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  Friday, December 29, 2006
Mother, girl, 8, team to develop spelling program

First-grader Alexis Marcionette was having trouble with her spelling tests.

"I was really frustrated," said Marcionette, now 8.

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 magazine.

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.

Points awarded

Children earn points as they spell, which allow them to play fun educational games at the end of each lesson.

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 February.

Erikah Haavie can be reached at ehaavie@pough

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Lee Ferris/Poughkeepsie Journal
Debra Marcionette explains the "Spelling Time" program she has created with her 8-year-old daughter, Alexis, at their home in Poughkeepsie on Thursday. Thousands of members nationwide are using the program.

 Photos: Spelling Time

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