Friday, March 6, 2009

A Review of SpellQuizzer

I used to think that good readers would naturally be good spellers. For some kids, that's true. Other kids, however, may accurately read a word hundreds of times yet still not be able to spell it. This has been the case with my son, who had up to seven grade levels between spelling and reading abilities at one point. For him, just seeing and reading a word isn't enough.

In addition to detailed phonics and spelling rules instruction, my son requires repeated practice before finally mastering a word. He can spell some quite complicated phonetic words but be completely stumped by seemingly less difficult words, making his spelling lists rather unique. While I encourage each of my children towards independent work, giving daily oral spelling quizzes requires my undivided attention.


SpellQuizzer is a downloadable spelling software that give students independent spelling practice. Dan Hite, SpellQuizzer creator, originally designed the program to assist his own kids in learning their weekly spelling lists. SpellQuizzer allows parents to enter and save custom spelling word lists for their students. Once entered, students can then use the program independently for spelling practice.

It sounds like a pretty standard spelling program. However, there is one unique feature that differentiates SpellQuizzer from other spelling practice programs. With SpellQuizzer, words are entered with a microphone, allowing the parent to record both the word and a sentence in their own voice. You can't get much more custom than that!

If users do not have a microphone and computer speakers, a reminder phrase can be entered instead of a recording to prompt the student what word they are to enter. For example, for the word “book”, the phrase “something that has pages that we can read” would prompt the student what word to enter. The phrase feature can also be used in conjunction with a recording. I highly advise users invest in a microphone, easily found for around $10, to use with this program rather than rely on just the phrase feature. Without the recording feature, the value of the program decreases considerably.

The program is very simple for kids to use. To quiz, students click on the "Quiz me on a list" button, select the appropriate list and individually type in each word as given.

If the word is correct, the student moves on to the next word. If it is incorrect, the program shows how the student spelled the word next to the correct spelling before moving on. At the end of the quiz, students are given a score along with an option to re-quiz on those words that were incorrect. To see SpellQuizzer in action, you can view a demo of how the spelling practice works.

Entered lists can be modified any time, adding or deleting words. One feature I liked was the ability to select words from saved lists to create a completely new list, perfect for quizzing on previously mastered words. Users can also share and download lists from the SpellQuizzer site with other users. I was particularly interested in Dolch (sight) words, which are difficult for my son to learn, only to discover these are already available for download at the SpellQuizzer site, saving me even more time.

My son had first try at using SpellQuizzer. As a mentioned earlier, he needs a lot of repetition of each word before mastering. The time-saving potential of using SpellQuizzer was very appealing to me. Once the word and sentence were recorded, only taking a few seconds, I could add it to any practice list at any time. I was sure to add silly and custom sentences to make practice more fun. Since my son is a Lego fanatic, many of my sentences incorporated this love.
The spelling curriculum that I currently use with my son on a daily basis incorporates review of both missed words and previously mastered words. New words are quizzed with each lesson. With SpellQuizzer, I add any daily words missed to a running list. The following day, before spelling work starts, I have my son review words missed in previous lessons on SpellQuizzer.

Since we've started using SpellQuizzer, my son has been mastering his missed words at a much faster rate. I am very happy with his progress! After each quiz, I ask him to tell me how many words he missed on the first quiz and how many on the re-quiz. The improvement each time is very encouraging to him and I've noticed he's now paying closer attention to the correct spelling when he misses words so he's better able to get the word correct on the re-quiz. Since writing is laborious for him, he's happy to type his words and I'm happy for the added typing practice.

My daughter is natural speller and I no longer do much spelling work with her. For her, we used SpellQuizzer with a completely different application. I discovered the recording time allotment was actually quite lengthy and the answer entry was not just limited to one word. Instead of spelling words, SpellQuizzer was used as a Latin practice and science quiz tool. In both cases, my daughter input the information on her own, which in itself was a learning opportunity. For Latin study, she mostly used it as a quiz for verb forms. For science, vocabulary word definitions were recorded and the term entered as the answer. Since spelling counts on her science exams, this application is very useful. SpellQuizzer gave my daughter a break from the standard flashcard study method and she was very excited to have a new independent study tool.

While we enjoyed the program as is, this is a fairly new program that is still being improved. One feature I'd really like to see is a tracking feature. Unless I supervise the quiz, which negates the time-saving appeal, I need to rely on my son to communicate what words he was regularly missing to maintain a list of words needing the most practice. Relying on this communication wasn't regularly successful as he'd often forget. Instead, I'd either keep a careful eye on his writing work for other subjects or give an in-person quiz to check on progress. By doing so, I could keep the list edited to the most troublesome words. I asked owner Dan Hite if he had any plans to add this feature and received the following response:

"
I've had a few people request a reporting feature for the software. I'm considering adding something along those lines to version 2.0 which I hope to get out by the end of the year."

While there are no guarantees this feature will be added, it is encouraging that the software designer is considering adding it as a future improvement.

Also, because this is a downloadable product, rather than stored on a CD-Rom, I inquired about losing the program with a crashed computer. Hite explained the following:

"Users can always re-download and reinstall the software. If they lose their registration key they can just request the key again from the software's Registration screen. Key delivery is automated so the process of retrieving a lost key is simple."

It is helpful to know that SpellQuizzer has the customer service in place should something happen to the computer on which it is installed.

Overall, my family has really enjoyed using SpellQuizzer as a study tool and will continue to use it in various applications. The software sells for a one-time fee of $29.95, which also includes any future updates and a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If you would like to try before you buy, a 30-day full trial is offered at the SpellQuizzer website.

For more reviews on this product, visit the TOS Crew Official Blog.

2 comments:

Kris said...

Thank you Heidi! This sounds like a great tool. Were you able to download the program on more than one computer in the same household, or do the kids just come to your computer to do this?

Heidi said...

Kris,

Yes, we were able to put it on multiple computers. You will need to maintain the list separately if you do it that way. I'd recommend trying the 30-day trial first to see how you like it.