Review:My Spelling workbook (PrimEd)
Review:My Spelling workbook (PrimEd)
This set of books was always going to be more challenging for me to review! Many years ago, a good teacher friend of mine introduced me to the work of Brendan Culligan. Brendan lectures in English in Marino College but is especially “preoccupied” with the area of spellings and handwriting. He has undertaken years after years of research in these areas and has written two books called Improving Children’s Spellings and Spellings and handwriting.
I then booked him in to speak to the teachers and parents of a school I taught in and he was as brilliant as his books were!
To summarise, Brendan knows his stuff. He dislikes spelling tests and using phonics or reading skills (sound it out) to spell words. And, he’s not just disliking these things for no reason. He has done his research and it all works out at an Irish level.
I could write a series of articles on Brendan’s work but he would obviously better placed to do so. If you are interested in teaching spellings well and seeing results, then buy his first book Improving children’s spellings or book into the many summer and evening courses he runs. Or, he used to run.
This is why it is difficult for me to review another spelling scheme like Prim ed’s one. It is a very good scheme but there are some areas that I would change.
It is made up a set of Teacher Guides and pupil textbooks, going from A- G. A is Senior Infants and so on. Because the books are based on English and Irish curriculum objectives, they will not tick Brendan’s box, as you will see.
The English curriculum advocates a phonics based method to learning and teaching spellings so that is going against these books, to begin with.
But, there are other great activities to be found in these books. The Teacher’s Guides are packed with brilliant ideas for activities and games that Mr. Culligan would endorse and they use a Look-say-cover method too, this is one that all good research shows works well. These books also utilise the Test idea, where the children have a weekly spelling test and can colour in stars to show how good they are at learning stuff off by heart! Tests are invented for parents and traditional teachers. Do they help spelling standards? No. Spellings should always be assessed within context like a full sentence. Spellings also need to be meaningful and relevant to children so giving them a random list of ten words that are phonetically inclined is not going to help those standards.
Another great positive is using the metacognitive approach, this involves helping the children to ask themselves questions about the word they need to learn. I approve! For example, if we were learning the word “man”, we might ask ourselves what word can we see within it? We can see “an” and we know how to spell “an” so we can definitely spell “man”. Using this approach helps the child see all sorts of words within words. This approach also helps the child to place the word into a sentence, making it relevant and not just a stand alone word in a test.
The books improve when they leave the phonic way of teaching spelling so the senior books are good. It can be difficult when you are using a set scheme that are already within the school but I would hope a teacher can utilise their own free will, do some research into the best practice on teaching spellings and pick and choose from their workbooks.
Having said that, these workbooks are probably the better of others I have seen and the Teacher Guide books are well worth it for the games and ideas they could give to you. Games are a great way of teaching spelling.
These books also come with a free interactive CD with each textbook, which is an excellent resource. The children could work on this at home or classroom. The games and activities are fun, bright and colourful. I would like an option to add your own words but maybe, the next time!
The textbooks are €6.95 each and if you commit to a scheme, Prim-ed will send you the Teacher’s Guide as well.