Learning to spell can be a frustrating and intimidating experience for homeschooling students and their parents.
Spelling Power and All About Spelling are two very popular and highly respected homeschool spelling curricula whose careful, multisensory and even fun lessons have helped innumerable students become better spellers without all the stress.
Although rooted in the principles of Orton-Gillingham teaching, these programs are actually quite different and it can be hard for parents to figure out which best suits their child and their parcitular needs.
To help out, we’ve compared these two great spelling programs so that parents can make a more informed and effective decision.
What is Spelling Power
Spelling Power is a multisensory Orgon Gillingham-inspired spelling curriculum that combines short, phonics-based quizzes and lessons based around 5000+ high-frequency words with an assortment of exercises and hands-on activities to help students learn to spell more effectively.
What is All About Spelling
Something of a sister program to the well-known All About Reading series, All About Spelling is an Orton Gillingham-inspired, phonics-based spelling program that combines explicit, rules-based instruction with hands-on learning, dictation and other exercises to help students become more confident spellers.
Age and Grade Structure
Both Spelling Power and All About Spelling are largely skill-based and structure their programs around levels, rather than aiming at particular grades or ages.
In this way, the materials in both programs can be used by students of just about any age, making them ideal for students learning outside of a traditional grade progression, i.e. by advanced students and older students in need of remediation.
In terms of structure, Spelling Power is made up of 11 levels, labelled A-K, while All About Spelling contains 7 levels (intuitively labelled 1-7).
Although it can be adapted to younger students, by and large Spelling Power is designed to be aimed at students eight and up.
In fact, the program’s upper levels are quite well-suited to those in grades 11 and 12, containing fairly sophisticated word lists and spelling concepts.
It even goes beyond the high school level towards the end of the program, throwing some college-level vocabulary into the lesson mix.
In contrast, All About Spelling begins its program (Level 1) with fairly fundamental phonogram learning and spelling rules, and so can be used by much younger students (Grade 1 and 2, for example), so long as their reading skill is up to snuff, and can generally carry students to about a high school spelling level.
Both Spelling Power and All About Spelling have placement tests that can be quite helpful to homeschools switching to their respective curricula.
With All About Spelling, these placement tests are available on the company website (as a PDF and as an online test) and tend to examine a student’s ability on 5 skills:
- The ability to spell from dictation
- The ability to segment words
- Phonogram recognition
- Writing programs
- General spelling rule knowledge
Placing students into the appropriate level of Spelling Power, on the other hand, can be a bit more of an involved process.
Placement tests for Spelling Power are located in the Teacher’s Manual and are a multistep process involving a survey test, the formal placement test and, if needed, another quiz used for fine tuning.
The survey test is a sort of long dictation exercise where students spell a list of 50 words and stop when they miss three in a row (or six overall).
This survey then lets parents know what level placement test they should then administer, which is another type of spelling test that indicates (based on the number of misspellings) whether a student is ready for a level, not ready or should move ahead.
Should students end up with unclear or borderline results, they can then take a fine tuning test, as well.
Overall, All About Spelling’s placement tests are a bit simpler and quicker to administer, although Spelling Power’s tests can yield some pretty fine grained and precise results (even if the process can take a couple of sessions to get through).
Parents should note, however, that there are some fundamental differences in the programs’ philosophies regarding placement.
Spelling Power is fairly traditional in this regard, with parents encouraged to take the placement tests and start teaching at a particular level based on the results.
A student testing to level E should start in level E, for example.
In contrast, All About Spelling’s teaching is far more incremental, with each level building on the specific rules and concepts taught in the previous level.
As a result, the program encourages most students moving into the program, regardless of age or grade, to start at level 1 in order to prevent confusion or knowledge gaps.
Required Teaching Materials
Spelling Power and All About Spelling are fairly different in the amount of materials they require.
By and large, Spelling Power is the more compact curriculum.
The core of the curriculum’s instruction is contained in its rather beefy 330-page Teacher’s Manual, which contains the program’s diagnostic tests, teaching methodology, tips, wordlists and suggested activities.
Interestingly, there is one Teacher’s Manual that covers all 11 levels, which can be highly convenient if a parent is teaching siblings of different ages.
In addition to the Teacher’s Manual, parents must buy consumable student composition books each year, which are essentially little notebooks that are set up to accommodate the program’s daily testing and 10-step lessons.
These two items form the core of Spelling Power, although parents can also pick up some optional task cards, word cards and letter tiles to use with the program if they so choose.
In contrast, All About Spelling is a bit more expansive in terms of the items that parents will need to buy, organize and keep track of.
Like most other curricula out there, All About Spelling has a Teacher’s Manual.
This manual contains everything parents need to teach All About Spelling, including fully scripted lesson plans, diagrams and teaching tips.
At under 200 pages, it is considerably shorter than that of Spelling Power, however, thanks to some fairly concise writing.
Unlike Spelling Power, a Teacher’s Manual must be purchased with every level of the program, something of an extra yearly cost.
Parents also need to pick up a Student Packet, which is a bundle of different items (rather than a book) including:
- Word banks
- Various activities
- Rule charts
- Progress charts
- Word, rule and phonogram cards
In addition to these two items, parents will also need to make a one-time purchase of the All About Spelling Interactive Kit, which contains magnet tiles, sounds, dividers and so forth.
Interestingly, although it is mostly a pen and paper program, with All About Spelling parents can purchase a couple digital apps (letter tiles and phonograms), a little technological integration that is absent with Spelling Power.
Spelling Power Vs. All About Spelling: Approach to Teaching
Both Spelling Power and All About Spelling are inspired by Orton-Gillingham methods for teaching spelling.
In other words, both are phonetic spelling programs that explicitly teach rules for spelling, and do so as part of a logical and consistent progression, grouping word lists by specific phonetic rules and commonalities.
That said, how each program goes about doing this is a bit different, as we’ll explore below.
Teaching Spelling Rules
Spelling Power and All About Spelling differ in how much time they spend explicitly teaching and reviewing various spelling and phonics rules.
Generally speaking, All About Spelling is a very rules-based program.
As a spelling curriculum, it places a stronger emphasis on getting students to understand why words are spelled the way they are.
As a result, lessons tend to have specific sections containing more direct instruction, review and practice on things like phonograms, identifying spelling patterns and so on.
In addition, All About Spelling also spends time directly teaching students various strategies to follow when spelling on their own, as well as methods of handling common exceptions.
In contrast, Spelling Power lessons, although the program does contain instruction in spelling rules and concepts, is more focused on working through its word lists (which are grouped according to certain rules and commonalities), with instruction in spelling more woven into its system of testing, practice and review.
Both All About Spelling and Spelling power tend to offer students plenty of opportunity for review, although they do so a bit differently.
With All About Spelling, review and practice of previous concepts are built into the beginning of each and every lesson, with reinforcement sections at the end to help reinforce new learning.
In contrast, each level of Spelling power has around six dedicated review lists, a few delayed recall tests, and cumulative reviews and tests towards the end.
As each lesson in All About Spelling contains a dedicated review, we feel that there is slightly more revision baked into the program than Spelling Power, which has a review only every 4 or 5 lessons or so.
Lesson Structure and Length
Neither Spelling Power nor All About Spelling contain particularly long lessons that might intimidate or frustrate students and generally both programs are pretty easy to squeeze into a packed homeschool schedule.
They do, however, differ significantly in the way their lessons are set up.
Spelling Power’s lessons typically involve a daily spelling test followed by the completion of a 10-step study study sheet, which is a deliberate review of any misspelled words on that test.
Following this, parents are given the option of selecting from a variety of activities and exercises contained in the back of the Teacher’s Manual.
Although much depends on the student, Spelling Power’s lessons generally take around 15 minutes to complete and are designed to be able to be done daily.
All About Spelling lessons, however, tend to look a little different.
Each lesson is composed of multiple steps or components.
Lessons generally start off with a review and practice of previously learned concepts or spelling rules.
This is then followed by the introduction of a new concept or rule, with some immediate practice and examination of relevant strategies and techniques.
Finally, students do some reinforcement where they engage in various exercises to strengthen a student’s understanding of what they’ve just learned, such as by doing some tile work or dictation exercises.
Although each component is designed to only take around 20 minutes or so, a full lesson in All About Spelling can take a few days to even a week or more to work through.
In general, Spelling Power contains quite a bit more in the way of quizzes and assessments than All About Spelling, with daily spelling tests, periodic recall tests and a cumulative exam at the end of each level.
In contrast, All About Spelling tends to rely more on its heavier review and revision, as well as dictation exercises and other activities, to ensure students are absorbing the material.
Which is right for a student, of course, really depends on the student and their homeschool’s philosophy towards formal assessment.
Parents who want more formalized testing and grading may prefer Spelling Power, while students who have test anxiety (or homeschools that don’t believe in lots of testing) may do better with All About Spelling.
Activities and Multisensory Learning
Both Spelling Power and All About Spelling are pretty multisensory in their approach to teaching spelling.
Rather than relying on traditional workbook exercises (fill in the blanks, multiple choice, composition), both programs also involve various visual, auditory and hands-on/kinesthetic learning activities.
With Spelling Power, there is, of course, a strong emphasis on listening, repeating and writing words down, but lessons also can include a wide variety of possible activities, such as using letter tiles to form words, gluing word cards to yarn, taping their verbal practice and checking their spelling, or even going outside and interacting with the environment.
In All About Spelling, lessons revolve around a back and forth student/parent dialogue and the use of letter tiles is built into lessons to demonstrate phonetic spelling concepts and build words.
In addition, students may also make use of the various charts and cards, use their fingers tot trace letters on surfaces, listen to phonograms or songs, look things up in the dictionary and so on.
In general, however, we found that there tends to be a little bit more craft work, outdoor explorations and other creative, Charlotte Mason-style activity ideas offered with Spelling Power compared to All About Spelling.
Spelling Power and All About Spelling differ substantially when it comes to how scripted their lesson plans are.
All About Spelling is a very scripted program, offering parents word-for-word dialogues and clear instructions that they can follow during lessons.
As a result, its lessons are very easy to teach with, requiring almost no preparation or planning on the part of parents, which makes it an ideal program for new homeschooling parents and those uncertain of their own ability to teach spelling.
On the other hand, such heavy scripting can make All About Spelling feel a bit constraining to homeschooling parents who like to put their own spin on teaching.
In contrast, Spelling Power’s Teacher’s Manual is not very scripted.
By and large, it provides parents with an overall methodology, some essential activities and a broad structure to follow, and relies on a parent’s natural interaction with their child to fill in the rest.
The program provides no real dialogue for parents to follow and even gives parents a good deal of choice as to which reinforcing activities or exercises they can include in a lesson.
By providing parents with the broad strokes of a lesson, Spelling Power can allow parents to guide their student in a more comfortable and natural manner, and it is quite easy for parents to put their own touch on the program or adapt it to their needs.
The lack of scripted dialogue and heavy guidance can, however, make it a little harder for new homeschoolers and those with rusty spelling skills to use.
Note: All prices are correct as of writing. All prices in USD.
Spelling Power and All About Spelling do differ significantly in how they are priced.
As we’ve mentioned, Spelling Power is a more compact curriculum.
Parents only really have to buy one Teacher’s Manual (that can be used for however long they wish to continue with the program) and consumable student composition books each year.
These Teacher’s Manuals cost about $64.95 and are a one time cost.
Each composition book costs around $7.95.
The core of Spelling Power, therefore, costs about $72.90 for the first year the program is used and $7.95 for each student each subsequent year.
Parents can also purchase optional activity cards, magnetic tiles and word banks, which cost between $29.95-$40 and are a one time cost.
With All About Spelling, the Teacher’s Manuals are a little cheaper, ranging in price from $19.95-$25.95, while the student packets cost between $18.95-$24.95.
These can be purchased as a bundle, which can save parents quite a bit of money, costing between $36.95-$47.95 per year.
In addition to these materials, parents will also need to purchase a Spelling Interactive Kit as a one time purchase.
These cost about $24.95.
Parents should also keep in mind that with All About Spelling, student packets are designed for a single child.
If a homeschool family has more than one child learning at a given level, they will need to purchase more student packets.
Ultimately, this all means that in our opinion Spelling Power is a bit more of a cost-effective spelling program for parents looking to teach multiple children or for those looking to use the program over multiple years.
Parents only need to buy the program’s Teacher’s Manual once, as well as any cards or tiles they’d like to use, and then only have to buy composition books for subsequent years.
Both Spelling Power and All About Spelling are highly-regarded and popular Orton-Gillingham-inspired phonetic spelling curricula that offer high-quality and effective instruction.
They can, however, be quite dissimilar and in order to figure out which better fits their needs, parents must carefully weigh each program’s teaching style and characteristics against their own needs.
To help out, we’ve listed some more important points that parents might want to consider before making any purchase.
|I’m a parent and I want…||Consider|
|An Orton-Gillingham-inspired phonetic spelling program||Either|
|An easy to administer placement test||Either|
|A detailed and precise spelling test that really narrows the levels down||Spelling Power|
|A placement test that explicitly takes into consideration more than just spelling skill||All About Spelling|
|A program immediately suitable for students in grades 1 or 2 who can read pretty well||All About Spelling|
|A program that can take my student through high school and perhaps beyond||Spelling Power|
|A compact curriculum without a lot of stuff to buy, manage, organize and store||Spelling Power|
|A spelling program with some digital or technological integration||All About Spelling|
|A program that heavily emphasizes and directly teaches spelling rules, strategies and techniques||All About Spelling|
|A program with lots of fun craft options and out of the box activities||Spelling Power|
|A program with lots of hands-on, letter tile work||All About Spelling|
|A program with lots of review||Either|
|A program that doesn’t have too much formal testing or quizzes||All About Spelling|
|A program I can easily put my own touch on and teach the way I’d like||Spelling Power|
|A scripted, open and go curriculum that will guide me through teaching spelling without any prep||All About Spelling|
For More Information
To learn more about these programs you can check out
Or visit each company’s website:
About the Author
Anne Miller is the editor of The Smarter Learning Guide and is a passionate advocate for education and educational technology. A mom of two, she majored in English Language and Literature and worked as a substitute teacher and tutor for several years. When not writing she continues to root for the Yankees and the Giants.