Monday, August 18, 2014

Spelling You See Americana (Level D) Review PLUS an Awesome Giveaway

Are you still searching for a spelling curriculum that will meet your child's needs and learning style? If you are, then you may want to consider Spelling You See. Several months ago, I was contacted with an offer to review the recently released Spelling You See Americana (Level D) curriculum created by Dr. Karen Holinga. The timing was impeccable! Spelling You See is a brand new, research-based spelling curriculum published by Demme Learning. Demme Learning is also the publisher of the well-known Math-U-See curricula that we've been successfully using for years. I am excited to finally have the opportunity to share this review with you after using the curriculum for several months. Be sure to enter my Spelling You See giveaway at the end of this review. The winner will choose the level!

Spelling You See currently carries five levels of their curricula. They are currently working towards adding two more levels. I will tell you about our experiences with Americana.

Five Levels
  • Listen and Write (Level A)
  • Jack and Jill (Level B)
  • Wild Tales (Level C)
  • Americana (Level D)
  • American Spirit (Level E)
Each level has a required Instructor's Handbook and Student Pack. The Instructor's Handbook is reusable. However, the student pack is consumable therefore you will need to purchase one for each child working at that particular level.

The Philosophy Behind the Program
The philosophy is based on the premise that ALL students move through five developmental stages as they learn to spell at their own pace including Preliterate, Phonetic, Skill Development, Word Extension, and Derivational Constancy. The Spelling You See program guides your child naturally through the five stages of learning how to spell. More information about each stage can be read at the Spelling You See website. The spelling program does not use spelling lists, memorization of rules, or spelling tests.

Placement Guidelines
First, I viewed the placement guidelines under the Getting Started section to determine which level Alyssa would complete this year. I love that the program is not based on grade levels and that I could choose the spelling level that would meet Alyssa's needs best. I decided to place my daughter in the Skill Development stage of spelling. The hardest part of choosing the correct level was trying not to base my decision on her actual reading level. Her reading level is much higher, but I needed to focus on finding the appropriate spelling level based on her spelling abilities. She's a natural speller. I also didn't want to choose a level too difficult or too easy which is why I decided on Americana.

It is suggested that this level be used with children who are proficient 8-year-old readers or students over age 10 who are struggling with spelling skills. My daughter is 6 1/2 years old, but she is a fluent and established reader who has written stories several pages long. The next step was to have Alyssa complete the quick skill assessment. She could easily read the passage, misspelled very few dictation words, and the dictation was completed in less than 10 minutes. She probably could have worked through American Spirit, but I wanted to have room for growth and give her time to become familiar with the approach. I also want to keep things light during the summer months. An added bonus was that the words studied were related to and in the context of stories about the events and people of American History. This spelling curriculum correlated well with her American History summer lessons.

Spelling You See: Americana Curriculum Description
Spelling You See is a unique spelling program designed to naturally teach spelling using visual memory as a key to learning. There are 36 weekly lessons arranged and divided into five parts (A-E). Two facing pages of the student workbook are completed each day. Americana contains non-fiction American history passages which are read together in order to help the child familiarize and imprint the new spelling words from the passage to memory. The following picture shows Alyssa pointing to each word as we read aloud the passage.

Three Core Activities
The program is based on three core activities which take 10-15 minutes to complete. The core activities integrate reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills.
  • Chunking
  • Copywork
  • Dictation
During the daily chunking exercises, Alyssa was asked to identify and highlight the letter patterns within the context of the passage after reading it twice. A different color was used for each type of letter pattern during chunking exercises. The passage was read by the parent first and then a second time together. Check out the highlighted reminder box listing the vowel chucks which can be used if your child needs assistance!
(Week 1 Chunking)
(Week 9 Chunking)
The next core activity was copywork. Copywork was completed on the first three days of each lesson (Lesson A-C) enabling Alyssa to imprint the word and letter patterns into memory repeatedly as she gained familiarity with those patterns on a daily basis. Her job was to focus her attention on the sentences from the passage as she carefully copied one line at a time.

The copywork is completed using the lined paper in the workbook and a digital timer. Please note that the lined paper consists of only two lines instead of three. There may be an adjustment period as your child learns to write using this type of lined paper. Some letter formations may differ from the style you use in your homeschool. If letter formations differ from what you are currently using, then you can always tell your child to write the letter the way they were taught before using the program.

There was ample space for the copywork exercises which was one of my concerns when I first received the product. My daughter still tends to write big for her age but thankfully she had plenty of space to write. A blank line was provided after each printed line of text which means she could focus her attention on one line at a time. You could easily cover the other lines if a child is overwhelmed with the length or amount of writing required.

Alyssa also had the task of circling the chunks in her copywork passage. My daughter's confidence level with regards to spelling has improved each day. She also recognizes the letter patterns better with each lesson. One other important thing to note about the copywork portion is that errors can be erased and cursive penmanship is not allowed. Printing enables children to make visual connections to the printed words in other books.

Alyssa was allowed to ask for assistance during the first dictation lesson if necessary. The final dictation on the last day is meant to be done without any help. Don't forget to cover the passage with a piece of paper during dictations. We used a piece of black construction paper so that she couldn't see through it.

By the end of the week, I noticed that my daughter knew how to spell all the words. I know these words were stored for longer periods of time, because I played spelling games using the words from the passages towards the end of the review period (months later) to make sure she could still spell them. What did I find out? She could still spell the words!

Color-Coded Letter Pattern Chunks Addressed
Vowel Chunks -YELLOW
Consonant Chunks - BLUE
Bossy R Chunks - PURPLE
Endings and Silent Letters - PINK or RED
Tricky y Guy - ORANGE

Note: Overlapping may cause a little confusion as the lessons progress and become more difficult. Be sure to read the tips and FAQ. If you still have questions, customer service is top-notch. They will answer your questions promptly so shoot them an e-mail.

Passage Topics
A variety of American History topics were covered in both workbooks including but not limited to:
  • American Flag
  • Harriet Tubman
  • White House
  • Declaration of Independence
  • Davy Crockett 
  • Homestead Act
  • Martin Luther King
  • Rosa Parks
  • George Washington Carver
  • Underground Railroad 
  • Pilgrims
  • Colonists
  • Paul Revere
  • Liberty Bell 
  • Statue of Liberty
  • Gold Rush
  • Abraham Lincoln
What You'll Receive
This sweet package will safely and promptly arrive in the mail.

Set of 10 Erasable Colored Pencils

Student Workbook 1
This workbook contains Lessons 1-18 each having 5 parts labeled A through E. The workbook pages are perforated. The perforated pages enable you to remove the pages for the child to work on. You also have the option of adding a page to a portfolio.

Student Workbook 2
This soft cover book consisted of Lessons 19-36 using the same format.

Instructor's Handbook
I love the organization of the 52-page softbound parent handbook! The handbook begins with a detailed introduction to the unique and innovative spelling approach developed by Dr. Karen Holinga, an explanation describing their philosophy, a thorough discussion of the five developmental stages of spelling, placement guidelines mentioning the curriculum sequence, and an essential "Getting Started Guide" for the Americana level. "Instructions for Americana Lessons 1-14" follow the "Getting Started" section. I appreciated the use of bolded subtitles in this section. The subtitles divided the lessons into groups based on the concepts being addressed. The resource section contains the 36 dictation passages and color-coded answer keys for the chunking exercises, a glossary of terms, and a bibliography. I believe this handbook is essential to the program as it contains helpful information and tools for parents.
Dictation Passage (Lesson 9)
The best part about the teacher's handbook was the answer key! I asked my daughter to state the letter pattern and the word it was found in as I checked the answers. This activity also served as a review allowing for even more exposure to the letter patterns.
Answer Key (Lesson 9)
How We Used Spelling You See
I used the Americana spelling curriculum with my 6 1/2 year old daughter in conjunction with American History music books for several months. We did take a short "no school" summer break for a couple weeks. I read through the Teacher Handbook the weekend before starting the program to gain familiarity with the approach. Everything was self-explanatory. Any questions I had were answered either from the online FAQ or in the teacher's handbook. We began lessons on the following Monday. We completed one part of each lesson every day working five times a week. One full lesson was covered each week. 

Overall Thoughts
I am 100% impressed with this "open and go" spelling program. The program was extremely user-friendly requiring no prep or planning time. The lessons were quick lasting no more than 10-15 minutes a day which is perfect if your child has difficulty sitting for longer time periods. The short historical paragraphs were concise yet informative. I think the simplicity of the program will bless any busy homeschool family.

Alyssa is definitely learning how to spell difficult, more challenging words. I have seen evidence of it during the first week. I started using Exit Cards to find out what history facts my daughter remembered from each lesson. On the first day using Spelling You See, she asked me how to spell "colonies" when filling out her exit card. By the end of the week, she KNEW how to spell the word without assistance. She could visualize it! We didn't have to do any extra spelling activities to practice the words each week. However, I did review previously learned spelling words using spelling games later on just to check in and see if she still remembered the spellings long-term. The visual memory method definitely worked! I also notched that my daughter would identify the previously learned letter patterns in books during her independent reading time.

I didn't really need to help my daughter with finding letter patterns in the beginning, but I sat beside her to provide guidance when necessary. The letter patterns were always provided. The clear and concise instructions provided were straightforward and to the point. The directions also explained that vowel chunks are highlighted first, followed by bossy r's, and then consonant chunks if there was ever a question about which to highlight. Dictations became easier over time as she gained confidence and familiarity with the program.

A Weekly Glance
The activities are exactly the same for the first three days as seen below.




The chunking and reading activities continue for Days 4 and 5. However, dictation was added to the lesson.

The following picture is an example of her first weekly dictation for Lesson 9. She had a difficult time remembering how to spell "except." I noticed that she closed her eyes and visualized the word each time she wrote it. This strategy eventually lead to the correct spelling. She had the opportunity to ask for help, but she wanted to figure it out on her own. She simply drew one line through the errors until she found the one that looked right. After her 10-minute dictation, she checked her work using the original passage. The number of words spelled correctly is documented at the bottom of the page at the end of the lesson. We never count the first word since it is given. I love that Spelling You See encourages you to remain positive and emphasize the number of words spelled correctly instead of focusing on the number of words spelled wrong.   


  • The curriculum is not based on grade levels. She started at a level based on her spelling abilities. 
  • The lessons are short and quick only requiring a maximum of 10-15 minutes each day.
  • No prep or planning is required. Enough said - right! 
  • It utilizes a Classic or Charlotte Mason approach towards spelling by implementing copywork and dictation exercises which are two methods we enjoy using in our homeschool.
  • The reading passages are slightly below her reading level which means that she focus on learning the spellings instead of being frustrated with reading the passage.
  • She can pay close attention to words within the context of a story or factoid based on history.
  • Alyssa learns spelling patterns through chunking exercises which give her hands-on exposure to letter patterns.
  • I am pleased with the inviting, colorful images used to represent each passage. My daughter particularly liked the White House images. She liked being able to see an inside blue print of how the White House was divided into three parts. 
Alyssa's Thoughts (Age 6)
I crazy love it! You get to practice spelling while learning about history and copying passages. My favorite part of the curriculum is reading the passage and highlighting the chunks. I like how colorful the page is when I'm done. I am learning about America too! My mommy gives me an exit card at the end of the week to see what history facts I've learned. Those are fun too!

Americana Instructor's Handbook $14
Americana Student Pack $30

Visit the Spelling You See store website to view sample lessons, read about each level, and purchase the appropriate level for your child.

If you are looking for a easy-to-use spelling program for a visual learner that takes very little time out of your day, then look no further. Spelling You See Americana may be the perfect solution to your child's spelling needs. I highly recommend this program especially to homeschool families that utilize a Charlotte Mason or Classic homeschool approach. Children that dislike writing may not be particularly fond of this program, because it emphasizes daily copywork or dictation.

Spelling You See is suitable for elementary-aged children or for older students needing remediation. If you have a struggling reader or a child with learning difficulties, then this curricula may help. Trying a new spelling curriculum gives your family the opportunity to address a different learning style, prevent boredom with lessons, and might meet the needs or difficulties of your child better.

I will MOST DEFINITELY continue using Spelling You See Americana for the rest of the year. I pray and hope that we can continue with the next level, American Spirit, upon completion of Americana. I look forward to seeing the newly developed levels in the future!

Social Media

It's Time for a GIVEAWAY! 
Demme Learning has generously donated one physical copy of the Spelling You See curriculum. The randomly selected winner will receive a full curriculum set of their choice including the Instructor's Handbook, Student Workbooks, and the Colored Pencils. Good Luck to all who enter and please help spread the word! If you do not see the Rafflecopter widget, please give it time to load or click on the link provided.

Giveaway Disclaimer
Many thanks to Spelling You and Demme Learning for providing the prize for this giveaway. Choice of winners will be randomly selected. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification. You must be 18 years old to enter and a resident of the US. Demme Learning will fulfill the prize.

I received a complimentary, free copy of the Spelling You See Americana (Level D) curriculum from Demme Learning in exchange for an honest, unbiased review on my blog. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this information in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.


  1. Probably D; we are using A, C, and E this year, so D for next year.

  2. We would choose the second level, since we already have the first level.

  3. We have used Spelling You See before and love it, because it works so well with visual learners.

  4. After reading your amazing review (wow!), I think I'd also go with D. Same reasons, proficient reader, mine is seven but room to grow and learn the books.

  5. I didn't realize there was copy work in this curriculum. Something I really like!

  6. I learned that Spelling You See is a unique approach

  7. We will need level c next. We're deep into B right now.

  8. I learned that chunking is cool and colorful. Especially fabulous for a visual learner.

  9. Awesome review. Looks like there's a lot of learning there. I love the phonemic approach to spelling as opposed to memorization and the practice of chunking. i struggle with that myself. My son is a visual learner. This would probably really work for him.

  10. I pinned it under

    1. Hi Avis! You should always provide the direct link which indicates which board it was pinned to. I found yours on your Giveaway board here Thank you for sharing.

  11. Love the open and go, no planning or prep work. learned that from your review. Thank you!

  12. Learned..That it is not grade level dependent

  13. Level a , listening and writing

  14. That it looks different to what we have tried in the past and looks like somethin that might work for the two of my kids that tried it all and still can not spell

  15. If I won, I'd choose Set A: Listen and Write.

    allibrary (at) aol (dot) com

  16. I learned that they have video content to help explain the use of the sets.

    allibrary (at) aol (dot) com

  17. I am excited. This is the program I anted to try this year. I would like level d. Thanks for the chance.

  18. Level A, we're just starting our spelling journey

  19. I learned that Spelling You See exists. I have heard a lot about All About Spelling, but this one may work for my son too. I'll have to look further into it.

  20. I learned about the highlighted chunking of sounds! Very cool! I am going to start Math-U-See this year and I have been very intrigued by spelling u see. Thanks for the info!

  21. I'd probably choose wild tales if we won :)

  22. I would pick level D, I have a struggling speller and it looks like the perfect fit.

  23. I learned it has quick and easy lessons.

  24. We would go with level c. Just Right!

  25. I learned how multi faceted this curriculum is...very cool

  26. I commented on Artistic Pursuits Review: The Way They See It (Jen)

  27. I learned that this is open and can you not love that!

  28. This sounds like a great tool for learning to spell.

    Thank you for stopping by the Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop this week. We hope to see you drop by our neck of the woods next week!

  29. commented on Homeschool Legacy, Birds Review

  30. Level A is perfect for children who are trying to read and spell.

  31. I would probably choose the wild tales level! :)

  32. I learned that it takes a different approach rather than the traditional spelling lists and tests.

  33. Great giveaway! ; ) We would pick level B most likely

  34. I would choose level D for my son!
    Thank You for the chance

    Fiona N

  35. I learned that they have many levels to follow easily for children!
    Thank You again!

    Fiona N