Spelling isn’t always the easiest subject to teach, and the usual word list and drill methods don’t always help every student reach their full potential.
All About Spelling and Spelling You See are two popular homeschool programs that have helped untold numbers of students become better spellers.
Yet, the programs take very different approaches in the way they do so, and it can be hard for parents to know which program might suit their child best.
To help make things a little easier, we’ve compared these two programs along a number of criteria so that parents can make a more informed choice.
What Is Spelling You See?
Spelling You See is a homeschool spelling program developed by reading specialist and former homeschooling mom Dr. Karen Holinga and published by Demme Learning, the company that produces Math U See.
Spelling You See teaches spelling a little differently than most other programs, structuring its program with an eye towards developmental milestones in literacy and relying more on honing a student’s visual memory for spelling, teaching through copywork, reading, dialogue, chunking and dictation rather than wordlists and weekly quizzes.
The program is also notable for its extensive and broad-ranging written passages, which offer an interesting, literature-based component to the program.
What Is All About Spelling?
Created by the makers of All About Reading, All About Spelling is a phonetic spelling program based on the principles of Orton-Gillingham language instruction.
Through its series of books, the program combines direct and explicit rule-based teaching with hands-on learning, dictation and other activities to help students develop stronger spelling skills and strategies.
Age and Grade Structure
Neither the Spelling You See nor the All About Spelling series of books are structured around traditional age or grade levels.
Instead, both programs are skill-based.
All About Spelling is divided into seven distinct levels, levels 1-7.
Each centers around particular spelling knowledge or skills and the series slowly progresses in complexity, with level 1 teaching the very basics of syllables and level 7 teaching loan words and root word studies that can suit high school-level spelling instruction.
Spelling You See is also centered around skill-development, but focuses more on following the developmental stages of language acquisition and learning, rather than individual concepts and skills.
Like All About Spelling, the series is divided into seven levels, A-G.
Each level in the series is referred to as a by the title of its collection of developmentally appropriate reading passages, with each name giving an idea of what they are all about.
|A||Listen and Write||Students listen to an assortment of passages that parents read aloud|
|B||Jack and Jill||Nursery rhymes|
|C||Wild Tales||Nonfiction passages about animals|
|D||Americana||Legends and important figures, ideas in US history|
|E||American Spirit||Innovation, invention and achievement in US history|
|F||Ancient Achievements||Innovation, invention and achievement in ancient world history|
|G||Modern Milestones||Modern innovations in art, history, science and more|
Each of these levels also roughly corresponds to certain developmental milestones in reading and spelling, as per the following:
- Preliterate – where students learn the fundamentals of print and writing (directionality, letters, etc)
- Phonetic – students begin to learn word sounds and translate them to writing
- Skill development – students begin to learn and generalize spelling rules, develop their vocabulary and learn about exceptions
- Word extension – students learn to handle inconsistencies in the English language, begin to learn about affixes and their rules
- Derivational constancy – students begin to learn about spelling patterns and learn to predict and understand these patterns by learning root words, loan words and more
Unlike All About Spelling, there is less of a clean separation between levels and there can be significant overlap between these five developmental stages of spelling and the seven individual levels of the course.
This can be demonstrated by the following table, which represents a pathway students might follow in Spelling You See.
|Title||Developmental stages||Topics Covered|
|Listen and Write, Jack and Jill||Preliterate, Phonetic||Letter formation, consonant sounds, short vowels, beginning blends, ch/th/ck, end blends, rhyming, vowel and consonant chunks, blends with short vowels, bossy r, tricky y and more|
|Wild Tales, Americana, American Spirit||Skill Development||Vowel and consonant chunks, tricky y, letter combinations, letter patterns, bossy r chunks, tricky y, endings, silent letters and more|
|Ancient Achievements||Skill Development Stage and Word Extension||Vowel and consonant chunks, bossy r chunks, Vowel consonant bossy r chunks, tricky y guy, endings and silent letters, letter patterns, and more|
|Modern Milestones||Word Extension, Derivational constancy||Base words, suffixes, and prefixes, nouns and plurals, past tense, -ing, e-drop, doubling consonants, y-nouns, -ous, endings with f/fe, -ant/-ent, words relating to science and more|
One important difference between Spelling You See and All About Spelling is that, while All About Spelling’s earliest levels do require students to have some fluency in reading, Spelling You See contains a preliterate level (Listen and Write) that can work for students who are just beginning to read.
Skill-based curricula can have a lot of benefits to homeschoolers, particularly in that they eschew conventional assumptions about grade-level learning, focusing more on the student and their actual ability, and therefore can be a little more suitable for students who are either ahead or behind in their learning.
At the same time, however, they can be a little less intuitive for parents and students switching into the program from another.
As skill-based curricula don’t necessarily correlate to a particular grade, it can be hard to know where to start in a series.
Helpfully, both Spelling You See and All About Spelling offer placement tests that can help parents out quite a bit.
With Spelling You See, the company offers short readiness tests on its website.
These include passages that can be read by parents and students or students alone (depending on their ability and level), spelling dictation exercises, some written work, and some guiding questions that are based on a parent’s assessment of student ability.
All About Spelling, meanwhile, offers more formal placement testing on its website or as a downloadable PDF.
These placement tests assess assess a student along a number of spelling skills important to the program, including:
- Phonogram knowledge
- Knowledge of spelling rules
- Writing skill
By and large, we feel that All About Spelling’s placement tests are a little more thorough and detailed compared to Spelling You See.
They directly test a broader range of skills and are, on the whole, a little less dependent on parent judgment of student ability, which can make them a little more precise in theory.
Required Teaching Materials
As is typical of homeschool spelling programs, there can be a few things that parents will need to buy with both Spelling You See and All About Spelling.
Spelling You See requires parents to buy an instructor’s guide, which contains the program’s guiding philosophy, lesson plans and objectives, teaching tips, dictation passages and more.
They will also need to purchase two student workbooks for each level, which contain passages and various chunking/copywork/dictation exercises.
With All About Spelling, parents will need to buy a teacher’s manual and a student packet for each level.
As with Spelling You See, the teacher’s manual contains a breakdown of the program’s teaching methodology, lesson materials and plans, tips, troubleshooting ideas and more.
The student packet, in the meantime, is a packet of different materials that can be used during a lesson, rather than a collated workbook.
These can include word banks, worksheets, rules charts, flash cards and more.
Parents will also have to make a one time purchase of a Student Interactive Kit when starting All About Spelling, which contains letter tiles, magnets, organizational aides and more.
Overall, then, as a program All About Spelling does have more materials to it than Spelling You See, with a rather extensive student packet and an additional kit of goods.
While parents do get more and more varied materials to use when teaching, it does mean that the curriculum is a little less compact than Spelling You See, meaning there are more things to organize and keep track of during the year.
Use of Technology
Both Spelling You See and All About Spelling are mostly paper-based curricula and don’t have much in the way of video games, adaptive software, digital learning platforms and so on.
That said, both programs do have some digital resources that parents can access.
Spelling You See, for example, has a variety of videos available on the Demme Learning website that can explain and demonstrate its philosophy, lessons and activities (chunking, copywriting, dictation and so on).
There are also a series of program webinars and an assortment of printable resources that parents can make use of.
All About Spelling, on the other hand, has a couple apps available that parents can use during lessons.
These include a tile app, which can take the place of physical letter tiles, and a phonogram sound app, which pronounces each phonogram for the student.
On the whole, Spelling You See tends to have a little more digital resources available for it than All About Spelling.
That said, it is hard to directly compare the two as Spelling You See’s digital materials are aimed more at helping parents learn to teach while All About Spelling provides more tools that can be used in-lesson.
Spelling You See Vs All About Spelling: Approach To Teaching
Method of Teaching Spelling
Although both programs are phonics-based, Spelling You See and All About Spelling are very different when it comes to how they specifically approach spelling instruction.
While it directly teaches various phonetic spelling rules and conventions, Spelling You See places a strong emphasis on visual memory and learning when it comes to learning, hence the name Spelling You See.
The program’s core activities are more visually-oriented than other programs.
Its chunking exercises, for example, have students identify certain spelling constructs and learn how words are assembled/disassembled by having them highlight certain words parts using different colored pencils.
Its copywork exercises, meanwhile, not only helps students work on their penmanship, but also provides them with visual demonstrations of proper writing.
Finally, Spelling You See also offers dictation exercises, where students place letters in neat squares, thereby more effectively engaging the student’s visual senses, alongside their auditory and memory skills.
With all that said, it is important to note that Spelling You See also has a literature-based component that many homeschools might be interested in.
Each level contains a variety of developmentally appropriate and (usually) themed illustrated passages, from rhymes to short stories, which are used to help develop a student’s vocabulary, provide extra reading practice and provide examples for copywork and dictation.
These passages can also be interesting to read and often provide interesting information that can help boost a student’s general knowledge, especially in history.
All About Spelling, on the other hand, is an Orton-Gillingham-inspired phonetic spelling program that places a strong emphasis on explicitly and directly teaching students spelling rules, phonograms and conventions, as well as strategies to use when spelling.
Lessons are based on a parent-child dialogue and, after reviewing past rules and spending time teaching new ones.
A considerable amount of time is spent slowly and carefully going over each phonogram and/or spelling rule through verbal instruction, with parents using letter tiles and other hands-on work to help provide examples.
Each lesson then reinforces the new spelling rule through interactive exercises, such as by using letter tiles, dictation exercises, charts, cards, finger tracing, word lists and more.
Overall, while both programs do teach spelling rules and conventions, Spelling You See tends to be based more around working with students’ visual senses and memory through a few core activities.
All About Reading, on the other hand, focuses far more on verbally teaching direct and explicit spelling rules instruction during lessons (and using letter tiles as demonstrations), and reinforces the learning with a variety of exercises and activities.
One notable difference between the two programs is that All About Reading, like most conventional spelling programs, does occasionally make use of word lists and related spelling exercises, whereas Spelling You See does not.
By and large, All About Spelling tends to be more of a hands-on spelling program.
It uses letter tiles, cards, stickers and charts extensively throughout each level, as well as including the occasional game or activity.
In contrast, Spelling You See tends to be more about exercises that encourage visual memory, such as chunking, copywork and dictation, and so there isn’t a ton of hands-on work in the program.
As a result, All About Spelling might be considered a little better suited to tactile learners than Spelling You See.
Parent-led vs Self-Study
Both Spelling You See and All About Spelling are parent-led and fairly intensive in terms of the time and effort they may require on the part of parents.
In both programs, parents are expected to lead sessions, introduce material, guide student thinking, as well as read and discuss topics – all in addition to needing to correct and oversee student work.
As a result, while both programs can give parents a good deal of quality learning time with their students, they may not be ideal for busy homeschools who might be looking for a bit more of a hands-off or self-study curriculum.
Both Spelling You See and All About Spelling offer lots of step-by-step guidance and instructions for parents, don’t require a ton of prep time and as a rule tend to be pretty open and go.
As a result, both programs can be very easy to use for new homeschoolers, as well as those who are uncertain about their own ability to teach spelling.
There is, however, a bit of a difference when it comes to the level of scripting in each program.
All About Spelling does offer fully scripted lessons that provide a word-for-word dialogue that parents can simply read from.
Spelling You See, on the other hand, tends to provide a lot of guidance but leaves the exact phrasing and back-and-forth dialogue to the parent.
Which is better really depends on the homeschool and their particular philosophy/teaching style.
An exact script to follow can make things very easy, as parents can simply open the book and start reading away, but can feel a little constraining for those who like to improvise or teach more naturally.
In contrast, a program without a word-for-word dialogue can more easily let parents put their own spin on things, but can require parents to plan out what they’re going to say.
Neither Spelling You See nor All About Spelling are very big on weekly formal quizzes or assessments, which can be good news (and a lot less stressful) for parents of test-shy students.
Both programs instead rely on a system of review and consistent activities (chunking, copywork, dictation, tile work, etc) to strengthen, reinforce and assess student learning.
Note: Prices correct as of writing. All prices in USD.
Both Spelling You See and All About Spelling include a few different materials but can be purchased as bundles, which allows us to more easily compare them.
All About Spelling’s bundles tend to cost between $36-48 per level.
Parents will also have to make a one-time purchase of a spelling kit for about $24.95.
In contrast, Spelling You See “universal sets” tend to cost between $45-58 per level, and for the most part contain everything a parent and student need to learn a level of the program.
Overall, then, All About Spelling tends to be a little less expensive per level than Spelling You See, although it does require an additional purchase.
Both Spelling You See and All About Spelling are highly effective and proven spelling programs that are pretty popular with homeschools.
While both programs are phonics-based, they do have a fair number of differences in their approach and lessons that parents should be aware of.
To help out, we’ve listed some of the considerations parents should take into account before purchasing either program.
|I’m a parent and I want…||Consider|
|An Orton-Gillingham-inspired phonetic spelling program||All About Spelling|
|A program with no word lists||Spelling You See|
|A spelling program with instructional videos, seminars and digital teaching help||Spelling You See|
|A spelling program with apps I can use in lessons||All About Spelling|
|A program that heavily emphasizes and directly teaches spelling rules, strategies and techniques||All About Spelling|
|A program with a strong emphasis on listening, copywork and dictation exercises||Spelling You See|
|A program that works better for my more visual student||Spelling You See|
|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||Either|
|A program I can easily put my own touch on and teach the way I’d like||Spelling You See|
|A fully scripted, open and go curriculum that will guide me through teaching spelling without any prep||All About Spelling|
|A spelling curriculum that also integrates interesting and educational reading passages||Spelling You See|
For More Information
For more information about these two programs, you can check out:
Our in-depth review of All About Spelling
Check out our Spelling You See review
Check out the Spelling You See 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.