Spell to Write and Read

One curriculum that we really enjoy using in our home is called Spell to Write and Read by Wanda Sanseri. It is a phonics and spelling program for preschool thru high school age students.

Spell to Write and Read Review

I love that I only had to purchase the core kit one time for all my children for all the grade levels. Once you buy the core kit you are off and running for years of phonics and spelling lessons. The only additional purchases I make are one Learning Log (primary or black) per child per school year.

In my opinion, Spell to Write and Read is the best phonics and spelling program available. It makes sense of the English language like no other program I’ve seen and the research behind the program is amazing. It’s based off of The Writing Road to Reading by Romalda Spalding and the research of Dr. Samuel Orton.

If you are debating whether to use Spell to Write and Read then you might find my pro and con list helpful. I have also included a list of helpful links and resources including fun activities and free printables.

Pros of Spell to Write and Read

  • Economical: The Core Kit is really affordable and you use that every year for every child. You also purchase one Learning Log  per child per school year. There are no other purchases needed!
  • It makes sense of the English Language! I was always told that English was filled with exceptions to lots of rules. But Spell to Write and Read uses 70 basic phonograms and several rules to explain more than 93% of the words in the English language. (Wondering what a phonogram is? A phonogram is letter or combination of letters that represent a sound.)
  • It gives children the opportunity to think about each word before spelling it so that the rules of the language are firmly established  in the their minds. A lot of phonics programs introduce words according to word families, leaving little need for the child to really think about the sound of the letters and the rules behind the spelling. My kids don’t have to guess at the spelling of words anymore. They just think it through using the spelling rules they have learned.
  • Handwriting and phonics go hand in hand for a multi-sensory learning experience. I like that I can teach my young children the phonogram sounds right along with teaching them handwriting. I have seen the benefits of learning cursive writing before print so I use the inexpensive program Cursive First by Elizabeth FitzGerald which coordinates with the SWR program.
  • It integrates beginning grammar, composition and vocabulary with each spelling lesson. I would advise purchasing an additional grammar and composition curriculum for the later elementary school years and beyond. We enjoy Fix It! Grammar and IEW writing.

For more benefits to the SWR program visit theses links here and here.

Cons of Spell to Write and Read

  • Teacher intensive: SWR requires a lot of teacher investment. This is not a spelling curriculum that your child can do on his or her own. A parent (or educator) must be prepared to spend time teaching and reviewing the phonograms, rules and dictating the spelling words on a regular basis.
  • It takes time and effort to understand how the program works. A parent teaching this program should take several months to look over the materials, read the teachers manual and become familiar with the phonogram sounds, spelling rules and spelling markings that are used throughout the program.

You don’t have to be overwhelmed by this con list. Check out my blog post, Overcoming the Challenges of the Spell to Write and Read Program. You might also enjoy this video I made explaining how the Spell to Write and Read program works.

Helpful Links and Resources

Demystifying the Spell to Write and Read Program (video)

Wise Guide Enrichment Activity Worksheets

Back Home Industries– They sell the SWR curriculum

LITHBITH Educational Services – They sell SWR and the Cursive First curriculum along with helpful information for implementing both.

Answers the common questions about SWR.

SWR Yahoo group

Video of how to teach phonograms using SWR and Cursive First.

Video of SWR Phonogram Review

Video of SWR Dictation (list J) and Dictation (list A)

Video of SWR used with younger children

SWR You Tube channel with more helpful videos on how to use the program

Fun Games and Free Printables

Fishing for Phonograms (blog post)

Phonogram or Spelling Word Candy Land (blog post with video)

Read it. Spell it. Write it. (Free printable)

Roll it. Read it. Write it. (Free printable)

Magnetic Phonogram Tiles (Free printable)

Read it. Stamp it. Write it. (Free printable)

Phonogram Progress Charts (Free printable)

Creative Ways to Review Spelling Words (blog post)


  1. Thank you so much for sharing this information. I purchased the Cursive First program for my 4yr old and now I’m thinking of purchasing SWR as well. I appreciate the pro/con list!

    • Hi Kina,
      I’m so glad the information was helpful to you! Let me know if you have any more questions about SWR or Cursive First.

      I’ve been using both for several years now and love the results I am seeing in my children’s reading, writing and spelling. I encourage you to join the yahoo group. I have found it very helpful. One of my daughters still couldn’t read well at age 7 and I was getting discouraged. The SWR yahoo group was a great encouragement to keep at the program and when she was almost 8 years old everything just clicked for her and her reading and spelling took off.

      Enjoy teaching your 4yo!

  2. My 7 year old son is not reading at the level that I believe he should. His school uses the Spaulding program so I have been looking to see if it is the curriculum or him. I have an elementary ed degree and taught first grade before kids. I have read to my son before every nap and before bed since he was 6 months old. He loves to listen to stories. He has always had a great vocabulary and always learned quickly before kindergarten so I of course want to blame the program:( we practice phonograms and spelling every day and I am very well aware of the sounds and markings. He knows the sounds at home but always misses 3 or so phonograms on his test. He can sound out cvc words fine but when he gets to more than one syllable I feel he gets confused with all the phonograms and isn’t decoding Words well. I feel it is so disconnected. It doesn’t seem to integrate with his other subjects. I guess what I am wondering is does this program generally work well for all kids. Also my nieces and nephews have all struggled with reading and they have been taught at the same school using Spaulding. I want to help my son because right now he hates everything about school and I think most of it is because reading hasn’t been easy

    • Hi Angie,
      I can certainty understand your frustrations and concerns for your son. We all want our children to read well and do well in school and it sounds like you are doing all you can on your end to help him with his reading.

      I would encourage you to join the SWR yahoo group and ask your question there. Many are much more knowledgeable about the program than I am and often the SWR trainers will offer up their wisdom as well. Here is the link for the group…. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SpellToWriteAndRead/

      I used the Writing Road to Reading (Spaulding method) with my oldest daughter before finding the SWR program and I have to say that she had a difficult time with spelling. I have found the Spell to Write and Read program to be much more effective (even though they are both based off of the same method). And, as I mentioned in the previous comment, one of my kids couldn’t read a thing until she turned 8yo and now she is a great reader.

      I wish I could be of more help. Do check out the yahoo group though. They are a wealth of encouragement and wisdom on not only the SWR program but on the Spaulding method in general.

      Praying you find the answers to why your son is having a tough time with reading and spelling.

  3. I know this post is from a while ago, but if you’re still monitoring it, I’m wondering how much time each day you find SWR takes. I’m debating between that and Phonetic Zoo, which is fairly independent from the sounds of it…

    • Hi Kristine,
      SWR does require more of the parent’s time than many other phonics programs but it is worth it!

      Mondays take us the longest because I am dictating the new words to my kids. The spelling dictation process along with review of phonograms takes about half an hour per child. My son has a hard time focusing so I do as many words as possible in that 30 minutes and then we finish the rest the next day.

      Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are the days the kids do enrichment activities to help reinforce the spelling rules. These are done pretty independently although I make sure I am close by to quickly catch mistakes or answer questions. My kids take about 15 minutes to do the enrichment activities. Tues-Thurs I also give them phonogram quizes but this takes less than 5 minutes.

      Fridays are for spelling tests in our home which doesn’t take long. Then we also do any rule/reference pages that are needed for the next weeks lessons. Some weeks have no reference pages to build so no extra time is needed. Other weeks have one or two and that can take 30 minutes.

      So, the biggest chunk of time is on Mondays and then occasionally on Fridays when new rules are being learned for the next week.

      I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any more questions!

      Here is an overview of the program… http://www.janelleknutson.com/2016/02/18/demystifying-the-spell-to-write-and-read-program/

      Here are some tips for overcoming some of the “challenges” that people face with the program… http://www.janelleknutson.com/2014/07/14/overcoming-the-challenges-of-the-spell-to-write-and-read-program/

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