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Flat design is the opposite of all things Web 2.0 (which now out of fashion called skeuomorphism). For purposes of this article I wanted to list some really nice free cursive fonts perfect for use in Flat Design. Using colour and a great font you can create bright fresh looks for your site Header, graphics and logos.
You can download zillions of fonts on the internet for free and I will list some of my favourites. In the dark days when we had practically no budget and seemingly unlimited kids in our special education classroom, we saw the need for a "sure thing" self image builder to get the kids to believe in themselves again and give us a good effort.
We cut many, many copies of the basic list and refer to them as "strip lists." The kids are always free to come into the room and get one or more of their list. We begin with making sure the student can pronounce all of their spelling words for the week. One of the things we often do to help our kids is to try to encourage them and their parents to begin studying the list over the weekend. Our first writing exercise for our kids is always tracing and copying the words in manuscript. We also do cursive copying practice, using Mountain Lake Software's School Fonts Collection to produce as good a computer generated cursive font as I've seen.
There are any number of good wordsearch creation programs available, but my favorite is still Word Find (156K). Just as there are many wordsearch programs available, there are probably even more crossword puzzle creation programs. Puzzle creation can use the input window at right, or you can import just the words and add the clues later, or even import both words and clues.
I generally don't use Crossword Express to print my finished puzzles for the spelling or reading programs, although it can do that job acceptably. While it takes a bit of work, the finished AppleWorks document on the left looks pretty classy.
While crossword puzzles do address the word meaning issue, I also like to have the kids do weekly context sentences with their spelling words.
While this is a computer column, let me add a couple of non-computer activities that are worth their weight in gold to us.
Going back to technology, we've long used Roger Clary's SpellTutor (450K) for frequent practice spelling tests. There are a couple of related applications that have recently caught my fancy that you might want to look at as well. While included on most Mac Classic system disks, I thought I'd add a link for Apple's text-to-speech. When most of your spelling program is on a zip disk or hard drive, you're in a pickle if disk corruption or drive failure occurs. Given all the above, I'm not sure I'd ever advocate anyone else trying to totally replace their regular spelling program as we originally did.
Teaching special education is often a little like riding a horse that has spooked and bolted. Russell Square - This one is a $50 Adobe font, but look to see if you already have it on an Adobe CD in the Adobe Type Library folder. Over the years, this column has remained one of the most frequently viewed pages on the MATH DITTOS 2 site.
Teacher Tools 2: Gradebooks Most of the content from this column is now outdated and superceded by school data management software.
Hardcore Mac: AppleWorks for Windows - This one is a rare find, but they also are currently charging $149.99 for it! And yes, even though I have iWork '08 (Pages, Keynote, Numbers - I even bought the Family Pack.), I still have and use AppleWorks somewhat regularly. If so, why not come back and click through one of the links from our affiliate advertisers the next time you plan to purchase something online.
Ads shown on this site do not represent an endorsement or warranty of any kind of products or companies shown. Most of our students had extremely limited reading skills, but seemed capable, if we could just get them going. The textbook exercises were too difficult for the kids to read, or required copying the exercises from the book, which by definition my kids aren't very good at. It's needed to cut and paste into other documents, for text-to-speech pronunciation practice, and is an easy way to arrange words your way for later modification (I think the current legal word is "accommodations.") to a shorter list. Often, the problem with spelling and disabled learners isn't spelling, but a reading problem. We follow a normal Monday through Friday spelling cycle, but can buy our kids an extra correct word or two just by getting an early start. For several of our kids, we regularly put an AppleWorks copy of their list on our classroom computers for them to use the text-to-speech function to practice and hear the pronunciation of the words.

It's not perfect, but having tried my hand and miserably failed at writing a cursive font, I have great respect for their product despite its limitations. While we don't wear Brett Helbig's freeware out, we frequently have the kids do a wordsearch for spelling. I still find Australian Gordon John Stevens CrossWord Express to be my favorite, possibly because when there is a problem, John sits down and writes an immediate update to fix it. I let CWE generate the puzzle and use its export function to cut and paste the puzzle grid and clues into an AppleWorks document. Good context sentences using a controlled vocabulary are difficult and time consuming to write, but add another dimension to what otherwise might be rote memorization of black and white symbols on a page. We frequently have our students do a drill we call "fingertrace and erase." Either the instructor or the student carefully write the word correctly on the chalkboard.
Word Spell (389K) is a piece of Kurt Kaufman's KKGames, which allows kids to drag letters to form words for Apple's text-to-speech to pronounce. Under Mac OS X, look in your System Preferences under Speech and the Text to Speech button.
John Baughman wrote to me last week saying, "I have spent all the time on my Macs that my marriage will permit, at least for a good while." While John was kidding, I know what he means.
Whether it's tracing or crosswords or computer drills, our emphasis on doing something in spelling every day probably does more than any one thing to make the program a success. You hang on for dear life with and to whatever you can and try to steer a little when possible. And for years, each time I'd see the site stats, I'd cringe because I knew many of the links were outdated. I haven't tested the program as yet, but it appears to use the computer's text-to-speech instead of recorded spelling lists. The School Fonts collection can be replaced, however, with system fonts included on some Macs. We'll get a small commission from the sale, and you won't pay any more than you would have by directly going to the vendor's site. I love fluid clean lines and the first time I saw what is no called Flat Design I felt like I had come home. I like a super clean font (Open Sans, Oswald) with the occasional pop of decorative font for headers and other text of note.
Over the years I've found this to frequently be the case, whether dealing with special learners or the general education population. When I taught regular ed, I often found many of the students had difficulty with copying as well.
About the time we had our materials pretty well complete, our school shifted its adopted text to the spelling component of the 1996 Silver-Burdett & Ginn World of Language program.
The list at right only includes the lists where we give the actual test, but we also currently generate lists for Saxon Phonics lists at second grade and Silver-Burdett & Ginn on the fifth and sixth grade level. The pronunciation of the words often occurs on Thursday or Friday of the week preceding the test. For the younger group, we frequently provide word cards to arrange into "abc order" before copying them to the page. Either the manuscript or cursive activities could easily be done by hand in about twice the time. It gets them associating the correct first few letters with each word, if not the whole spelling.
The last time that occurred and I found the bug, John had a free update out within 48 hours of my first email to him! The Steck-Vaughn spelling program we currently use has fairly good context exercises, other than the controlled vocabulary issue.
The student then uses the index finger of their handwriting hand to trace the chalk image while saying the letter names. Using the Silver-Burdett & Ginn words was necessary at first, but was a mistake in the long run.
Along with data loss, the inability to access your information due to mechanical breakdown can put you out of business as well. When Annie begins referring to my Mac as "his mistress," I know I'm spending too many hours on my Mac. I made several stabs at updating the links, but always either lost interest or got totally frustrated with the task.
We collect Pringles tubes, twist ties, coffee cans (when it still came in a can), and sorts of stuff others would call trash for our classroom projects. So I did a Google search for "appleworks buy" and was surprised to see that a few outlets still have new copies available! At one point, we almost totally replaced basil texts with non-graded lists from the Project Read program, the old SRA Basic Read Series (SRA:BRS), and Dolch lists. Gee, it's sorta thrilling to know your computer handiwork adorns refrigerator doors all over a two county area!

I must quickly add that I've seen some amazing exceptions where kids do accurately spell from memory a list memorized in order that they don't have a clue as to how to read! While our older kids are often expected to do all of their assignments in their homeroom in cursive writing, most material in textbooks is presented in manuscript. To correct that deficiency, we can scan the weekly context exercise into the computer using OmniPage Pro and convert it to editable text to be used in AppleWorks with text-to-speech.
It did give some of the kids status with their regular classroom peers, as many of the regular classroom teachers readily adopted using the same activities. When I was totally writing a replacement spelling program, it seemed that was all I had time to do.
In all honesty, we really did just stumble and bumble our way into a program that fit our kids well. Actually, maybe the best reward I can give you are some templates (1.4 MB) to use if you want to add some of these activities to your spelling program. I discovered just yesterday that the template file linked above wouldn't decompress properly anymore under OS X! That's good news for teachers now, but it may also mean that Jay won't be updating his excellent application as much. Since really retiring this time, I find I just don't work on the Windows side much anymore. Two years ago, the elementary special ed teachers all gravitated to the Steck-Vaughn 1996 spelling release, which has considerably eased reading (and materials construction) demands.
The older kids also just plain forget how to print, sometimes, so a once-a-week review of printing isn't a bad idea. At one time the Windows export function created a better puzzle grid than the Mac version, so I generated all of the crossword puzzles on the Windows platform!
I'd love to say we do this with every context assignment at every level, but the actuality is that I do it only when absolutely necessary.
We received excellent, but thankfully, gentle feedback from the regular staff which helped us make the activities as effective as we could. And, for those days when your motor (auto or biological) just won't go, a substitute teacher may be unknowledgeable or scared to death of your computerized files. It was a relief when we moved to the Steck-Vaughn program as a base and I moved to adding supplemental activities to it. Frequent reader Joe Taylor once wrote, "You have also reinforced my suspicion that Steck Vaughn can be found in special ed classrooms all across America." I also found the Dolch lists to be a great review for my regular ed third grade summer schoolers a few years ago. To facilitate this activity, I actually wrote a manuscript font several years ago that mimics the letter formation we expect of the kids in printing.
On a twenty word list, I can usually get each word into the puzzle four or five times in a 20x20 grid! While the Windows version remains a bit more stable than the Mac, the Mac export function is now equal to its Win counterpart and the application is stable enough that my Windows version doesn't get much use.
The downside was that our kids were often learning to spell words way out of reach for their reading level--i.e., they wouldn't appear in any reader these kids would read for at least a year! In addition the kids get to choose a new pencil from our special collection of holiday, NBA, NFL, Barbie, and other "expensive" pencils. Bless his heart, Gordon John Stevens is still updating his excellent Crossword Express application and not charging for the updates!
It's not free, but MSDWT Manuscript is an inexpensive ($5) charityware that is available for both Macintosh (171K) and Windows (111K).
To do so, when making the word list, just repeatedly paste the list into the word list window. Our scanner is currently connected to our Mac 8100 which has decided to become demon possessed with constant crashes and SCSI problems. But that finally motivated me to take a day and update the links and content as much as possible.
Also, we get a lot of reading mileage out of sitting together at the reading table working through the context stories. Since nearly all of my students are sugar reactive, we use fruit and such for edible reinforcers.
For beginners with lots of reading problems, we never present backwards spellings, or else we might see "eert" for "tree" on the test.
On special request, we've had plums, grapes, kiwi, salted in the shell peanuts, and whatever other fruit the local grocery might have on sale.
Several years ago, a tough twelve-year-old spelling achiever brought me his banana and asked, "How do you open this?" He'd never had a banana. Sometimes we don't know how much good we do with some of the little things we provide in the classroom!

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