Posts Tagged ‘spelling inventory’

Diagnostic Spelling Assessment

Don't Teach Visual Spelling

Spelling Is Not a Visual Skill

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. Despite what many teachers have been taught, spelling is not a visual skill. Poor spellers do not necessarily have visual processing problems. If you have taught spelling through the shapes of letters, know that no orthographic spelling research supports this practice. Additionally, if you have taught spelling as individually-memorized sight words, best practices would certainly not suggest this practice. PluFinally, if you “teach” spelling by requiring students to spelling weekly vocabulary words correctly, please don’t.

Instead, teach the spelling system. It’s not perfect, but it does apply the alphabetic code. Learning the sound-spelling patterns will help your beginning and remedial spellers immensely, because spelling is primarily an auditory skill, mapping the sounds to letters.

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.

Good Spellers Aren't Good Always Good Readers

Good Readers Aren’t Always Good Spellers

Plus, despite what you may have heard, older students certainly can learn to spell. No orthographic research suggests that only primary age students learn to spell as developmental readers. Administer the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment and use corresponding resources to teach to the assessment deficits. Your students can catch up while they keep up with grade-level spelling instruction.

Poor Spellers Are Not Born That Way

Spelling is Not Genetic

Last, but not least, let’s get rid of the fallacy that good spelling or bad spelling are genetic predispositions. People were not born to be good or bad spellers. No brain research exists to suggest this conclusion. Even the worst spellers can learn with the proper resources. Spelling need not be a lifelong impediment for your students.

So, how should we teach spelling? 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 Download

The Diagnostic Spelling Assessment

This comprehensive sound-spelling diagnostic test has 102 spellings, unlike random sample spelling inventories. Along with a sight-syllable spelling assessment and a non-phonetic high utility words assessment, this Diagnostic Spelling Assessment will give teachers the data they need to plan effective spelling instruction. Plus the download includes an audio file of the assessment. Simply tell students to take out a piece of paper and get their pencils ready to spell.

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.


Mark Pennington, MA reading specialist, is the author of the spelling assessment and accompanying grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 spelling programs.

Differentiated Spelling Instruction is a complete grade-level spelling program (4, 5, 6, 7, and 8) built upon conventional spelling rules and developmental spelling patterns. Plus, the program includes all resources teachers need to individualize instruction. Developing a weekly spelling plan that differentiates instruction for all of your students is a challenging task for even the best veteran teacher, but help has arrived! There is no better spelling program for your grade level students, GATE students, special ed, ESL/ELD, and below grade level students. Perfect for RtI. Here’s what teachers are saying about our program:

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. 


Program Overview

FOR GRADE LEVEL INSTRUCTION: Here’s how this program works: Students take a spelling pattern pretest, then self-correct and personalize their weekly spelling list, using the resources in this book. The teacher explains the spelling pattern. Students complete the spelling pattern word sort for homework and self-correct in class. Students study their spelling lists and take the post-test (once a week or biweekly). After seven weeks of instruction, students take a summative assessment.

FOR DIFFERENTIATED (INDIVIDUALIZED) INSTRUCTION: Students take the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment (a comprehensive spelling patterns assessment… not a random sample qualitative spelling inventory), using the audio file included in the program. The teacher corrects the test and records spelling pattern deficits on the progress monitoring matrix.

Students complete targeted worksheets corresponding to the spelling patterns they missed on the diagnostic assessment. Each worksheet explains the spelling pattern, provides examples, includes a spelling sort, has a word jumble, rhyme, and/or book search, and includes a short formative assessment to determine whether or not the student has mastered the spelling pattern. Students self-correct the worksheet to learn from their mistakes, complete the formative assessment, and mini-conference with the teacher, who corrects the formative assessment to determine mastery. If mastered, the teacher marks as such on the progress monitoring matrix.

Now that’s effective differentiated instruction! Your students can catch up, while they keep up with grade level spelling instruction.

The program is easy to teach. We even provide a YouTube training video to ensure your success!

Plus, get these valuable resources to help your students develop their Personal Spelling Lists:

Spelling Teaching Resources

  • How to Study Spelling Words
  • Spelling Proofreading Strategies for Stories and Essays
  • Syllable Rules
  • Accent Rules
  • Outlaw Words
  • The 450 Most Frequently Used Words
  • The 100 Most Often Misspelled Words
  • The 70 Most Commonly Confused Words
  • Eight Great Spelling Rules, Memory Songs, and Raps (with Mp3 links)
  • Spelling Review Games
  • Formative and Summative Spelling Assessment Mastery Matrices

Administer my FREE comprehensive Diagnostic Spelling Assessment with audio file and recording matrix. It has 102 words (I did say comprehensive) and covers all common spelling patterns and conventional spelling rules. It only takes 22 minutes and includes an audio file with test administration instructions. Once you see the gaps in your middle school students spelling patterns, you’re going to want to fill those gaps.

Get the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment FREE Resource:

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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 this 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 StrategiesDesigned 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 instruction. The program provides multiple-choice diagnostic reading and spelling assessments (many with audio files), phonemic awareness activities, blending and syllabication activitiesphonics workshops with formative assessments, 102 spelling pattern worksheets, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 644 reading, spelling, and vocabulary game cards, posters, activities, and games.

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books. These 54 decodable eBooks (includes print-ready and digital display versions) have been designed for older readers with teenage cartoon characters and plots. Each book introduces focus sight words and phonics sound-spellings aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Plus, each book has a 30-second word fluency to review previously learned sight words and sound-spelling patterns, five higher-level comprehension questions, and an easy-to-use running record. Your students 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.

Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books BUNDLE

Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books

Or why not get both programs as a discounted BUNDLE? Everything teachers need to teach an assessment-based reading intervention program for struggling readers is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, tiered response to intervention programs, ESL, ELL, ELD, and special education students. Simple directions, YouTube training videos, and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program.

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