Now firmly established within many schools, the Read Write Inc. scheme has attracted plenty of praise from teachers and parents alike. There will always be a few dissenters, but nevertheless, it is undoubtedly a remarkably successful system that often produces impressive results. And now, for the spelling component, the next generation has arrived: the new edition of Read Write Inc. Spelling.
Launched to meet the higher demands of the new curriculum in England, this new package has taken the opportunity to upgrade its visual impact by introducing, through online subscription, three ‘humaliens’ from the ‘Spelling Zone’. Focusing on different areas of spelling interest, these extra-terrestrials – sporty Gamma, lyrical Zeta and adventurer-historian Mu – begin each unit of work with an explanatory video to introduce spelling rules and concepts.
No doubt these cartoon characters will appeal greatly to the target age groups and can even regenerate into older versions for children higher up the school. Given the choice between watching teachers, TAs or other-worldly beings, you can probably guess who the children would pick. I dare say staff would welcome the chance to take a couple of minutes’ breather too. Best of all, the videos use simple animation very effectively to illustrate spelling rules.
Like its previous incarnation, the new edition of Read Write Inc. Spelling sets everything out for you in meticulous detail. Following on from Read Write Inc. Phonics, it provides tightly time-tabled units of work for each year group from 2 to 6, based on a regime of rapid-fire daily sessions.
It was interesting to note that the blurb on the back of the of the old Read Write Inc. Spelling books talked about 10-minute daily sessions, while the new ones describe it as a 15 minute-a-day spelling programme. It’s a small point, but perhaps it reflects the elevated status of spelling on the new curriculum.
Apart from the online element and the teacher’s handbook, the kit includes practice and log books. The logs are for children to record their own words for revision and ongoing self-assessment. The practice books set out partner, group and independent activities, and have been thoughtfully revamped to look less cluttered and more welcoming than the previous incarnation.
Like before, these activities include dictation, ‘four-in-a-row’ (working with a partner to spell four given words correctly in a row) and ‘dots and dashes’ (identifying the graphemes in words). New this time are exercises such as Team Teach, where children test their spelling in small groups; Red and Orange words, which involves revising high-frequency words that are often misspelt; and Special Focus sessions, which tackle topics such as homophones and contractions, which often lead to confusion.
There’s a lot to buy, especially when you include a year’s online subscription, but the good news is that the prices have been kept under control. The new log books, for example, appear to be much cheaper than the originals, which is a pleasant surprise.
The whole effect is of a very slick package that is both child and teacher friendly. Most importantly, it is clearly an improvement on what was already an impressive scheme. All told, it will probably spell good value for your school.