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Posts Tagged ‘spelling inventory’

Top Twelve Spelling Trends and Fads

Spelling instruction certainly has had its share of crazy instructional trends and fads. As an author of two spelling books, a reading specialist, and a teacher of elementary school, middle school, high school, and community college students, I have seen my fair share of them over the last thirty years.

For example, during the height of the whole language movement of the 1980s, California stopped adopting spelling programs and refused to fund the purchase of spelling workbooks. Principals were even encouraged to confiscate spelling workbooks from veteran teachers.

In the spirit of factcheck.org, I have listed and rated a dozen of the most popular instructional spelling trends and fads over the last thirty years as “TRUE” or “FALSE,” in terms of recent spelling research.

1. Tracing letters in sand helps students remember how to spell words. Advocates feel that this practice stimulates the visual memory.

FALSE Spelling is not a visual or graphic skill that relies upon visual memory.

2. Spelling can be improved via neuro-linguistic programming in which pictures and letters of words are impressed in one’s head and the student learns words by spelling them backwards.

FALSE While picturing whole words may provide short term benefit, such as memorizing for the weekly spelling test, it is not an efficient strategy for long term conventional spelling acquisition.

3. Spelling is a natural skill that improves with wide exposure to and practice in reading.

FALSE Although there is a positive correlation between high reading comprehension scores and conventional spelling ability (Stanovich and Cunningham 1992), there is no established causal connection.

4. Spelling is hereditary.

HALF-TRUE “The relatedness of reading and spelling may be understood in terms of differences in underlying underlying verbal ability, which in turn may be partly determined by hereditary factors (Pennington 1991).”

5. Spelling ability is related to phonics ability.

TRUE Once students have sufficient practice in how words work at the phoneme level and are able to blend and segment words verbally, they can apply this knowledge at the symbolic level for both reading and spelling.

6. Inventive spelling helps students learn how to spell.

TRUE Good spellers problem-solve which letters and combinations best represent sounds. Spellers who practice application of the sound-spelling connections and the rules of spelling become less teacher, dictionary, and spell-check dependent. Too much focus on spelling correctness on rough drafts may inhibit word choice. Spelling correctness on final drafts is a must.

7. Spelling instruction should be differentiated according to learning styles or modalities.

FALSE Such instructional strategies as recording spelling words for auditory learners, practicing with magnetic letters for kinesthetic learners, and rehearsing with flash cards for visual learners do not enhance spelling acquisition more for some learners than others.

8. Spelling is a developmental skill that can be categorized into cognitive spelling stages. Advocates feel that students can be challenged to progress through these spelling stages with differentiated instruction and word play.

TRUE Popularized by the authors of the popular Words Their Way: Word Study for Phonics, Vocabulary, and Spelling Instruction (Bear et al, 2000) and the widely distributed Qualitative Spelling Inventory, the authors advocate spelling sorts, word study and games and de-emphasized the traditional pretest-study-posttest form of spelling instruction.

9. Studying the shapes of letters and grouping letters for memorization by letter shape aids long-term memory. Advocates claim that this instructional approach is beneficial for students with visual processing challenges.

FALSE Because spelling is primarily an auditory skill of matching letters to sounds, the shapes of the letters are irrelevant to spelling acquisition.

10. Left-right brain strategies help spelling. Advocates feel that the right hemisphere can be stimulated and spelling improved by using wrist bands or looking up and left to memorize spellings.

FALSE There is no evidence that cueing the brain will improve spelling or linguistic ability.

11. What works for one student to develop conventional spelling ability does not work for every student. Not all students learn how to spell in the same way.

FALSE     Effective spelling instructional strategies work for every student. Differentiated instruction should derive from diagnostic assessment data.

12. Spelling is basic memorization. Using pictures can help students memorize spelling words.

HALF-TRUE Although some words must be mastered as “sight spellings” because they are phonetically irregular, and although many words do not follow the conventional spelling rules, it is still beneficial to apply the alphabetic code to spelling. At least 50% of spellings directly match their sounds.

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.

Pennington Publishing's Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)
Grades 4-8 Programs

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).

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Diagnostic Spelling Assessments

As an MA Reading Specialist and educational author of seven spelling books, I thought I’d pitch in to help teachers do a little  reflection on their spelling programs. Effective spelling programs match the nature of the English spelling system. There is a “rhyme and reason” to our spelling system; however, because our spellings have derived from a wide variety of languages and historical influences, several instructional approaches are needed to learn to spell well. Your students may have mastered some approaches, but be deficient in others. Therefore, a cookie-cutter curriculum may wind up re-teaching much of what your students already know, instead of focusing on what they do not yet know.

A comprehensive diagnostic spelling assessment will help you choose the appropriate instructional approaches. If your students know it, they will show it; if they don’t, they won’t.

Spelling Resources

The Diagnostic Spelling Assessment

This comprehensive sound-spelling diagnostic test has 64 spellings, unlike random sample spelling inventories. Along with a sight-syllable spelling assessment and a non-phonetic high utility words assessment, this sound-spellings assessment will give teachers the data they need to plan effective spelling instruction. Download this whole class assessment at Diagnostic Spelling Assessment.

The Diagnostic Spelling Assessment Mastery Matrix

Record the results of the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment on the The Diagnostic Spelling Assessment Mastery Matrix and analyze your students’ strengths and weaknesses. Match instructional resources to address the diagnosed deficits. Set specific learning goals and monitor progress as your students work toward mastery.

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.

Pennington Publishing's Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)
Grades 4-8 Programs

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).

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Free Informal Reading Assessments

I spent years as an elementary reading specialist, administering individual reading inventories to prepare for IEPs, SSTs, 504s, persnickety parents, and, occasionally, even the curious or caring teacher. Yes, I was an informal reading assessment junkie. I piloted all of the new ones coming down the pike and had loads of fun experimenting on unsuspecting elementary students. After years of sitting across from individual students at my kidney-shaped table, I began asking what is the real value of these assessments, and more generally, what is the value of individual reading diagnosis?

As I see things, the most useful informal reading assessments should meet three criteria:

1. They must be comprehensive. No more random sample spelling inventories and no more random sample phonics assessments.

2. They must be diagnostic. I don’t need to know a qualitative stage of development or a grade-level equivalency. I’ve got to know what exactly the child does and does not know so that I can plan instruction accordingly.

3. They must be easy to give, easy to grade, and easy to record.

While one-on-one time with a student is wonderful; it just isn’t a practical approach to reading assessment. I won’t throw the baby out with the bath water on this one. Individual assessments are sometimes necessary as double-checks or refinements, and an individual fluency assessment is a must for elementary, middle, and some high school students. However, my experience is that effective whole class tests can produce results that are just as reliable and prescriptive as the time-consuming individual assessments.

Reading specialists do not have to be the keepers of the keys. Devolving the responsibilities of reading assessment to teachers was the most effective professional decision that I have ever made. Whole class (multiple choice) reading assessments that are administered, graded, and analyzed by the teacher empower that teacher as the professional and encourage that teacher to differentiate instruction according to the diagnostic needs of that teacher’s students.

Over the years I have created, field-tested, and revised a battery of reading assessments that meet the criteria described above. You are welcome to download a comprehensive consonant and vowel phonics assessment, three sight word assessments, a spelling-pattern assessment, a multi-level fluency assessment, six phonemic awareness assessments, and even a grammar assessment from my website. All are multiple choice and all have recording matrices to help the teacher plan for individual and small group instruction. Grab a box of Scantrons® and make 2009-2010 the year you teach reading, as well as English, to your students.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube (Check these fluency passages out!), 390 game cards, posters, activities, and games.

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page decodable take-home books include sight words, word fluency practice, and phonics instruction aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Each book is illustrated by master cartoonist, David Rickert. The cartoons, characters, and plots are designed to be appreciated by both older remedial readers and younger beginning readers. The teenage characters are multi-ethnic and the stories reinforce positive values and character development. Your students (and parents) will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug.

Everything teachers need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, English-language learners, and Special Education students. Simple directions and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program, with or without paraprofessional assistance.

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Reading Strategies

Teaching Reading Strategies

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