My last post, “Spelling Rules,” discussed why teachers should teach the eight conventional spelling rules as part of a balanced spelling program. I provided links for each of the eight free downloadable spelling rules with accompanying MP3 files of raps and songs to help your students memorize each of these rules. I also offered an essential resource: the comprehensive Diagnostic Spelling Assessment.
As I previously mentioned, each of the six posts will begin with a brief reflection about the instructional spelling component, follow with a rationale for teaching that component, and finish with some free instructional spelling resources. The components of each of the six posts are as follows:
1. Diagnostic Assessment 2. Sound-Spellings 3. Spelling Rules
4. Spelling Lists and Tests 5. Spelling Practice 6. Integrated Spelling and Vocabulary.
This week we explore how to use spelling lists and tests as part of a balanced spelling program.
□ I use developmentally appropriate word lists as my spelling pre-tests.
□ I use the spelling pre-test as a diagnostic tool and adjust student practice according to the results of the assessment.
□ I have supplemental spelling word lists that are developmentally appropriate and I use these to differentiate spelling instruction.
□ I don’t use the exact same spelling test for my pre and post-tests because the spelling post-tests vary from student to student.
Developing a weekly spelling-vocabulary plan that differentiates instruction for all of your students is a challenging task for even the best veteran teacher. Teachers truly want to individualize spelling instruction, but the materials, testing, instruction, and management can prove overwhelming to even the most conscientious professional. After years of experimentation and teacher trial and error, this plan has earned a track record of proven success in combining spelling individualization and vocabulary word study with sensible amounts of teacher preparation and class time.
Five Steps to Differentiating Spelling-Vocabulary Instruction: The Five Ps
Select twenty spelling pattern words from your grade-level spelling workbook. If you don’t have a spelling workbook, check out Grade Level Spelling Lists.
Dictate the twenty words grade-level spelling pattern words in the traditional word-sentence-word format to all of your students. After the dictations, have students self-correct from teacher dictation of the letters in syllable chunks. Tell students to mark dots below the correct letters, but mark an “X” through the numbers of any spelling errors. Of course, double check the corrections of any students who have difficulty following directions or listening.
To effectively differentiate instruction, students personalize their own spelling word lists for study and for their post-tests. Assign 15-20 words for practice and testing per week. Students complete their own Personal Spelling Lists with the 15-20 words in this priority order:
- Pretest Errors: Have the students copy up to ten of their pretest spelling errors onto their Personal Spelling-Vocabulary List. Students will need to refer to the spelling workbook or your own spelling list to correctly spell these words. Ten words are certainly enough to practice the grade-level spelling pattern. Tell students to pick spelling errors from both the top and the bottom of their pretest to ensure that all spelling patterns are practiced because many workbooks teach two patterns per week.
- Posttest Errors: Have students add on up to five spelling errors from last week’s spelling posttest.
- Writing Errors: Have students add on up to five teacher-corrected spelling errors found in student writing. Oops…this commits you to mark strategic spelling errors in your students’ writing-an essential component of improving student spelling.
- Supplemental Spelling Lists: Students select and use words from the following resources to complete their list:
But, how do the students select the right words from the supplemental lists?
Parents can be integral partners in helping their children select appropriate words for the Personal Spelling List. After completing the weekly Personal Spelling List, the student must secure a parent signature on the list to verify that each of the selected words is an unknown spelling for the student. This is to prevent students from writing down words already part of the student’s conventional spelling word bank.
Early in the school year, send home a parent letter explaining the role of the parent in individualizing spelling instruction. Parents can pretest their son or daughter on the words from the appendices a little at a time to determine which words are un-mastered and need to be included as part of the weekly Personal Spelling List. For those parents who will not complete the pre-assessments, the teacher can have a parent, instructional aide, or another student complete the pretests.
The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 programs to teach the Common Core Language Standards. Each full-year program provides 56 interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics and include sentence diagrams, error analysis, mentor texts, writing applications, and sentence dictation formative assessments with accompanying worksheets (L.1, 2). Plus, each grade-level program has weekly spelling pattern tests and accompanying spelling sort worksheets (L.2), 56 language application opener worksheets (L.3), and 56 vocabulary worksheets with multiple-meaning words, Greek and Latin word parts, figures of speech, word relationships with context clue practice, connotations, and four square academic language practice (L.4, 5, and 6). Comprehensive biweekly unit tests measure recognition, understanding, and application of all language components.
Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out the YouTube introductory video of the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) program.
The author also provides these curricular “slices” of the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) “pie”: the five Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits Grades 4−8; the five Differentiated Spelling Instruction Grades 4−8 programs (digital formats only); and the non-grade-leveled Teaching Grammar and Mechanics with engaging grammar cartoons (available in print and digital formats).