Educators Find SpellChamp! a Handy Teaching Tool in Developing Student Spelling Skills
Educators across the country are striving to improve
student performance while meeting the mandates of the No
Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), all while dealing with
ever-increasing workloads and the pressure to provide
greater access to computerized learning tools for all
students. To tackle these challenges, schools are looking
for creative ways to meet their goals, such as the
school-wide deployment of low-cost handheld computers.
The emerging influence of mobile technologies in the
classroom offers opportunities to stimulate young minds
and engage students at a cost-per-student that is much
lower than traditional desktop or laptop computers. At the
same time, teachers are afforded a more efficient means of
doing their jobs. The basic functions of handhelds have
been useful for entering text in the Memo Pad, learning
time and time zones, staying organized, etc., but to
increase their capability as a powerful teaching tool they
need to be equipped with software programs specifically
designed for enhancing a student's education. Many schools
are discovering the fun, yet powerful, educational games
for PDAs offered by Leading Step, Inc. games such as
SpellChamp!, which is designed specifically for use in
an elementary classroom.
The Need to Succeed
Heather Voran, an Instructional Technology Specialist
representing the Region 16 ESC (Education Service Center)
in Amarillo, Texas found SpellChamp! when researching
software solutions that would meet the requirements of a
grant. SpellChamp! is Leading Step's game aimed at
improving spelling skills. There are now approximately
2,000 students in schools of the Texas Panhandle using
SpellChamp! - and this initiative was entirely grant
"Our region applied for and received funding for the
Panhandle Academic Advancement in Literacy and Math
(PAALM) grant through the Texas Education Agency,"
Heather explains. "As part of this three-year
program, we have put to use several handheld reading and
math applications in the classroom, SpellChamp! being
one of them."
Twelve school districts and 19 campuses currently
participate in the program. Approximately 130 teachers
have been provided with a set of handheld computers and
related software for their classrooms. Teachers may
implement any of the software purchased through the grant
in their daily lessons to improve student reading and
math skills. The software is used for group activities or
tailored to individuals for specific learning needs.
"The PAALM grant team selected SpellChamp! for several
reasons," Heather said. "For example, we like
the fact that SpellChamp! presents the words to students
in the context of sentences and, since context clues are
a vital part of reading comprehension, this was a
Another noteworthy aspect of the program is the database
integrated into the application which includes over 5,400
frequently used words. Teachers use this database to
create groups of words for students to practice, saving
them valuable time by eliminating the need to type the
words themselves. Various criteria can be used to select
words; for example, those matching certain letter
combinations or having a specific number of syllables.
They may also be chosen according to twelve different
spelling rules including those with distinct prefixes or
suffixes, or selected from ten diverse categories such as
homophones, compound words, or contractions. Once a new
word group is created, the teacher simply beams it to the
"During professional development training, the teachers
were very excited by the options available in the
SpellChamp! application," says Heather. "It has
great potential as an effective learning tool because of
its strategy for improving academic achievement and for
its overall teacher effectiveness. SpellChamp! promotes
curricula and uses a teaching approach that integrates
technology. In addition, it provides an innovative
delivery strategy and is much more affordably priced than
A Progressive Learning Tool for All Levels
Another feature that led to the selection of SpellChamp!
was its ability to increase the level of word difficulty.
Students progress from recognizing the correct spelling,
to unscrambling the letters of a word, to filling in the
blanks of the word, to spelling it completely on their
"This feature allows students at any level to feel
successful," reports Heather.
SpellChamp! is also designed to make teachers more
efficient in their instruction. Heather indicates that
the existing word database, coupled with the ability to
select words based on spelling rules, have proven to be
real time-saving features; while the application's
tracking component allows teachers to monitor student
progress and determine trouble areas.
Heather attributes SpellChamp! with some of the schools'
success at improving academic achievement and teacher
effectiveness and for increasing accessibility to
computers for all students (as handhelds are much less
costly than desktop or laptop PCs).
Based on the success of the SpellChamp! program, schools
in the Texas Panhandle will soon be offering students
other Leading Step games, including "Shape Up: Geometry"
When challenged with the need to meet increasing standards
for excellence in education within the constraints of a
limited budget, SpellChamp! has been a welcome addition to
the schools of the Texas Panhandle - for both students
About Leading Step, Inc.
Leading Step, Inc. creates fun, educational games for
children from grades 3-8 to help them improve their
skills in the areas of spelling, geometry and math. The
games are played on Palm OS handhelds, which provide
parents and teachers a low-cost means of increasing access
to computers and learning software among children.
Leading Step's games are played by children throughout
the entire world. For more information, visit the
company's Web site at www.leadingstep.com. Schools
can also find helpful information at Leading Step's Web
site regarding state standards that each of the company's
applications will help teachers to meet which can be used
for grant-writing purposes.