Did you know that "been" is the only double-e word in (American) English that isn't pronounced with the double-e sound?
Do you know that "open" syllables are syllables that end in a vowel and "closed" are ones that end in a consonant? And that open syllables tend to have long vowels and closed ones have short vowels? (Take the word open. There are two syllables: o - pen. The first syllable is open and has a long-o. The second syllable is closed and has a short-e.) Who knew?
That's the sort of thing I'm learning while teaching our 7-year-old how to spell. I've purchased the All About Spelling program and have been working with him for about two months now. We're a little more than half way through the second level. We just did the "er", "ar" and "or" sounds. (They are their own syllable type--R-controlled. There is also the silent-e syllable type, the vowel-team syllable type. I think there is also the consonant-le syllable type but we haven't gotten there yet.) Next up is the "third sound of u".
He seems to get it and to be learning something. I'm supplementing it with my old friends, the sight-word flash cards. But when he goes to school, he throws out what he's learned and still spells pretty badly. At least, his scores on their weekly tests have gone from the 30% range up to the 60% range, but there's still a long way to go. One problem he has is his refusal to start sentences with capital letters. If he just did that, his scores would go up. And if he would just remember to think about spelling in syllables, it would help too. His spelled little "litle" last week, which he never would have done if he had clapped it out.
I do like the spelling program. It is a good way to make sure that we aren't skipping something. It in part works as a phonics review--I'm especially looking forward to that with the vowel blends, where he's a little weak. It also is a structure that helps to make sure that we do the work. I wouldn't know where to begin to teach him otherwise, and we'd just be spinning our wheels.
His favorite part is the "Jail." There is a card-stock sheet with a drawing of a jail on it, and when we come across a rule breaking word, we throw it into the jail. It's a way of reinforcing the irregular words.
Our 9-year-old is actually a bit jealous. She says she was never taught the rules that he is learning. On the other hand, she's a very good speller, so it doesn't matter much for her.