Sunday, September 22, 2013

Spelling. S-P-E-L-L-I-N-G.

This week kicks off our first spelling list of the year.  Oh joy.
(I'm a terrible speller who relies on spell check and an extensive knowledge of homophones!)

Spelling with the Thinkers is a little bit different than most have seen, and though I have made small adjustments nearly every year, the gist is the same, and it's very, very effective.

Did I mention that there are 24 Thinkers this year?  Which means I'll have 24 different spelling lists?  Yep, and it's still an extremely effective way to deliver spelling instruction.  Even though you likely are thinking at this moment that I am nuts.  (Which I am, but that's a different story, and after all, aren't all teachers a little nuts?!)

So, the program is simple.  It's not exactly a program, actually.  It's more of a delivery method.  It actually works with just about any spelling program your district or school might be using.

Here's the basics.....

1.  Start by collecting your students spelling errors.  By this I mean, read everything they write.  Yes, even their math work.

Pink Spelling paper.  Next year it might be blue!
2.  Keep a list of spelling errors for each of them.  (I call this my Pink Spelling Paper, though it's really card stock!  It's pink cause that's the color we had in the copy room at the time!  Double sided, this pink page holds 60 spelling words.  Some kids have one that lasts all year, others go through multiple pink pages.)

3.  Pre-test.  Yes, pre-test.  Use whatever program you have (I use Evan-Moor) and give the kids a pre-test.  The words they know, why bother testing them again?

4.  Whatever words the kids get wrong on the pre-test, well, those go on their list for the week.  The rest of their list?  That gets filled up with words from their individual lists, you know, the ones that you've been keeping throughout the week?

5.  Have the kids write down their spelling lists - I have it set up so they do so on the back of their pre-test. They then copy the words into their planners for studying at home, and I keep the pre-test for use when they partner up to give each other their actual test.

Yes, those are Care Bears.  It's how I
tell the menus apart!
6.  During word study, or for homework, or however you do it, the kids are to learn those words.  Remember, 24 kids, 24 lists.  I have used a variety of spelling menus in the past, as well as spelling tic-tac-toe.  Anything but weekly spelling sentences, cause those get so tedious (for the kids and for me) week after week!

7.  Come test day, partner the kids up.  They trade papers and give each other their spelling tests.  IMPORTANT:  This needs to be modeled and practiced!  Take the time at the start (the first three weeks or so) and it will pay off in the end!

8.  Any words wrong on their spelling test?  Back on the list it goes!  Yes, this means that the word may show up multiple weeks in a row.  Then again, isn't the point of spelling tests to learn words for use every day, not just for the test?  I thought so.

It sounds like a lot, but really, it is only slightly more work than the average spelling program, and the payoff is much, much, stronger.  Cause kids are not only learning the spelling pattern (which is what the pre-test is for) they are also practicing the words THEY need to learn, especially cause they're already using them!

If this sounds like something you might want to try, you can check out the full details of my Spelling Differentiation delivery on Teachers Pay Teachers.  Yes, this is a shameless plug.  You know you'd do the same thing if you could! (And I encourage you to do so!)

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