Spelling Made Easy
Best Selling Series by Violet Brand
Spelling Made Easy is a successful and popular series enabling children to learn and develop the fundamental skills needed when learning how to spell.
The core of the scheme comprises:
- 4 Revised A4 Text Books
- 4 Corresponding ‘Fun with Phonics’ Photocopiable Worksheet Books
These titles are enhancements of our “classic” A5 textbooks and accompanying worksheet books, originally published in 1984. Further details are available on our catalogue page.
For further consolidation and reinforcement, we have ‘Be The Teacher’ books. These photocopiable workbooks cleverly cast the pupil as teacher. He/she is asked to proof read and mark a set of inaccurate pieces of work from an imaginary group of children. They are specifically related to work covered in the Spelling Made Easy textbooks.
- ‘Be The Teacher’ Book I deals with basic mistakes, using vowel and consonant changes from Key Stage 1;
- ‘Be The Teacher’ Book II covers areas laid down in Key Stage 2.
For teachers of teenagers, adults and children who have not responded to other methods, we have:
- Remedial Spelling (Diagnostic tests for specific spelling difficulties)
- Put It Right (Proof-reading passages for use with Remedial Spelling)
The ‘Spelling Made Easy’ series was conceived, written and published at a time when teaching reading and spelling through phonics was out of fashion in the UK, as were multi-sensory techniques.
Since then the introduction of Literacy Strategies in the UK and other English speaking countries has led to a reassessment of teaching methods. As a result, it is now usual to teach spelling and reading through phonics.
The word family lists which form the backbone of ‘Spelling Made Easy’ are published in Remedial Spelling. Violet Brand developed these lists and other material including dictations and diagnostic tests as a direct result of testing and diagnosing reading and spelling problems in adults from 1975-1980.
The word lists are exhaustive and presented in a specific order. Quite deliberately for instance the books start with ‘a’ – ‘o’ – ‘i’ – ‘e’ – ‘u’ as Violet Brand’s diagnosis led her to conclude that ‘a’ is easily confused with ‘e’ and should be separated by other short vowels to minimize confusion.
SPELLING MADE EASY: ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION, 1984
The multi-sensory methods of teaching spelling seem to have been over-looked in the main-stream of education since World War II. Too much emphasis has been placed on learning to spell through visual methods. The ears and mouth have been forgotten and the power of the hand ignored.
If a child, or an adult, hears a sequence of sounds, sees them visually represented, feels the sequence in their mouth and reproduces the symbols with their hand, their awareness of the basis of written language is awakened. They feel that they can control it – and what they can control they can use. No one sense is left to flounder and the fear of the printed word, which so often besets adult illiterates and failing teenagers, is removed. The senses which they employ for normal communication, speech and hearing, are being involved in the written language which has previously defeated them.
If a young child is encouraged to listen and say, as well as to look, the multi-sensory approach to literacy skills can begin before motor skills are far enough advanced for the child to actually write. Once primary education has begun, multi-sensory methods can be used to prevent future failure.
Experience of teaching spelling through a wide age range, from 6 year olds to adults and through a wide ability range, from slow learners to university students, has convinced me that English language needs to be presented in a structured way, so that a knowledge of its regular phonic pattern is easily acquired. Word family groupings should therefore form the basis of the teaching of spelling.
The teaching order of word families should take into consideration:
(a) the number of common words, over which the child, or adult, needs to acquire control early in their literacy life.
(b) the establishment of certain common principles that affect the sound of letters.
(i) the doubling of a vowel (ee)
(ii) the combination of a vowel and a consonant (ar)
(iii) the combination of two consonants (sh)
(iv) the effect of a silent ‘e’ on a vowel (cake)
(v) the combination of two vowels (ai)
(vi) the grouping of two or more letters to produce one sound (igh, air)
(c) the desirability of keeping trouble apart, i.e. separating ir, ur, er, by a few weeks.
It is suggested that whilst the teaching of word families should start with the basic vowel sounds, these should not be taught in alphabetical order. A child, or adult, with spelling problems often has great difficulty in hearing the basic difference between the basic sound of â* and the basic vowel sound of ê. It is therefore better to follow the teaching of â words, with the teaching of ô words. If you have doubts, open your mouth and say aloud â. Then say ê. Listen to your voice and feel what happens to the shape of your mouth. Very little you may think. Repeat the exercise with â and ô then with ô and î.
Only one word family should be taught a week, irrespective of the age of the student. The point at which the teaching starts will vary with the age and the stage the student has reached.
Many 6-8 year olds can benefit by work on the basic vowel sounds, whilst becoming accustomed to multi-sensory teaching methods. Illiterate teenagers and adults desperately need work on basic vowel sounds and cannot make progress without it. Almost all 7-8 year olds would find spelling much easier if they were taught one digraph* a week. The jump from basic vowel sounds to digraphs is often the sticking point for older children and adults.
Basic words that are needed before they have been reached phonically, or that have no phonic base, represent another element in the teaching of spelling. Finger tracing and the more advanced stages of this method, as used by Grace Fernald, should be employed.
If gaps in knowledge, poor sequencing skills and the constant reinforcing of errors go undetected, a lifetime of spelling difficulty is likely to ensue.
* ˆ indicates short vowel sound
* Two or more letters making one sound.
REMEDIAL SPELLING: ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION, 1985
Teenagers and adults with spelling difficulties will usually present an unpredictable pattern of spelling development. Experience has taught them something, but experience varies with individuals, so that problems will be random. It is essential therefore, that the teaching of spelling beyond the primary school stage, should be diagnostic.
Years of spelling difficulty have often inhibited a student’s writing skills and it is possible that dictation passages, both Test and Reinforcement, will be too long for individual students, particularly in the early stages. In each case, use as much of a passage as a student can comfortably manage – and save the rest for revision. If problems are that great, the teacher will constantly need to return to short vowel sounds and early digraphs.
All teaching should be multi-sensory. If these students had a good visual memory, they would certainly not have reached secondary education, or adulthood, with a spelling problem. It is essential therefore, that ears, mouth and hand should support the eyes in the acquisition of spelling. ‘Listen to it’ – ‘Feel it in your mouth’ – ‘Write it’ – will join ‘Look at it’ – as instructions.
Copying will play no part in teaching. These students do not learn from copying. I have seen too many teenagers, men and women in the Adult Literacy Scheme, pull out a piece of paper and copy their address, to believe that copying is a positive learning activity for those with literacy problems. They have copied that address hundreds of times, but still cannot throw the piece of paper away.
Dictation requires the student to listen, to process sounds and to record those sounds in symbols. What he can record is the extent of his knowledge. Our aim is to push his spelling skills forward until he can automatically write everything he desires to write.
Spelling skills are extended through teaching in a structured way. Many students believe that there is no pattern to English spelling. There is – and about 85% of words we use conform to a pattern. It is often of great relief for students to know this and to understand that together, you are going to work through the word families that make up the English phonic structure.
Within the structure, they may have random knowledge. Use that knowledge and integrate it. Build the unfamiliar onto the familiar. In this way, memory will be aided and spelling skills will grow.
“At Twynham Academy we use Spelling Made Easy as our main reading resource. We love the structured introduction of new spelling patters and the gradual introduction and revision of key words. We now use Fun with Phonics to consolidate the spelling patterns and we enjoy the reading comprehension questions.”
Diana James, Twynham Academy, Dorset
“As a Dyslexia Specialist, I have been using the ‘Spelling Made Easy’ series by Violet Brand, in my teaching for over 20 years. Ahead of their time when first published, these books are now totally compatible with the current recognition in education of the vital importance of the structured teaching of phonics. The ‘Spelling Made Easy’ books provide a structured, cumulative, multisensory spelling programme which benefits all children, including those with dyslexic difficulties. I look forward eagerly to any future additions to this wonderful and indispensable teaching resource.”
Barbara Lillford, AMBDA DipSpLD APC (Dyslexia Action)
“The workbooks increase in complexity as the learner develops confidence from simple cvc words, through phonological awareness activities, to comprehension texts and writing activities, all designed to practise the art of spelling.”
Ceri Williams, NGFL-Cymru/Microsoft Innovative Teacher Award Winner 2011
“Violet Brand was a true pioneer in her field as a female entrepreneur passionate about education and unlocking the potential of all our children through the joy of reading and writing. The intrepid Violet introduced phonics and her spelling programme to teach generations of children how to enjoy stories and tell their own.”
Sarah Brown, Founder and President of PiggyBankKids