Spell to Write and Read Curriculum IDEAS

After trying and feeling disappointed with several spelling programs over several years, a friend of mine convinced me to try Spell to Write and Read (SWR) by Wanda Sanseri. After she explained to me her son's success and why she felt the curriculum was amazing, I dropped the spelling curriculum we were then using, ordered SWR, and haven't looked back. If you are considering SWR or are new to the program, you may enjoy checking out SWR Endorsed Trainer and Supplement Writer, Liz Fitzgerald's super helpful and thorough online resources:

I have discovered some extra ways to make this amazing curriculum shine for my kids and for me. Let me share with you:
  1. Why we love this curriculum
  2. How I organize lessons and materials
  3. How we add color to our spelling time

Top Reasons Why We Love Spell to Write and Read

Purposeful Exercises/Activities
Most spelling curriculums (and we’ve tried several) make light of the week’s activities/exercises, relying a lot on the student memorizing and recognizing patterns in that word list, so that a test over that week’s list of words feels highly pressured and is not a very accurate measurement of long-term retention. Our experience with SWR is the opposite - Because the daily effort spent on words and understanding our language is so in-depth and deliberate and reviewed, the quizzes/tests feel more like a final celebration of understanding. This, I believe, is a more true and lasting way of learning!

Word Familiarity Through Application
By manipulating the words in different ways, the words in a list become more visually ingrained in my kids’ minds. Each time they work with their words through reading, alphabetizing, categorizing, finding, writing, composing sentences, running bees, spelling bees, games, etc., they are having to SEE/read the word. They are having to think and remember in order to pick it out from the rest, and that is familiarizing them with reading and spelling that word SO much more quickly than they could have recalled it from mindless copying or only reading it when they naturally come across it in books. Love that. I also love the way the recommended activities use the words in clever ways to reinforce grammar and composition.

Consistent Sounds and Rules Mixed Throughout List
Unlike many other programs which use a single rule or letter combination threaded throughout a list, each of SWR's lists uses a variety of phonograms and spelling rules. It’s easy for a child to recognize a pattern (like each word has “ea” in it) in their list and then just apply it for the test, but can they spell those words correctly when they need to next week or month? SWR's lists are organized in a completely different way, so the student is exposed in a methodical and level-appropriate way to many different phonograms and rules. Having a variety of rules applied in each list means that they will use and think about all the rules over and over again in future lists, which also means that those rules will more naturally come to their minds when they are needing to spell a word they haven’t yet learned. Nothing is forgotten or assumed.

Organization Ideas

Super Handy Phonograms and Rules

I slip a copy of the phonograms in the cover of each child’s binder and a copy of the rules in the back. It makes the perfect quick reference tool for me, and it’s an easy way for me to see where each child needs more practice. Each kid’s binder is actually more for my organization than for them. It certainly isn't necessary, but I prefer keeping their work separate from one another, because it helps me track their progress and store their papers. Each binder organizes the following:
  • Ongoing list of words that I want to incorporate into their lists
  • Completed Work (enrichment worksheets, activities/assignments, tests, etc.)
  • Picture This! Writing Paper or Scrapbook Penmanship Paper (large rule or small rule) printed out and ready for test days
  • Diagnostic Test instructions, grading chart, and blank sheets
When work is completed, I immediately place it in the binder. Then at the end of the year, I just flip through and pull out what I want to keep for each child's portfolio and then toss the rest.

Instructor's Daily Strategy Sheet 

Because SWR is rich with so many different and wonderful elements, I often found myself forgetting or neglecting important pieces. To help me plan more efficiently for the sake of my quickly depleting brain power and my children's learning, I created this FREE planning/strategy list! This is a planning tool I created to help make teaching the curriculum more convenient. The sheet is intended for use after Step 11 to help plan a spelling list’s lesson components, and assumes the instructor has read, understood, and is using Spell to Write and Read. Keep in mind that it is only my best effort at determining what we need to accomplish, but you are welcome to it! Click to enlarge the Daily sheet or Weekly sheet below, and then save it and print it! (Some friends from the "Spell to Write and Read *Support Group*" Facebook group suggested laminating the sheet or slipping it into a clear protective dry-erase pocket.)


Adding Color to Spelling

Picture This! Writing Paper for Test Day 

Let's face it - Spelling is very black and white, and it is also very regimented. By the time test day rolls around, my kids feel like the test is a celebration of what they know, rather than viewing it as stressful (which is just one more reason I love SWR). So on test day, I let my kids complete their spelling tests creatively on a colorful picture. Teachers with 20+ students obviously can't spend their time searching each student's test for the words written in unique places on their paper, but homeschooling parents can! As I watch my child taking the test, I know immediately which words they've missed. Plus, it's fun to give them a break from writing on straight lines. Visit my TeachersPayTeachers store for the Picture This! Writing Paper package of 20 sheets, of if you would like to first try a sheet out FREE, you can get this Patriotic Flag sheet by clicking this flag image to enlarge it - then save and print!

Colorful Tests/Lists

Want to use penmanship paper but want to treat your kids to some color? Occasionally, I print penmanship lines onto 8.5"x11" scrapbook paper! Not super frugal, but fun, right? It's a simple way to jazz up holidays or boring days. Need lines? I have Large Ruled Penmanship Paper for younger students and Small Ruled Penmanship Paper for older students available for FREE in my TeachersPayTeachers store.

Log Books with Personality

Last year, each child decorated his/her own log book. This year, I let them each pick out a fabric, and I sewed jacket covers that we can re-use next year. You can read more about these log book covers by visiting my post about Personalizing Notebooks!