Patoss Bulletin Winter 2014
The Journal of the Association of Teachers of Students with Specific Learning Difficulties
Zebras Spell Really Well & How to Read and Spell Words with Double Vowel Sounds
Written by Sarah Cowell, Publisher Fly Shuttle Press, 2013 Number of Pages 96 each, £18.50 each
ISBN: 9 780992 655609 & ISBN: 9780992 665616
Reviewed by Lynn Ross, secondary school SEN teacher and primary aged tutor
‘Both workbooks provide a structured, cumulative, sequential, teaching programme of phonics and spelling rules at sound/letter, word and sentence levels for tutors, parents, home schoolers and class teaching assistants. The sequence of word building is similar to the Alpha to Omega programme written by Beve Hornsby, not surprisingly, as the author was trained at the Hornsby Institute. A tutor new to teaching would find these two books a good investment; an experienced tutor may find these workbooks a worthwhile refresher to add variety to the resources she already has.
The workbooks are designed for children aged 7 -11 who have not yet grasped the letter – sound connection of phonics efficiently. The intention is that working through the book will enable the learner to sound out words more accurately and so improve his spelling and free writing.
The pages are clear and cleanly laid out with a bold dyslexia friendly sans serif font. Scattered across the pages are small animal drawings (that are not too cute for 11 year olds) with encouraging comments in speech bubbles, and no other decoration or borders. The book starts with the alphabet letters, both upper and lower case, to make into flashcards for spelling words. A sounds alphabet chart with accompanying picture cards is useful for reminding learners of the anchor words for letter sounds.
The book works from CVC words through to open vowel sounds, rhyme, suffixing as related to present and past tenses and magic ‘e’ words, days of the week, months. assimilation, magic w, flossy words, consonant blends, including spelling exceptions, and much more, with a lovely variety of word building, sentence copying and fill in sentences worksheets. Each page looks pleasingly different. The author suggests photocopying on to pastel paper for learners who would benefit from that.
I liked the ‘thinking’ aspects via questions in the copying worksheets which would help a learner engage and learn from the copying exercise, it’s not mindless copying. On the fill-in sentence pages, the learner has to choose from a selection of similar words to re-inforce her observation and spelling skills.
The book contains useful guidance to the teacher in the form of a Prologue ‘How to use the book’ and a contents index. Teaching notes relevant to the spelling rules are throughout. It ends with an answer page, an addendum of brief but helpful instructions and six pages of coloured images, words and letter groups to add to the worksheets for ar-er-ir-or-ur words and consonant blends.
Recommended. The first student I used some of these pages with, took to it immediately (she’s a learner who loves worksheets). To her, the page looked invitingly unfussy, friendly and ‘do-able’.