics are not ones I consider "character building". I know that different people have different ideas of what is good and acceptable for children, so I feel I need to give some specific examples. One story revolves around a man who holds a "Will Work for Food" sign. The children think that Jesus would help the man, and they plead with their parents to do something. The parents feel that he might be an alcoholic, drug addict, or thief, so they are hesitant to help him. The man turns out to be a Christian man who lost his job and can't feed his family, so finally the whole community comes together to help him. Personally, I think this is a really deep issue that gets resolved very simplistically and makes the parents look stupid. Other examples that I did not feel comfortable with were a comparison of leprosy to modern-day AIDS, a sick child conquering her fear of being left home alone while her mother goes to work, and a young girl's secret problem dealing with her alcoholic mother. While some may welcome such culturally relevant material, our family does not. I also feel that there are too many examples of bad behavior, such as the children making fun of the elderly people in the nursing home for smelling bad and "wearing a dress up hat with pajamas," or a boy getting embarrassed when his cousin comes to school with him because "she's so fat, she waddles!" Granted, in each of these stories the bad behavior is corrected, however I question the wisdom of putting these examples in our children's minds at all. Because of these concerns, as well as the high cost of the teacher's manual, my hope is that Concerned Communications will create a single teacher's guide to go with all levels of spelling such as they have done with A Reason for Writing. Visit Concerned Communications at www.areasonfor.com to see sample pages from teacher's manuals and student workbooks for all levels.
Publishers' Note: The "A Reason For" materials from Concerned Communications are certainly well recognized in the homeschool community - they have been for quite some time. I think the reason why is because they are simple to implement. Anyone can quickly assess how to use them. We, personally, were among the first to see something brand new from Concerned Communications, A Reason For Reading (www.littlereadingbooks.com). We took a look at a number of these new releases, which my children rabidly attacked, once the mail came! Basically, within a shorter than usual time span, each and every book was devoured by my two youngest children. Then the two older ones wanted to read them all, 'just for the fun of it'. What these are, are little books which feature scripture stories. They are fun! Paperback, small and easy to glide through, there are many to choose from, like, Little Lamb and the Shepherd, A Big, Big Lunch, Let The Children Come, God Call Samuel, Fishers Of Men, Joseph's New Coat, God's Promise, and tons more. My son liked the story of Naaman best, especially because of the 'big brute' illustrations. Surely I can see why the company would call these A Reason For Reading -- Our children certainly found a good reason to read them! And because they are priced as low as $3.99 each, I can think of plenty of reasons to buy them!