How to Use All About Spelling Efficiently

by GfG on September 23, 2013 · 4 comments

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A couple of years ago we switched spelling curriculums.  We had tried Bob Jones and Spelling Power.  Neither worked well enough for me (or the kids, really, but they didn’t care how atrocious their spelling was, so…).  After doing some online research, I found All About Spelling (AAS).

If you haven’t heard of it, let me be the one to introduce you.  Actually, to save space, read their description.  AAS is highly recommended by many moms and professionals.  And I’m one.  Not only is it great for typical kids, but kiddos with learning struggles do well, including dyslexic children.

It was a pricey decision (though I suggest these ideas for used curric) to jump in for four kiddos, but spelling had been bumped to the top of the “adjustment” list.

(Every once in awhile, a homeschooling mama notices a deficiency in a student or the whole flock.  In that case, it’s important that she address it and adjust the focus and the budget accordingly.  Such was the case with spelling for the Brouse House.)

Anyhoo… after the box full of shiny books arrived, with all the color coded cards, I was a bit daunted.  Took me a bit to get my bearings.  I thought my bearings might have some bearings with you, so I’m sharing my little set up and implementation gig.

My amazing little plan is helpful for using this with more than one kiddo and especially useful for a slew of them, possibly in the same book/level, BUT I think the ideas here could save some time and effort for those not dealing with a slew or multiples in a level.

I have always appreciated an “open and go” curriculum, but more so the longer I homeschool.

1st: Set up your cards and tiles.   No big tips for this, just do it.  🙂        The index card boxes from Walmart work just fine for this.

2nd: Set up your magnetic boards.

I know, I know, AAS says to use one board, but really… finding one that is 3X3 is more difficult than it sounds.  And more expensive, so… use what you can.  I have found that two boards actually works really well.  I call one the “focus board” and the other the “storage board”.   Here are ours at our current point in AAS.

AAS two boards WEB

Set the alphabet up like they suggest (and I really mean as close to how the suggest as possible), then put the other tiles on the bottom board.  This is our “focus board”.


I had to talk to the kids about how important it was to NOT touch these tiles unless we were doing spelling.  I put on my mean mama face and shared the consequences of touching the tiles.  I also kept the boards on a counter against the wall in our school room.  They only came out for spelling.

Now, we have them on the wall.  Paul Louis got the reminder “talk” when we moved into this house.  It’s not been a problem.

If I had to do it again with a toddler, I would hang them on the wall up high.  The kids would stand  on a step stool to do the work.

The many tiles was an issue that almost kept me from using All About Spelling.  It has worked out for us just fine, but I know that it can cause hives in some mamas.

3rd:  Keep all tiles out, no matter what level your kiddo is in.

Use one board as the “focus board”.  Use the other one for the “tile storage”.  While AAS wants you to only have the tiles out that your child has been exposed to, I think that’s silly for a whole family.

Follow the pace of your highest level child.  That means that you put out tiles as you get to them with the child farthest ahead and don’t put them up.  I have not found in the slightest bit that it has diminished the experience of the children in the lower levels.

Honestly, they don’t even notice them until I introduce them in context.

4th:  Color code your children.

Ok, don’t actually color code your children (though that would be funny).  Assign a color to them.  Yes, even if you only have two using AAS.  If you only have one kiddo, just have Post-It Notes ready.

5th:  Get a file folder and Post-It notes to match your color coding (see this post on how helpful color coding can be).

I don’t buy colored file folders because I’m cheap.  I take the appropriate colored marker and color around the edges of the manila file folder.    You might want to visit your favorite school supply store before you decide your colors (if you have a slew to decide).  Ask me how I know this.  Actually, just don’t.

6th:  Get a sturdy notebook (like the old style composition book).

This notebook will be used  for all of the children, so it’s best if it isn’t a flimsy spiral one, but that might still work.  I like the sturdy ones because they can be used on the child’s lap if necessary.   Place a color coded Post-It note for each child on a different page in the notebook.

I use a primary lined one because I have younger kids using it too.  It’s not a big deal for the older kids to practice in that.

7th:  Set up an AAS box (cute is optional) in an easy to reach spot (I keep mine near the boards).

This box needs to be sturdy enough to hold all of the AAS books, the file folders, and the notebook.  Place all of  these items in the box.   You might want to put a pencil in there too, in case your children lose them more quickly than they lose their shoes, but maybe that’s just my kids.


I also keep the tiles not yet introduced in a Ziploc bag in here.  And a pencil.  Did I mention our problem with pencils?

8th:  Color code or label your card box(es).  

This may seem like a silly thing, especially if you only have two kiddos using AAS, but it will save you time and it’s important that each kiddo use only their box.   You can buy color coded boxes or tape a label.   Place these near the box or AAS “spot”.

9th:  Follow the Post-It Notes… let’s do this!

Alrighty, now that everything is set up, it’s time to tell you an efficient way to use AAS for multiple kiddos.  The Color Coding is key.


A) Grab the level book that has the appropriate colored Post-It Note sticking out of it, the color coded file folder, the coded card box, and the notebook.  Place them on your lap or on the table (depending on your work space).

I have our boards on the wall in a weird little room (it actually works well for us, but it’s odd shaped) and we pull up chairs next to the magnetic boards.  Some of the kids stand to build words and such.  We use our laps and sometimes the kiddos use a small school desk for the writing part.

B)  Use the “focus board” for your action.  This is the board for the building of words, pulling down of tiles, syllable labeling, and word building.  It’s where you will introduce each new tile/group of tiles.

C)  Use the “storage board” for all the tile groupings after they are introduced (to the “highest” kiddo).  Grab them when you need them, but keep them separate.  Not only is this easier to manage, but it prevents knocking off of tiles as lessons happen.

AAS two boards WEB

D)  Ok… this next tip is not AAS endorsed, but GfG endorsed.  If your child has a writing curriculum and/or any other writing curric they do everyday…  and/or writing is long and slow… do not have them write out each part AAS suggests being written.

To me, the important part is the word list that they spell with the tiles and the sentences using the words.  I think it’s overkill to write out words, phrases, and sentences, even at level four.

If a child is struggling with the spelling focus of that lesson even after spelling the words with tiles, do the lesson again the next day.

Also, I don’t have them pull down all the tiles for the words when it’s obvious they have caught the concept.  I just have them spell them orally.

E)  Feel the freedom to do more than one lesson a day and/or repeat a lesson.  Mastery is the important part, not a timeline.  If a lesson is too easy, skip to the next one without writing the sentences and all that jazz.  Do that for the second lesson of the day (or do one sentence from the first lesson and one from the second).

Remember, you are the boss of AAS.  It is not the boss of you.       😉

F)  As each child moves through an AAS book, place the color appropriate Post-It Note at their “spot” in their level book.  This allows you to combine children in levels without having to have a slew of books, even if you have a slew of children.  It also allows you to “open and go” when working with each child.

AAS books and folders

G)  When it’s time to write their sentences (the dictation sentences at the end of each lesson), have the students write these in the sturdy notebook.  As they fill up a page, they move their Post-It Note to the next empty page in the notebook.   There is no need to each have a notebook.  That takes up space and can get cumbersome.

H)  Place everything back in the (cute) box when done.

I)  Pat yourself on the back at your efficiency.

So… there ya’ go, friends!  That’s how I am able to do AAS without gobs of time, but with plenty of productivity.

I hope it helps those of you trying to use AAS, but are frustrated.  I hope it gives those of you interested the go ahead to jump in with AAS. I hope I can help you see the beauty of Post-It Notes.

Go forth and color code!


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