Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Writing Road to Reading

As I mentioned in my last post, we are using The Writing Road to Reading as our writing/reading curriculum.  I will have to post a more “experienced” review after we’ve used it for a while, but for now I have to say I really like it and Helana is responding well to it.

Out of 24 reviews for the 4th Edition on Amazon, 16 of them are 5-star.  Here’s my favorite review among them, written by Rachel L Robinowitz from Boca Raton Fl:

Having homeschooled my children for 12 years (in California), beginning in 1977, I was indeed fortunate to be given an old, dog-eared copy of Romalda Bishop Spalding's The Writing Road to Reading. After countless visits to teacher's supply stores looking for a 'reading' program for my (then) young children (and being distressed at what was available), I knew this was our answer. I was especially captured by the fact that not only did this method teach INTENSIVE phonics, using all FOUR avenues into the brain (seeing, hearing, speaking, and writing) which no other method did even if it claimed to be intensive phonics, but that it did so in a straightforward fashion without a bunch of toy-type gimmicks to confuse the issue. Rather, this method requires pencil and paper, and very little else (other than the child's mind), and in the shortest time imaginable my children were not only reading flawlessly, but understanding what they were reading, (and we were using old, 'obsolete' textbooks with 'real' stories in them -- you know, the kind that have big words, and an actual plot, with believable characters, and important values). Within six weeks of beginning the Spalding program, my older child had 'graduated' to books on a fifth and sixth grade level among these old texts, which were certainly more complex than the currently available material for her 'age group'. Talk about FUN!!! There was no turning back. The highest form of punishment for my children was to deny them a book. When my son was in (homeschool) second grade he accompanied me to the chiropractor one day, with a book in hand (of course, of course!). The chiropractor greeted him and asked what he was reading. My son turned the cover of the book over so the chiropractor could see the title, which happened to be J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit in the original. The chiropractor nearly fainted and questioned my son as to whether he was UNDERSTANDING what he was reading. My son assured him, with sparkling eyes, that indeed he did, and it was his 'favorite' book!! My son is 27 years old now and the memory of that day is still one of the high points in my heart of the incredible privilege of teaching my own children to read. I do not mean that comment as a plug for homeschooling, but only as an example of what The Writing Road to Reading can do. Yes, it takes commitment, but once you read the book carefully and begin to absorb the format and the markings used to indicate which sound a phonogram makes in that particular instance, you see the rhyme and reason to it. Then when you actually do it with your child and you see the results. . . . .who can argue with success? The plain and simple truth is this method is the only one I would ever consider and I feel so fortunate have had it. It WORKS, and it works fast. It is incredibly empowering to the student, who sees the fruits of their labor using only pencil, paper and their MIND. There is something highly energizing about real 'work' for little people. It is honoring to them, and validates their innate intelligence, rather than 'dumbing down' to them with gimmicks. There is nothing so thrilling as to place in the hands of a child the finest literature in the unabridged version and see him or her captivated by the magic of the written word. Romalda Bishop Spalding (whom I was privileged to meet in the late '70's) has given the world a profound tool. I, for one, find it hard to express my thanks adequately. If you care about your child's ability to read WELL, and you are willing to commit (I loved re-learning so much about the English language right along with my kids; the work had a payoff) buy this book!

Having met Ms. Spalding, Ms. Robinowitz may be somewhat biased but there are plenty of other great reviews out there in support of this program.

So, for those of you unfamiliar with this program and are interested in learning more, here is the gist of what we have learned so far:

Did you know there is a proper way to hold your writing arm?  I didn’t.  It is to be parallel with the edge of the paper.  Here’s Helana: 104_3558

Furthermore, no slouching over the table.  Back straight, feet on the floor, head up.  Seems like common sense, but so many children (and adults) get “lazy” when writing. See below: 104_3559

Apart from the physicalities of writing, we have learned:

That all manuscript letters are either tall or short and can be considered as line letters or clock letters.104_3557

Obviously line letters are t, A, etc.

I had never heard of the concept of using a clock as a tool to teach manuscript, but Ms. Spalding did and it is working really well for Helana.

I have presented it to you here on larger self-lined paper so you can see it.  Helana actually uses wide-ruled notebook paper.



The primary points we use on the clock when learning to write are 2, 4, 8, and 10.

Here is how you make a “c”-begin at the 2, up-around and stop at the 4.


Helana actually finds this very helpful and often repeats the steps to herself when practicing her writing.  “a” is start at the 2, up-around, through the 4 and back up to 2, then pull a line straight down to the base line.  (my paraphrase-sorry, no photo)

Ms. Spalding calls the sounds phonograms, and there are 70.  I say sounds and not letters cause some of the phonograms are “ing”, “er” etc.

Helana is learning all the sounds of each lowercase letter first.  For example, “a” has three sounds: 1. short a 2. ay 3. ah.  I’ll hold up the flash card with “a” and she tells me the three sounds in order.  “c” has two sounds 1. cuh 2. sss.  She’ll do the same for “c”.  She will then practice the proper handwriting for each in her writing notebook.

Ms. Spalding recommends learning no less than 4 phonograms a day.  However, we are only working on two cause Helana does need that extra time. 

I’ll try to post more as we do it, but that is the gist.  For more information, hear it straight from the horse’s mouth at


Jill said...

Interesting review! I've never seen the clock used to teach writing letters before - great combination of learning facts there!

Just stopped by from a Friday blog hop. I’m following you now and hope you’ll stop by my blog sometime too! Have a lovely week.
Jill @ Creating my way to Success

Mindingmymarriage said...

Hi Maria, Thanks for stopping by my blog, I hopped right over to yours. Wow, I wish I had the patience to home school my kids. Very interesting helpful information. I'm a follower,

Mindingmymarriage said...

Sorry correction on your name Marcia

Rachel Joy said...

Wow this is awesome...the clock letters concept seems great. My 6 yo son writes his C's and G's as if they're about to fall forward. I will definitely be incorporating this technique. Thanks for stopping by Cool Bean Mommas by the way!