This is a quick overview of the information on the 40L site about the blue back speller. The speller was written by Noah Webster, yes the one who wrote the dictionary! At the beginning of the speller is the Syllabary. Did you know that syllables were intended to help you know how to spell a word? They always seemed like an afterthought to me. Just a simple rule - like a letter says its name at the end of a syllable - helps clear up lots of questions kids often have about why a letter sounds a certain way. The syllabary (or here, which is 12 charts of sounds) is to be memorized. Here is a video overview of how 40L teaches the syllabary. From there, you can pretty much spell any word if you can break it into its syllables. GENIUS! The rest of the blue back speller is words broken up by syllables. One small book teaches you what you need to know. They used to expect you to spell a word before you would read it. How far we have fallen!
The author of 40L realized that in addition to knowing the syllables students need some instruction on vowel sounds and phonograms. Her lessons are clear, concise and predictable. Here are the parts of her lesson:
- Review - letters and concepts previously introduced
- Present new information and practice with the new sounds - both reading and spelling. Don't be afraid to pause to make sure your child is getting the concept.
- Read nonsense words (this is to test to make sure they are applying the rules not just trying to guess from words they know - my son hates this part)
- "One letter makes a difference" - here she shows pairs or sometimes more of words that have just one change. Again, this is to help break the guessing habit and encourage students to read the whole word.
- At the end she reviews some common but irregular words - were, of, from, etc.
- In the last part she reads Romans aloud and shows the words from each verse that the child should be able to read with what he has learned so far. By the end of the 32 lessons they should be able to read all of Chapter 16 by themselves. It is motivating for my son.
For the very responsible child they could probably do these videos by themselves, but I would set them somewhere so that you can hear them read and spell words aloud. With my son it is best if I sit with him and make sure he is paying attention. This is a great introduction but most kids will need further practice. The blue back speller and other phonics programs she recommends can help you with that next step. There is actually a whole series of books (mostly about American history) that are written with the syllables separated to help kids read them more easily.
So this is another free phonics program at your disposal. If you are wondering how your student is doing with their reading - as compared to other students - here are some quick tests you can administer at home.