First Edition Preface

¹ Preface
First Edition Preface
This book began five years ago (1989) when I left my teaching position at a
private school to teach my two daughters Angelina (Angie) and Amelia at home.
I soon discovered my younger daughter, then in sixth grade, could spell only on
a second grade level. Always having been a hopeless speller, I did not want my
daughter to suffer the embarrassment and difficulties related to writing that I
had. I set out to find a means to help her, as it was obvious that the programs used
in the schools had not proven effective. This led me to the extensive research
and experimentation of which this book is a result.
My first impulse was to give my daughter intensive phonics instruction. I had
received such training in graduate school when I took a series of courses on
teaching using the Montessori Method of Education. It had helped me immensely
with my own spelling difficulties and I was confident it would help Angie. While
my daughter was insulted by what she called the “babyish” approach to the materials, she submitted willingly to the work. She loved to write and she really
wanted others to be able to read what she had written.
After a complete course in intensive phonics, Angie’s spelling ability had
increased by only one grade level. Of course, her reading ability soared four
grade levels and she could read almost anything she picked up. I began to suspect that phonics instruction alone, especially when geared to reading, was not
enough to make a competent speller.
That summer I attended a seminar on teaching spelling. The speaker confirmed my suspicions that phonics was not sufficient in itself to teach spelling
competency. In fact, she said phonics as a means of teaching spelling was useless and she backed up her point of view with many facts, explaining that spelling is primarily visual and that the only way for students to learn to spell is through
configuration exercises. Inspired by this expert I went out and found the latest
spelling program — one with an emphasis on configuration exercises. I convinced my daughter this would work — an expert had advised it as the only way
to go — so we set down to work, again.
By Christmas, both my daughter and I were convinced that this method was
not producing results either. According to Angie, the only thing she had gained
was the knowledge that there is only one accepted way to spell a word. This was
something she had not concluded from previous instruction. She was now consistently misspelling words; that is, she misspelled them the same way every
At this point, I began my serious research (see Appendix A & Bibliography)
and created a list of the essential aspects of an effective spelling curriculum. As
I discovered these proven methods, I incorporated as many of them as possible
into the spelling program with which we began the school year. By the end of the
school year, my daughter, now having completed grade seven work, was spelling at the level of an average fourth grader.
Over the summer, armed with my knowledge of what constitutes proven,
effective spelling instruction, I continued my search for a spelling program that
would solve Angie’s problem. During my search, I came to the realization that
most traditional spelling programs do not take advantage of the facts of effective
spelling instruction even though they are well established. I was disturbed that
the introductions in the teacher’s editions of many programs would quote the
same facts I had found in my research and then would proceed to ignore them in
the actual processes prescribed in their texts.
So I went looking in another direction. Now my goal was to find a reliable,
high-frequency word list to use as a basis for “Angie’s Spelling Program.” I soon
discovered that most word frequency lists available were created between 1915
(Ayer’s) and 1945 (Rinsland’s). Realizing that language usage has changed somewhat in the last 45 years I kept searching until I found more recent information. I
found only two such studies: one conducted in Canada in 1979 using a relatively
small sampling of Canadian students and one conducted in 1971, which was an
extensive study of words used in written material, geared more toward reading
than spelling. I also found a number of lists of frequently misspelled words geared
to different age groups; that is, words frequently misspelled by elementary students (by grade), by high school students, by college students, and by secretaries and business people. These lists were used to select words for each level in
the program.
These sources were compared and combined, a few archaic words were taken
out, and new words were added (many computer related) to provide the most
reliable and useful list possible. This list was then divided into levels based on
frequency of use, and each level was then divided into groups to present spelling rules and phonetical principles. (Since deciding to publish Angie’s program,
the basic lists which she used have been compared to those used in five standard textbook series, to provide parents with an idea of the normal grade placement level of each word.)
Armed with this list, I added the elements of the self-corrected test methods
and the review of the student’s pronunciation. I also taught Angie the ten research-proven steps for word study that I had discovered in my research. Within
months we were seeing dramatic improvements in Angie’s spelling abilities.
Unfortunately, as time passed, the growth in Angie’s spelling progress markedly slowed. I analyzed what she was doing and discovered Angie had stopped
using all of the study steps she had been taught. At this point I created a special
study sheet for her that would remind her of each study step. The special studysheets, combined with a demonstration of their value, got her back on track.
Again spelling growth became rapid and noticeable. By the end of her eighth
grade year, Angie was spelling on a seventh grade level according to achievement testing. She had progressed three grade levels in one school year!
While Angie’s test results were extremely encouraging, when I examined
her writing, the spelling errors, while less frequent, were still very obvious. She
would still be judged a poor speller by any reasonable standard. In an attempt to
find the root of this problem, I carefully analyzed her writing and the lists of the
high-frequency words. In this process I made two discoveries. First, the highfrequency words, especially on the lower levels, tend to be non-meaning bearing words, such as articles, prepositions, and so on. Misspelling of words which
¹ Preface
carry the unique meaning of a sentence stand out more than other misspelled
words. Second, Angie was not always spelling the words correctly in her written
work that she had spelled correctly in her spelling lessons. These discoveries
led to the creation of the remaining aspects of the program: the Review, Delayed
Recall and End-of-Level test series; the integration with daily writing; the Skillbuilding Activities; and the Dictionary Skills programs.
While Angie, now 16 and in tenth grade, is still not a perfect speller, as few
who write English are, she now has an adequate knowledge of both those universally frequently used words and those she personally uses on a regular basis.
What’s more, Angie now has the skills to deal with words she does not know how
to spell and a specific method she can use to proofread all her writing meant for
others to read.
I decided to share “Angie’s Spelling Program,” and the research it was based
on, about one year ago when other teachers and parents began asking me how
I had achieved such remarkable progress with my daughter’s spelling. It is my
hope that Angie’s program, which she named Spelling Power, will provide other
teachers and parents an effective way to help their students to achieve Spelling
Power, too.
Beverly L. Adams-Gordon
Seattle, Washington
June, 1993
¹ Preface
Fourth Edition Preface
As I sit down to write the preface to the Fourth Edition of Spelling Power, I
marvel at the mysterious ways God works in our lives. Seventeen years have
passed since I first began to research how to teach my older daughters to spell.
Now they are young wives and mothers. My oldest, Amelia, is the mother of three
busy boys and one little princess. My middle girl, Angie, for whom the program
was written, is the mother of one little home scholar, Caitlynn, who will be a
second generation Spelling Power user beginning in the Fall of 2006. So much
has changed, yet I still dedicate major portions of each day to spelling — teaching our youngest Brittany Ann, answering Help Line questions, conducting workshops and seminars, and reading the latest spelling research. It is this work that
has led to this major revision. While the Fourth Edition maintains the same research-proven approaches, this edition, I believe, presents the “How-to” in a much
clearer manner. There are three main categories of changes to this edition:
New Technologies — This edition includes the addition of two new elements
that bring Spelling Power into the 21st Century. First, the new Quick Start Seminar
DVD is now bundled with the program. It features the author introducing every
step of the program. After this introduction, you’ll watch home school families—
just like yours—complete each step. The other resource is the enhanced Teacher’s
Resource CD-ROM. This resource provides you with the forms you need at the
touch of a button. You’ll also find the new quicker-to-use, Searchable Word List
which you’ll use to help integrate spelling with the rest of your curriculum. The
printable Skill-Building Activities are sure to save your precious time. Finally, the
new Spelling Power Digital Tutor is a drill tool which will appeal to your students,
while giving you control over the words with which they’ll work.
New Arrangement — I have rewritten and moved around much of the material into a more logical order. I believe this change will make it easier and quicker
for you to find the information you need. Some material has been moved to computer resources where they will be more accessible. The sections most impacted
by this change are the Skill-Building Activities. The description of how to teach
skills is now treated as an introduction to the resource section where the activities are located. Easier-to-use indices by group number, learning styles, and
number of participants mean that you can choose skill-building activities quickly.
You’ll find a copy of most of these activities just a click away on your new Teacher’s
Resource CD-ROM
New Look — In addition the new, crisper page design feature larger type
and more graphics to make the book even more user-friendly. You’ll find a large
copy of every form on the page where it is discussed. Photographs are used to
illustrate where appropriate. You’ll find that the staggered tabs on the edges of
pages will make finding sections easy. The cover design is more up-to-date, yet
maintains Spelling Power’s famous “big, orange book” characteristic.
It is my sincere hope that these changes will make the book of even greater
benefit to you as you help your children acquire Spelling Power.
Beverly L. Adams-Gordon
Pomeroy, Washington
February, 2006