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Spelling Curricula for Dyslexic Students

written by: Olivia B. • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 9/11/2012

There are a growing number of spelling curricula designed to assist with instructing students who have dyslexia or who otherwise struggle with spelling. They use innovative instructional methods which often succeed where conventional methods have failed.

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    Curricula For Struggling Spellers

    Children with dyslexia often face far greater challenges with spelling than they do with reading. Even after successful remediation of poor reading skills many dyslexics still struggle to become proficient spellers. Fortunately, there are now a number of innovative spelling curricula on the market designed specifically with the dyslexic or struggling speller in mind. Each takes a unique approach to spelling instruction, but they all deviate from the frequently utilized “memorize and test” word list approach which is largely unsuccessful in helping dyslexic students achieve long term spelling mastery.

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    All About Spelling

    All About Spelling (AAS) uses a multi-sensory structured language approach to teach spelling using many principles of Orton-Gillingham methodology. It begins with phonemic awareness which is crucial to reading success, then systematically presents the phonograms of the English language along with the accompanying rules and exceptions for their use. AAS also teaches rules of syllabication and incorporates dictation exercises to allow for consistent practice at spelling words in context. It uses spiral review to ensure that concepts learned in previous lessons are retained. AAS is a scripted program which maps out every lesson in explicit detail. It is, therefore, easy to pick up and use with minimal advanced preparation. AAS is suited for use in classrooms, small groups, or for one-on-one instruction.

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    Sequential Spelling

    Sequential Spelling (SS) was developed by Don McCabe, president of the AVKO Educational Research Foundation. Don is a dyslexic and former school teacher who developed this curriculum with the specific intent of teaching spelling in a manner that would accommodate the learning needs of dyslexic students.

    Rather than focusing on the phonograms, rules, and exceptions of spelling, SS teaches students to spell based on patterns. Spelling patterns are systematically introduced and then repeatedly reinforced through spiral review. To this end, great emphasis is placed on building words from their roots to expanded forms.

    Sequential Spelling can be used in any educational setting whether for classroom, small group instruction or one-on-one tutoring. AVKO has placed demonstration videos on their website which further explain the program and model instruction.

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    Phonetic Zoo

    Phonetic Zoo was developed by the Institute for Excellence in Writing and is based on the Blended Sound-Sight Program of Learning. It is uses a multi-sensory approach to spelling instruction and is designed for use by students in third grade and above. The program uses flash cards containing the most common rules of spelling in jingle format. Written rules for each lesson are reinforced using a CD player and headphones to listen to an auditory presentation of the lesson's jingles and concepts followed by dictation of the lesson's spelling words.

    Phonetic Zoo requires oversight and general guidance by an instructor. However, the combination of flashcards and audio recordings offer a systematic presentation of spelling instruction in a format that allows students to study independently and progress at their own rate. It most conducive to individual use, but can be adapted for a classroom setting.