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Spell to Write and Read

The WISE Guide for Spelling

by Wanda Sanseri

Reviewed by Martha Robinson

Purchase details: Spell to Write and Read and The WISE Guide for Spelling by Wanda Sanseri. "Core Kit" including both spiral-bound, paperback books, spelling rule cards, and 70 basic phonograms cards, $98. Published by Back Home Industries. Please support by buying this program from our Christian Book Distributors link or Amazon affiliate link.

Wanda Sanseri's books offer a method of learning to read that begins with spelling. Using Romalda Spalding's phonograms taught in The Writing Road to Reading, Mrs. Sanseri has expanded and adapted the technique to create a program that is thorough and will last from the earliest years through the end of high school. Each of the items in the Spell to Write and Read core kit is described below.

Spell to Write and Read -- Published in 2002, Spell to Write and Read replaces Mrs. Sanseri's book, Teaching Reading at Home and School, and is the heart of the program. It explains how to teach phonograms, how to create a "learning log," the book in which all rules and spelling words are written, and when and how to start using The Wise Guide. Mrs. Sanseri also offers basic information about grammar and composition and discusses reading comprehension and use of literature and "living" books. The appendix includes the text of Mrs. Sanseri's speech to the U.S. Senate in 2001, eight diagnostic spelling tests, sample pages from the two levels of learning logs, a listing of phonograms and markings, example lesson plans, a glossary, and a bibliography.

Spell to Write and Read frequently refers the reader to specific pages of other materials including The WISE Guide, The New England Primer, the McCall-Crabbs Standard Test Lessons in Reading, and World of Language series by Ruth Heller. These books are represented as optional, but would be needed in order to implement the program fully.

The program begins with phonemic awareness for the youngest (preschool) students. Students learn to speak and print the single consonant and vowel phonograms and then begin spelling before learning multi-letter phonograms. Mrs. Sanseri recommends moving on to spelling in as brief a time as three weeks before complete mastery of the phonograms. Manuscript printing and basic cursive are taught in Spell to Read and Write, but a supplement, Cursive First, is available for those families who wish to begin with cursive.

Mrs. Sanseri recommends preparation prior to teaching with her materials. She suggests that the parent should make a learning log of her own from a composition notebook before beginning with the child. Students aged third grade and up are expected to make their own learning logs; however, a Primary Learning Log that is pre-formatted with many of the rules already printed in it is available for younger students. Daily preparation is required by the parent before each lesson, and several readings of Spell to Write and Read will be needed in order to understand the method.

The WISE Guide for Spelling -- The Wise Guide has two thousand spelling words broken down into twenty word lessons in levels A through Z. Sections A through G have just one lesson while later sections contain up to six lessons. Many of the sections end with reinforcement ideas including deaf-signing the phonograms, playing games, how to conduct a spelling bee, and how to set the table properly using the alphabet.

Each lesson has two facing pages. On the first page, a "preliminaries" section that gives the spelling rules and phonograms to introduce or review, an occasional guessing game, and reference pages in Spell to Write and Read. The next section contains the spelling words divided into syllables and used in sentences, many of which are quotations from the Bible, literature, and famous people from history. The final section on the first page, "Spelling Enrichments," includes different activities related to grammar or other aspects of language. For example, compound words, oxymorons, alliteration, and suffixes are a few of the items discussed, as well as many grammar concepts. Students are frequently asked to write original sentences in these activities.

The second page begins with another activity such as dictation, a history of language lesson, or spelling rule. Then further information, such as pronunciation key, derivation, and applicable spelling rule, for each of the spelling words is shown on the corresponding line for the word on the facing page. The final section on the second page is another "Spelling Enrichment" lesson.

The Wise Guide ends with three support pages: Explanation of Special Spelling Markings, Spelling Rules Phrased for Ease in Teaching, and 70 Basic Phonograms in a Nutshell.

The 70 Basic Phonogram Cards -- This packet includes pages of phonogram cards (four per page) on heavy card stock. The front of each card shows the phonogram in large letters, while the back provides pronunciation, rule (if applicable), key words for the instructor's use only, and instructions on how to form the letter in manuscript.

70 Basic Phonograms Tape --Mr. Sanseri reads the phonograms. Mrs. Sanseri offers words of encouragement about learning the phonograms, and both speak for a test in which the listener is asked to write the phonogram being pronounced. The test key is on a slip of paper in the tape case.

Spelling Rule Cards -- This packet contains cards for twenty-eight spelling rules. As with the phonogram cards, each flash card takes up a fourth of the page. The front shows a graphic depiction of the rule. For example, "xs" with a circle around it and a line through it is the picture for the rule that "x" is never followed by "s." Some of the other graphics get very complex, reminiscent of a calculus problem. The back of each card shows the rule, examples, and exceptions. A summary sheet lists the spelling rules on one side and the seventy basic phonograms on the other.

Recommendation: Wanda Sanseri's program is thorough, rigorous, and well proven. It offers a logical approach that may be tailored to the student through the use of diagnostic tests. Frequent repetition offers reinforcement to students who have difficulty with spelling, and the suggested games allow spelling to become less of a dry topic. The sentences used in The Wise Guide are particularly appealing to Christian families, and the emphasis on "living" books and literature is wonderful for families following the Classical (Trivium) or Charlotte Mason approaches.

Spell to Read and Write is a complex book that took several readings for me to comprehend. I found that putting together the "learning log" was instrumental to my understanding of what needs to be accomplished. Spell to Read and Write and The Wise Guide have many references to each other, so the parent will find herself flipping between books frequently. Mrs. Sanseri and teachers whom she has trained hold seminars throughout the country, so if you find the program difficult to implement, you may want to consider attending one of these. resources related to this review:'s Language Arts Resources Section for tips on teaching spelling and more!
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Review of Sing, Spell, Read, and Write, Kindergarten and Level 1 Combo Kit
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Review of Calvert's Interactive Spelling & Vocabulary
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