Posts Tagged ‘spelling sorts’

Six Simple Steps to Teaching Spelling

Grades 4-8 spelling instruction was once relegated to editing stage of the writing process by some Writers Workshop purists. The Common Core authors would seem to concur. From grade 5 on up, the only Spelling Standards read as follows: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.4.2e ; CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.5.2e Spell grade-appropriate words correctly, consulting references as needed. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.6.2b ; CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.7.2b ; CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.8.2b Spell correctly.

However, many veteran grades 4-8 teachers still teach spelling, especially in terms of spelling patterns, conventional spelling rules, derivational and etymological influences, accent placements and vowel shifts because they know how structural word analysis facilitates proper use of our language, better reading comprehension, and improved writing.

Plus, when you know your students still can’t spell the there, their, and they’re words, someone’s gotta teach ’em!

So, what’s the most efficient, research-based methodology to teach spelling in the fewest number of instructional minutes per week?

Six Simple Steps to Teaching Spelling:


1. Administer a weekly diagnostic pretest of 20 words based upon a focus spelling pattern: not a silly holidays, colors, or “ed” word themed list. Check out my grades 4-8 spelling patterns instructional scope and sequence for guidance. Briefly explain the weekly spelling pattern with examples. Display the spelling words and direct students to self-correct their spelling errors by circling the misspelled sound-spellings.


2. Have students create their own Personal Spelling List of 10 unknown words. Students complete the Personal Spelling List in this priority order:

  • Pretest Errors: Have students write the spelling words they missed on the diagnostic pretest.
  • Posttest Errors: Have students write the words they missed on the last posttest.
  • Writing Errors: Have students add on teacher-corrected spelling errors found in their own writing.
  • Supplemental Spelling Lists: Students add on unknown words from non-phonetic outlaw words, commonly confused homonyms, spelling demons, and high frequency lists. I provide these in my spelling programs or teachers can simply do a web search to find appropriate lists for your students.


3. Create or purchase (Yes, my program has them) a spelling sort based upon the spelling pattern. Students complete the sort and self-correct to learn from their own mistakes.


4. Individualize Spelling Instruction

  • Administer a spelling patterns diagnostic assessment, not a random sample spelling inventory. Feel free to use my 102 word Diagnostic Spelling Assessment and recording matrix for each student, post the matrix and print the number of Spelling Pattern Worksheets according to the results and amount of students in your class. Here’s an audio version to make you really love this assessment 🙂
  • Print the answers to these worksheets in a half-dozen Answer Booklets.
  • Students complete a worksheet, self-correct and edit the practice section, and then complete the formative assessment at the bottom of each worksheet. Want to see some samples? Download the following six Spelling Pattern Worksheets including short schwa, long schwa, “_able,” “_ible,” “_ant-ance-ancy,” and “_ent-ence-ency”  spelling patterns (with answers).

Get the Spelling Pattern Worksheets FREE Resource:

  • Students mini-conference about the spelling pattern focus of the worksheet. If the student has mastered the spelling pattern in the formative assessment, direct the student to X-out the slash on the matrix and assign points. If the formative assessment indicates that the student has not yet mastered the spelling pattern, re-teach the pattern and tell the student to re-do the formative assessment.
  • 5. Students study their Personal Spelling List(s) for the spelling formative posttest for homework.


    6. Administer a weekly or bi-weekly posttest. Many teachers elect to give the spelling posttest at the end of the week; others choose to combine two spelling patterns lessons and include these as part of the bi-weekly unit test. I give a bi-weekly test of two Personal Spelling Lists to save class time. There is no law, nor research, saying that you have to test each Friday.To administer the weekly or bi-weekly posttest, direct students to take out a piece of binder paper, find a partner, and exchange dictation of their Personal Spelling List(s) words (10‒20 Minutes weekly or bi-weekly). Students then turn in their posttests for the teacher to grade. I know… you think they’ll cheat. In my experience, very few do. Also… this works with second graders (I’ve done it) on up.

    The author’s Differentiated Spelling Instruction provides quality spelling programs for grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. Following are the program components:

    Pennington Publishing's Differentiated Spelling Instruction

    Differentiated Spelling Instruction

    • Diagnostic Spelling Assessment: a comprehensive test of each previous grade level spelling pattern to determine what students know and what they don’t know with Spelling Assessment Mastery Matrix
    • 102 Remedial Sound-Spelling Worksheets Corresponding to the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment (Grade 8… other grade levels have fewer to correspond with grade-level spellings. All grade levels use the same diagnostic assessment.)
    • Weekly Diagnostic Spelling Tests
    • Weekly Spelling Sort Worksheets for Each Spelling Pattern (with answers) formatted for classroom display. Students self-correct to learn from their own mistakes.
    • Syllable Transformers and Syllable Blending formatted for classroom display and interactive instruction
    • Syllable Worksheets (with answers) formatted for classroom display
    • Four Formative Assessments (given after 7 weeks of instruction)
    • Summative Assessment
    • Spelling Teaching Resources: How to Study Spelling Words, Spelling Proofreading Strategies for Stories and Essays, Syllable and Accent Rules, Outlaw Words, 450 Most Frequently Used Words, 100 Most Often Misspelled Words, 70 Most Commonly Confused Words, Eight Great Spelling Rules, Memory Songs and Raps (with Mp3 links), and Spelling Review Games

    Read one of our customer testimonials: “I work with a large ELL population at my school and was not happy with the weekly spelling tests, etc. Through my research in best practices, I know that spelling patterns and word study are so important at this age group. However, I just couldn’t find anything out there that combines the two. We have just adopted RtI at my school and your spelling matrix is a great tool for documentation. The grade level spelling program and remediation are perfect for my students.”


    Spelling/Vocabulary , , , , , , , ,

    Vowel Team Spelling Games

    Developing spellers often struggle in the “Within Word” stage of spelling development. The key challenge for spellers within this spelling stage involves the vowel sound-spellings. The vowel combinations are especially challenging. Both vowel digraphs (two vowel spellings producing one sound), such as “aw” as in hawk, and vowel diphthongs (two or more vowel spellings producing more than one sound, such as “ow” as in towel, are frequently called vowel teams.

    The following three spelling games will help your developing spellers both recognize and practice these vowel team spellings. First, learn which vowel sound-spellings that your students don’t know with an effective diagnostic spelling assessment. The games should not be played until the vowel team spelling pattern has been introduced with plenty of examples. Students should also have some practice in spelling the vowel team spelling pattern in the context of dictations and sentence writing before play because the games are designed as reinforcement and practice. The games will help your remedial readers discriminate among similar vowel sound-spelling patterns. Oh, by the way… the games are fun!

    Word Jumbles

    -Overview/Object of the Game

    Each vowel team sound-spelling pattern has a multi-syllabic word jumble. The jumble is a word that includes the vowel sound-spelling with all the letters re-arranged. The object of the game is to make as many words as possible out of the word jumble and then to try and guess the entire word.


    Write out the unscrambled word on one side of a 3 X 5 card and the jumbled word on the other. All students need to play is a sheet of binder paper and a pencil.

    Divide your spellers up into small groups of three or four students, clustered around a desk or table. The students must be seated, in order to write.


    Place the card on the desk or table, jumbled side facing up. Give a three minute time limit for students to write down as many words as they can find within the word jumble. Instruct the players to turn over the card.

    Students take turns sharing their list, spelling each out loud. Award ten points for the whole unscrambled word, if spelled correctly. Additionally, add on one point for each correctly spelled word and  two points for a word that no one else in the group finds. Students total their points to see who is the winner.

    For example, for the “_ay” vowel team long a spelling, the word payment has the word jumble, APETNYM. The jumble includes these words:

    ape              ten            tap       yet       map     man     pay      pat       many   mane    meant  tape

    Word Jumble List

    Sound-Spelling   Word              Word Jumble

    Long a Sound

    “a__e”                         carefully          yluflarec

    “ai__”                          straining          ginianrts

    “__ay”                         betrayal           tylaaebr

    “ei”                               freighter          hefrgiret

    Long e Sound

    “__ee”                         meetings          mtsgniee

    “ea”                            teachers           srehcaet

    “__y”                           leisurely           ylurelies

    “i__e”                          tambourine      neuriboamt

    “[c]ei”                          ceiling              ginclie

    Long i Sound

    “i__e”                          provided          dideprvo

    “__igh”                        frightened       tndeehgirf

    “__y”                           beautify           fyiauetb

    “__ie”                          untied              teunde

    Long o Sound

    “o__e”                         hopeful            plefuoh

    “__oe”                         mistletoe         stelimeot

    “oa__”                         groaned           anodegr

    “ow”                            ownership        phisernow

    Long u Sound

    “u”                               musical            csualim

    “u__e”                         usefulness       uefessflns

    “__ew”                        curfew             furcwe

    “_ue”                           fueling             inufegn

    oo as in food Sound

    “oo”                             toothache        eooatthch

    “u”                               cruising            rciuisgn

    “u__e”                         attitude            tttiadeu

    “__ew”                        unscrewed       dweenuscr

    “_ue”                           barbecued        ecduberab

    oo as in foot Sound

    “oo”                             understood      ouorsdtden

    “__u__”                       sugarless          ragulsses

    oy Sound

    “oi__”                          poisonous        oponsiuos

    “__oy”                         enjoyment       nemtnojey

    aw Sound

    “aw”                            awesome         ewaosme

    “au”                             auditorium       tduaoiumir

    “al”                              almost              malsto

    “all”                             smallest           lamsselt

    ow Sound

    “__ow”                        downtown       wnownotd

    “ou__”                         doubtful          tbduoluf

    ur Sound

    “er”                              partnership     ntphrapresi

    “ir”                              birthday           hdyabitr

    “ur”                             urgency           nygceur

    ar Sound

    “ar”                              calendar          leacnrda

    or Sound

    “or”                             thunderstorm   rmostdrenuht

    The next two spelling games help your students review a targetted vowel sound-spelling pattern, alongside other spelling patterns. Both The Quick Picks Game and Vowel Concentration are small group games that use the Spelling Sort Cards.

    The Quick Picks Game

    -Overview/Object of the Game

    This spelling game is designed to help your students review a targetted vowel team spelling pattern, alongside other spelling patterns. The object of the game is to pick up the most number of cards that have words that use the designated vowel team spelling.


    Click the link to download these Spelling Sort Cards from the Pennington Publishing website. These cards are formatted to cut into individual cards for word sort games. Simply run off the pages on tag board and laminate for each group.


    Divide your spellers up into two groups, clustered around two desks or tables, and spread out some, or all, of the vowel team spelling cards that you have already introduced (the same set to each group). Have the two groups spread out their cards spelling side up and then race to pick up the cards that have words that use the designated vowel team spelling.

    For example, pass out the long a and long e cards. Then, announce “Find  ‘a__e’ cards.” After picking up all of the “a__e” cards, tell students to take turns, saying each of their words and their spellings. The speller from each group with the most word cards that match the vowel team spelling that you announced is the winner.

    Vowel Team Concentration

    -Overview/Object of the Game

    This spelling game is designed to help your students review  targetted vowel team spelling patterns. The object of the game is to pick up the most two-word matches  of the same vowel team spelling.


    Click the link to download these Spelling Sort Cards from the Pennington Publishing website. These cards are formatted to cut into individual cards for word sort games. Simply run off the pages on tag board and laminate two sets for each group of students.


    Pass out some, or all, of the vowel team spelling cards that you have already introduced from one set of the laminated cards face up.  Pass out some, or all, of the second set of vowel team spelling cards face down. Have the students spread them out, being careful not to turn any over.

    Students take turns turning over two cards at a time to find a vowel sound-spelling match. For instance, the boat card would match the oak card. If the student finds a match, he or she picks up the cards and gets another turn. The winner is the student who collects the most cards.

    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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