My daughter is going to be just like me I suspect when it comes to reading and writing… very passionate about both. Learning to read was her idea and every day she works on building her list of words she can spell, write, and read. In the car she spells random words, in the grocery store she tells the clerk about her spelling homework. She takes advantage of every opportunity she has to learn this whole reading and spelling thing and she finds it very fun to do. I wish it were that way for all my kids, but so far it is just her that finds excitement in writing and spelling.
I have reviewed a couple Natural Toys from Down to Earth Toys over the past year and when they contacted me to see what I might be interested in reviewing now, it was easy to choose the Spellmaster. It is a very unique educational toy that I knew my daughter would enjoy and I was not disappointed. She pulls her Spellmaster out 2-3 times daily to work with it for 30-60 minutes at a time and it has really helped her reach her learning goals.
Basically it is a platform for developing sequential memory skills, increasing memory span, improving letter recognition, and spelling simple to complex words.
When she uses her Spellmaster, she chooses a flash card with a word and picture first. She works through the word phonetically to find out what it is as the picture isn’t always a dead giveaway. Then she selects all the wooden letter tiles she needs, saying the letters out loud. Next she spells the word on the chalkboard panel below the tiles and then says the letters aloud again after she has written them, followed by the word. She also usually covers the tiles with the wooden flaps so that she can try to write the word from memory. Afterwards she moves on to the next card and she usually doesn’t stop until she has completed them all. It came with eight recommended steps in the instructions but she developed her own system of steps so we go with that. I knew she would like it but just how much she would like it surprised even me.
My nine year old son likes to use it for his spelling words as well and it is a fun, visual way to work on them rather than just having him write them over and over like the school suggests. Going through all the words on his spelling list 2-3 times is not to repetitive for him and using the Spellmaster makes it just a bit more interesting. The fact that they can hide the tiles and work from memory means they are more likely to learn from mistakes as well.
My three year old has taken a liking to the flashcards so we use those for some speech therapy at home. He was recently “upgraded” by his preschool teachers and therapists from a mere speech delay to a developmental delay. After going through the IEP with them I have to agree with much of their assessment so I am doing more to help him at home. I will have to write up a post about that whole issue later.
Anyway… I love that the Spellmaster is something my kids can pull out and use on their own or work through with me if they want. We make it a bit more challenging at times when I come up with a word there is no card for. You can use many variations to make it harder or easier depending on their spelling prowess. All the letter tiles are capital letters but you can order lowercase letters as well. You could probably come up with some small sentences if you had more tiles… aka See Jane Run. I looked for info on ordering different flash cards but didn’t see that info. I guess any flash cards would work though. There was no eraser for the chalkboard so my kids just grab a sherpa cloth to clean up with, easy peasy.
The actual unit is made of wood so it is MUCH more sustainable than comparable plastic toys and it is made by TAG and is just one of many Toys Made in the USA. It gets two enthusiastic thumbs up here.
Thanks Carrin and Down to Earth Toys for sending the Spellmaster our way!!
Wednesday, November 25th, 2009