Monday, February 27, 2012

TOS Crew: See-n-Spell


When we reviewed See-n-Read products last year, I wrote a glowing review. It was a concept I'd already been using, affordably packaged and more attractive than my homemade version. The idea: a thin plastic overlay with a reading window.

As you can see from the picture, this See-n-Read tool is laid over the page. There's a clear reading window surrounded by grayed out film. You move the tool down the page as you read, and it helps your eyes track efficiently. It helps you keep your place on the page, something that two of our girls have had trouble with in the past. (They still have trouble when they're tired, actually.)

Another version of the tool (the Memory Mark) has a cut-out window so that you can make notes on the page you're reading. You could use this tool in math as well as reading, for example, to keep track in a column of numbers just which place value you're dealing with.

This year, we were introduced to a new product, the See-n-Spell book that comes with a See-n-Read tool. The author's idea was to make words more available to authors who struggle with spelling. If you know the first few letters of a word, you can look it up in the alphabetical listing of words. (Want to know the word I struggle with? "Accommodate." It gets me almost every time I use it.) Instead of using a simpler, more easily spelled vocabulary in your writing, you can use See-n-Spell Quick Reference Guide to find the word you're thinking of, the word that really fits what you want to say, but it just doesn't look right on the page.

There are three sections in the Quick Reference Guide. The first has an alphabetical list of more than 300 most commonly used vocabulary words, but that's not all. The words are divided into grammatical categories or parts of speech: noun, pronoun, article, conjunction, verb (regular and irregular), adjective, adverb, and preposition, plus homophones (words that sound alike but are spelled differently). I've found this division useful for my natural speller who's been able to spell just about anything since she was in elementary grades, but whose grasp on the concept of parts of speech is a bit weak. (She loves words, and will browse a book like this just for the fun of it.) My struggles-to-spell student has resisted using the book. She'd rather write on the computer where the spell-checker function offers instant aid.

The second section in the Quick Reference Guide contains a quick-reference list of frequently misspelled words, alphabetically arranged. (Yup, "accommodate" is there, along with a plethora of others.) We all refer to this list on occasion, Natural Speller because she loves words, period; myself because there are a few words other than "accommodate" that for some reason won't stick in my brain; Struggling Speller because she can't always write on the computer and lean on the spell checker...

A third section contains a blank glossary where you can record special interest words. We haven't used this yet, but one use I can think of is scientific terminology, or other specialized terminology related to academic subjects such as geology, geography, or math.

This 40-page guide is recommended for grades 4 and up. You have to be able to spell, at least a little, to use this tool. There's an anecdote that will live in infamy in my family: One of my brothers was doing his homework, and called out, "Dad, how do you spell 'upon'? a-p or o-p?" Our dad, a poor speller, thought about it for a moment and then called back, "I don't know. Look it up in the dictionary!" Meanwhile, the natural spellers in the family were laughing hard... Do you see the problem? How do you look up a word if you don't know the first letter? (Our computer spell checker actually can help in this instance.) However, if you do know how a word starts, See-n-Spell can get you the rest of the way.

Pricing and availability

The See-n-Spell Spelling and Vocabulary Quick Reference Guide is available at the See-n-Read website for $9.99 and includes a free See-n-Read reading tool.

Read more TOS Crew reviews of See-n-Spell at this link.

Disclaimer: Our family received a copy of the See-n-Spell Quick Reference Guide for review purposes. No additional compensation was involved.

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