Sequential Spelling 1 (workbook and teacher's guide)
We started using Sequential Spelling with First Son in third grade. Many Charlotte Mason homeschooling families don't explicitly teach spelling at all, instead relying on copywork, dictation, and narration exercises, along with an extensive reading list, to provide the knowledge of spelling. I think that might be sufficient for some children, but I was concerned about First Son who would tear up if I asked him to spell something he didn't think he knew how to spell. I wanted to give him lots of practice and, subsequently, confidence when spelling. (This desire is based at least in part on my own lack of confidence in spelling.)
Sequential Spelling provides, at the most basic level, lists of 25 related words to be spelling in a single session. Over the course of four days, the words are modified with prefixes and suffixes. For example, for day 65, the first five words are end, bend, lend, blend, depend. For day 66, the student would spell ends, bends, lends, blends, depends. For day 67, the words are ended, bent, lent, blended, depended. For day 68, the words are ending, bending, lending, blending, depending. (Words like could, should, wasn't, doesn't, and weren't will appear intermittently throughout the year, giving students lots of practice on some common irregularly spelled words.)
The method for presenting the spelling lists is an important part of the program. The teacher reads the word, uses it in a sentence, and reads it again. (I do have to come up with my own sentences, which is sometimes annoying and often entertaining for the children.) First the student spells the word as best as he or she can. Then the teacher spells the word for the student, showing clearly the base of the word family (for example, end) and the prefixes or suffixes using different colors. Then the student corrects his or her own work, immediately tracing the correct spelling while saying the letters, involving multiple senses.
There are regular evaluations, but I've never used them. Because I view every day as a test, I have a good idea how my children are faring.
There are 180 spelling lists provided in Sequential Spelling 1. We do spelling four days a week, so we would never get through 180 lists in one year. I also don't ask First Son to complete a Sequential Spelling list if he has a spelling list in Essentials that day. (Read about Essentials here.) I just picked up where we left off last year with First Son this year. First Daughter started Sequential Spelling 1 this year after she finished our reading book. Sequential Spelling 1 is recommended no earlier than second grade (and for all students new to the program, with recommendations to complete multiple lists in a day to move through the book faster rather than skipping the book), but she begged for spelling. (I warn her that complaining will lead me to drop it for the year.)
When First Son started the program, there was no student workbook, only a student response book. The student response book is basically a book of blank lines on which the students writes the spelling words on different pages so previous lists (with similar words) are not seen at the same time. Recently, the student workbook was released. I purchased one for First Daughter. In the new workbook, each odd numbered page provides lines for the day's spelling words. The other side of the page provides an exercise in which students can use the day's words. There are a variety of exercises: writing sentences, unscrambling words, completing sentences, word searches, even writing a rhyme or silly story. I think these exercises could be helpful, but might be unnecessary. First Daughter enjoys doing them, but I would probably skip them if she complained. In fact, one of the reasons I was initially attracted to this program was that there were no inane practice exercises or requirements that my child write the spelling words five times each. It is simple to skip the exercises, however, because they are not the heart of the program.
Using this program, I think students begin to get a sense for how spelling works in English without explicit instruction. It's almost like they discover it. If you like explicit instruction, though, it's easily added. Our Essentials curriculum introduces spelling rules and we see them played out with regular practice in our Sequential Spelling. I've seen First Son's face light up as he realizes how his spelling word follows the rules laid out in Essentials.
There is a DVD available that reads the words and then presents the correct spelling. I haven't used that myself, but a friend has found it very useful in her family.