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Spell to Write and Read Review by Heidi Shaw

The W.I.S.E. Guide
Phonogram cards
Spelling Cards

The spelling program with results! That's how I would begin to describe this very comprehensive, very complete set of materials. I know from first hand experience that this program works and the results are impressive to say the least.

Based on the proven and popular Writing Road to Reading by Romalda Spalding; Wanda Sanseri has built on and improved the original, making it functional in any setting. I believe Mrs. Sanseri has made real phonics instruction "doable" by anyone and they have been a Godsend to me.

I have always read and spelled with ease. So I couldn't understand why my daughter was having such difficulty in learning how to read. A friend loaned me her copy of the original Writing Road to Reading. After looking it over I thought to myself that this made a lot of sense. We break the English language down into phonemes-the smallest units of sound. Then we teach the awareness that these phonemes are the key to unlocking virtually any word in the English language. It was an excellent idea, but very hard to implement. The original WRTR was technical and difficult to understand for the layperson. Designed for and by a classroom teacher to be used in a very structured group setting. I later learned that this was the very program my first grade teacher had used to teach me how to spell and read. So, I knew it worked. I just didn't know how to make it work.

That's where Wanda Sanseri and her wonderful books came into my life. Originally published as an 87-page supplement to The Writing Road to Reading, over the years it expanded in size and detail to meet the needs of many home and school educators. Through the whole text, Mrs. Sanseri's love for the Lord and His ways shine out loud and clear.

Now a stand-alone program, Spell to Write and Read along with the W.I.S.E. guide is all you need to teach anyone to read. Perfect for beginners, remedial, or ESL students; anyone can learn to spell and read well with these books.

The main text is Spell to Write and Read. It is so thorough and explanatory that one is encouraged right from the first page. Let me share a bit of Wanda's philosophy with you. (Pg 6) " Most educators today teach reading first and expect that if a person reads a word often enough he will learn to spell it. Experience does not support that faulty theory. We start with spelling. Our students internalize the words they build from scratch and than they easily recognize them in print."

The first step is learning the phonograms; seventy sounds that are the building blocks of our language. The parent/teacher learns them (with the included tape) and then, by a process of dictation and repetition, the students learn to recognize, say and write these same phonograms. Spelling and reading start quickly afterward as mastery is not required before progressing. The program works like a spiral, by constantly repeating and reinforcing the phonograms over and over, mastery is obtained as they progress through the word lists. The W.I.S.E. (Words, Instructions, and Spelling Enrichments) guide contains lists of words that begin simply and progress in difficulty as the phonograms and spelling rules are introduced and practiced. The program is non-consumable and works for all grades k through 12.

The students pick up the rules and how to use them very quickly. They learn to repeat spelling rules by rote and when they print out the words they begin to identify the phonograms they know when they hear them spoken. Thus, they build their own knowledge base as they are building their spelling books. Each student constructs his or her own spelling notebook. Full size paper is used for 1st and 2nd grade. Sewn notebooks used for 3rd grade and above. As they build their books they identify and mark phonograms within the words. Through the dictation process and identifying the phonograms as they go, students learn to read amazingly well.

Sounds trickier than it is. The teachers guide is SO complete and every single, tiny step is spelled out for you. To make it even easier, Mrs. Sanseri has trainers all over the country who conduct workshops that teach the program in seminar format.

There is even a yahoo group set up with amazing ladies who will answer any question possible. Wanda often visits the group as well and is always happy to chat.

I would not be without this program. It is a spine for my whole home school curriculum. My 15-year-old son uses the spelling cards and their included rule sheet almost daily. My 8-year-old son is learning as fast as I can go and my 3-year-old daughter packs around the cards she hears every day and repeats them. This program has replaced all my spelling workbooks and takes only twenty minutes a day! It works one-on-one or with a group. The two texts, phonogram cards, audiotape, and spelling cards with rules are all included in the core kit.

One thing to be aware of is that this program does take some initial preparation and you will want to familiarize yourself with the cards, the sounds, and the dictation process. For the children, the initial learning curve seems steeper than "look-say" programs. Don't be discouraged if your child doesn't read stories instantaneously-he is building skills that will benefit his whole life and when the connections are made and the reading starts there will be no need for primers or step by step readers. Your child will read anything you ask him to! {Be ready}

Oh, and my daughter? The one who started me on my quest? She is now 17 years old, reading and spelling well above grade level and enjoying every minute of her journey.

I love this program. Check out the website and see for yourself.

-- Reviewed by Heidi Shaw, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine.