Day 5 (of 185) regarding spelling
Just because I type doesn’t mean I rely on spellcheck (though I am glad it pops up on a couple of tricky words….). Luckily I’ve always been a pretty good speller. Weekly tests weren’t a challenge. I’d memorize 18-20 of the words and then have fun with the “bonus words” (best I can remember was grade 4 with acetylsalicylic )
But I know most of my friends just wanted to remember the words for the week and then not have to worry about them. And as I later started my teaching career, I tried some of the spelling programs that were already in the school, but was never really happy. Too often the goal seemed to be to get a high score in “spelling” but then never use those words correctly in actual writing.
Colleagues helped me get better connected to “programs” like Making Words – which blends commonly spelled words by rearranging the letters in a larger word…this came because of my teachers expressed the desire to do something different with spelling.
He agreed that too often the kids would memorize for the test and then purge what was learned…..scratch that….what was put into short-term memory…..and confirmed that when he asked the class the approach that they took…
My encouragement for the past couple of years has been to start by using a making words approach (and the best is to cut out the letters to physically rearrange them) but to take liberties and find ways to blend the words that make sense for your students – if they struggle with “shun” words because they are spelled -tion, then have them look for and use those words.
My second encouragement is to let spelling have a gamification feel to it….one of my favourites continues to be “fowl words” – enough so that I even found a way to embed it onto our school webpage so that it can be easy to find……but it’s great how it reinforces the search for those “sight words” that are so essential to know….words-within-words that help to create compound words….and if you can figure out the 15-letter word…..wow!
I have then used diagnostic spelling tests (such as one with Reading Recovery) to see how gains go over the year. Using a “grade level” comparison as a base level to start our learning from. Focus on student growth and improvement over the year….not trying to get a high enough score on enough tests to distract from what the writing-sample-rubric may say about “use of spelling in the writing”…..
Not always easy. Spelling lists feel like they should work. It gives something tangible to review and redo as a family. But the hours my sister put into it (in contrast to the minutes I put into it) kinda reinforce that there is a truth to “some are gooder spellers than udders”. Even though it feels like it should work….exposure and practice in authentic use (writing or games) has always gotten better results for those I’ve worked with! Just sharing – if you’re not happy with what’s happening for your learners…..try something to make it work better!