First-grader Alexis Marcionette was having
trouble with her spelling tests.
"I was really frustrated," said Marcionette, now
To turn things around, she and her mother,
Debra, teamed to create "Spelling Time," an interactive
program to give her the extra practice she needed.
Since the free program went online a few months
ago, word has continued to spread.
Spelling Time has more than 4,100 registered
members across the country and is included as a resource for
teachers in Scholastic's January-February issue of Instructor
The Town of Poughkeepsie family has put
thousands of hours into developing what Debra Marcionette
describes as a "kid-driven" program.
Marcionette, a stay-at-home mom with a master's
degree in instructional technology, set up the program to
allow students from kindergarten to fifth-grade to practice
their spelling independently. It's designed to be used 15 to
20 minutes a day, seven days a week.
Children enter their spelling words into the
computer, then practice them Monday through Wednesday with the
help of agents Alexis and Jake.
The agents, named after Marcionette's children,
speak with phonetically correct lips, so that children can
both see and hear the words spelled properly.
Thursday brings a pop quiz. The results are
e-mailed to parents, so they can review any missed words again
with their children.
For the rest of the week, children review not
only words from that week, but from previous weeks.
"We want those to be life words," words students
will remember and continue to use, Debra Marcionette said.
Children earn points as they spell, which allow
them to play fun educational games at the end of each
Based on feedback from her children and users,
the program has continued to evolve and improve.
Debra Marcionette has seen good results with her
daughter, something she hopes to share with others.
"It gave her confidence that she was an 'A'
student," she said. "It's something that I'd like every family
to be able to use."
Marcionette's husband, Joe, is seeking a
corporate sponsor for the program.
They hope to make Spelling Time the first of
several free programs for families.
Vowel Time, Math Time and Geography Time, which
focus on learning state locations, capitols and world
countries, are scheduled to be released in January and
Erikah Haavie can be reached at ehaavie@pough