Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Is Spelling Worth Teaching? We'll See.

I heard Doug Reeves say that if teachers give spelling tests, then students should use the spelling words in a sentence.

So it began.

It's taken some years, but I think I'm on to something. A colleague and I working out the bedrock of a spelling assessment that requires students to write their spelling words in sentences, offers choice, and is, (YES!) easy to grade. What I'm about to describe is a prototype of our idea.

What Research Says:
Dr. Randall Wallace's meta-analysis (PDF) of research on spelling best practices guides the reshaping of the spelling idea. 

How it Works:
The spelling words are based on word patterns such as adding -ed and -ing endings. We post 25 words that follow the pattern(s) for the unit. Students get to choose 10 words that they will use in a sentence. The sentences are recorded in a spelling journal. The teacher checks the sentences for proper word usage and spelling. The journal is given back to the student the next day. Students then practice their words over the week.

On test day students pair up and swap journals. The spelling partner reads their sentence, and the student writes down the sentence.

Options Worth Looking At:
I discovered a teacher's website that gave us some other good ideas that we are trying.
  • Test students on words that follow the pattern, but were not on the list. I like this idea because it assesses student knowledge of the pattern, not on memorizing the structure of the word.
  • Test students on everyday words. Reading fluency improves with quick recognition of sight words.
Issues We've Noticed:
  • What to do when a student forgets his/her spelling journal on test day?
  • Editing of sentences. Is it important? How can it be done efficiently for both student and teacher?
  • How to best "teach" the patterns? How often?
It is an interesting process as we work through this idea. Any feedback is welcomed.

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