Friday, September 3, 2010

Spelling City Makes Spelling Fun!

As a member of The Old Schoolhouse Crew, I was very fortunate to be chosen to review SpellingCity.com . This is a great online site for learning spelling words and how to use them in context. This is done through games, writing, and tests.
As a homeschooling mother, I found this to be a great resource. Typically, a spelling lesson was a list of words that I would either print or dictate. The boys would copy them twice each on the first day, use them in sentences the next, put them in alphabetical order on the third day, and have a test the fourth day.  I will admit, it was boring. Then we began using SpellingCity.  The first thing I noticed, and appreciated, were the very helpful teacher training videos, and the extensive Frequently Asked Questions area. The information I received made it very simple to set up and begin. There is also a members forum that is presented in Bulletin Board style.

As the teacher, I can choose from two ways to make word lists. I either generate my own, or pick from the very extensive selection of previously published lists.  Once I'm satisfied with my choices, I can make the lists available to the students.  I can also leave them a message such as "Please do the lists in order" or "Don't forget to take the test by Thursday".  There is also an option to print a list for handwriting exercise.

Now the boys got their turn. Once they logged in, they could see my word lists. They were given three choices; learn the words, play games, or be tested.


If they choose to learn the words, they hear the word pronounced, watch it spelled out for them, and then hear it used in a sentence. The site had default sentences for all of the words I used, but these may be changed by the teacher.

If the student wants to play a game, they have many to pick from, or they might decide to use the sentence or paragraph writing practice. These help with word usage and keyboarding skills.

For my children, any time on the computer is a treat, so they are always eager to play. The games are fun for them, even as they reinforce the spelling and vocabulary.  There is a game for everyone's taste: word searches, crossword puzzles, alphabetizing, "hangmouse", word unscrambles, and many more.

Boy One told me his favorite game is LetterFall. To play, he maneuvered a cartoon mouse to catch letters in a bucket as they dropped from above.  Boy Two prefers the Sentence Unscramble. He is given words to arrange into the previously provided learning sentence.

Once they are comfortable with a word list, they take the test.  The program says the word, the child types it, and then they continue through the entire list this way.  When finished, they are graded.  (a note here - if you use a Safari Browser, don't forget to turn off the "check spelling while writing" feature!)  When they complete a test, they may print a certificate for record keeping. (or for bragging!)

All the while, the site is logging their activity and keeping records for me, the teacher!  I can check in later that day and see that each boy passed their spelling test, if it took them more than one try to achieve a 100%, and which words gave them difficulty.

We really enjoyed this program. I can see why it has won numerous awards from parents, educators, and web site reviewers.  It is being used by homeschool families and in brick and mortar schools all across the country.

Now, for the formalities.  Spellingcity.com is a website made available from the vendor VKidz.  VKidz are located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  Support and information are available through the website.  There is a form to fill out of you have any problems, although, for us, it was definitely an easy site to navigate and a fun program to use.  I had no problems at all.

SpellingCity.com may be used as a free site, but in order to use the record keeping aspects, a Premium Membership must be purchased. Premium Membership also allows for phone support.  That number will be provided when you log in.  You will also have access to a few games that a free user would not be able to play.  The Premium Membership costs a family of up to five users $24.99 per year.  For a classroom or co-op or up to thirty users, the cost would be $49.99 per year.  The fee is payable by PayPal, credit card, check, or money order.

Because the lists are customizable, this could be used for students of all ages.

**I was given 2 months of premium membership in exchange for my honest opinion and evaluation of the site and its features.**