January 19, 2014

Product Review: Spelling City

Spellingcity.com is a website that allows you to enter your own spelling or vocabulary words and then practice them using various games and activities.

There is a free version, which gives you access to some of the games and features.  For access to all the features, the fee is $30/year and that gives you access for up to five students.

I have friends that use the site for free and think it's great.  

I paid the subscription fee last summer because I was interested in their "summer program," which was designed as a review for common spelling and vocab words in the elementary grades.  I thought it would be a good review for my children without me having to do anything.  There were 40 lessons.  Each day the kids would get on the site and it would give them a new grade-appropriate list with four assigned activities to complete, rotating amongst the various activities.  

The summer program was a mixed success.  I liked that it handed out the words and assignments without me having to do anything, yet I could see the kids' results, which made me aware of where their deficiencies were.  A couple of my kids needed to move down a grade level after starting and that was no problem. The program was very flexible.

I had three children doing the program, ages 12, 10, and 7.   My 7-year-old always loved it and did well with it.  My 10-year-old wasn't crazy about it, but I think it's because he has struggled with spelling and the summer program wasn't a good fit for him.  The spelling words it was giving him were not the ones he needed.  My 12-year-old liked some of the games and activities but not others and again, the program's lists were not always a good fit.  

I had a hard time learning my way around the site at first.  There were a few little things I was confused about until I took the time to figure them out.

It wasn't until we went back to school in the fall that the website really started to make a difference for my kids.

My 10-year-old is in public school this year and he is a bit behind in spelling.  He gets a list every Monday and takes a test every Friday.  When I take the time to sit down and enter his list into Spelling City and then make him work on it, there is a big difference in how well he does on his Friday test.  And now that he is not doing the summer program anymore and can choose which games he uses to practice his words he enjoys being on the site. 

My 12-year-old is homeschooling and Spelling City has become something we use daily.  He loves it and it is making a HUGE difference for him.  His spelling is getting better and better.  This is my kid with the learning disability and spelling is the area he struggles with most.  Some of the games don't appeal to him at all, but others seem to really work just right with his brain and have helped him a ton.

Very recently they came out with some really fun new games for the premium memberships.  One of them is Aim2Spell, where you shoot these little balls at the letters of your word in sequence.  My son loves this game to death and I see rapid improvement when he uses it. 

This boy of mine really likes to write stories.  One of the things we do is he will bring me a page of his story and I will go through it and enter all the words he spelled wrong onto Spelling City.  He then works on those words until he masters them.  I am always pleased when I see another story page with fewer spelling errors on it, and he is pleased because he is working on words that matter to him.  (You know, words like "soldier" and "fortress" and "battle.")

We have used a few educational websites over the years and one of the things that I am sometimes frustrated with are the educational "games" that aren't really very educational.  Or the sites where, after so much learning, you "earn" the ability to play certain fun games, which is then where my children seem to spend all their time.  I have become very picky about what websites we use for learning.  I don't have any problems with anything on Spelling City.  You can't really get around it: you have to spell the word right to be successful at the game and so they learn the words regardless of what kind of game it is.

I would encourage you to take a look at Spelling City, especially if you have a child who struggles with learning.  Try the free version and see how your kids respond to it.  If it really seems to be something they latch onto, I would consider the premium membership, mostly because the games are so much more fun. And if that's making a difference for your child the way it is for mine, it's worth the money.

Happy spelling!

Sarah (Birrd) is currently living the double life of both homeschooling and public schooling, which is its own special kind of exhausting and exciting.  She and her six young children are going through a bird-watching craze and are enjoying discovering who flies around their new home in a remote corner of the mountains of the western United StatesSarah keeps a personal blog at The Birrd's Nest. 

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