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Spelling Tests and Instruction

Spelling Tests

Spelling Assessments

Years ago I attended a four-day training by Dr. Shane Templeton, an author of a new program titled Words Their Way®. Dr. Templeton drove down to Elk Grove to in-service our cadre of 18 reading specialists. An entertaining presenter, he demonstrated the theory of five developmental spelling stages and introduced the Qualitative Spelling Inventory (later reworked and published as the Primary Spelling Inventory, Elementary Spelling Inventory, and Upper-level Spelling Inventory.

From Dr. Templeton’s training, I developed numerous district and site level in-services for teachers interested in word study, primarily spelling. For each training, principals provided Words Their Way® for each teacher, and our district adopted the spelling inventory as one of our elementary literacy placement assessments. Teachers dutifully engaged their students in exploratory word sorts and other activities recommended for each spelling stage. After a two-year investment in the Words Their Way® approach, here’s what our reading specialist team and teachers found:

Virtually no gains on both standardized tests and our other writing, reading, fluency, spelling, syllabication, and phonics posttests. Our elementary students’ reading scores were mired in the 40th percentiles. The inductive Words Their Way® approach to word study and other similar approaches to spelling, phonics, and vocabulary acquisition were not paying off. Teachers rightfully complained that the Words Their Way® instructional activities took up inordinate amounts of their literacy block time.

Fortunately, our district chose to change direction and adopt a direct instruction, explicit and systematic phonics program: Open Court for kinder-third grade. Within two years our scores improved to the 70th percentiles. Grades 4-6 students improved as well upon later adoption of the program and because students coming out of primary had such a solid foundation. An interesting anecdotal sidebar: In our highly transient and growing district, our reading specialist team found that new transfer students in grades 4-8 were woefully unprepared for the rigors of multisyllabic expository text. As a result, our literacy leadership team created diagnostic assessments and instructional activities for site-level literacy intervention classes.

One of these diagnostic assessments, the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment, was my primary contribution. The test grew out of the Words Their Way® spelling inventories, which indicated a need for different levels of spelling instruction. However, unlike the inventories, we reading specialists and our district teachers wanted teachable data, not just placement test data. Rather than discover that a fourth grader was scoring in the “Within Word” developmental spelling stage, we wanted to know precisely which spelling patterns had and had not been mastered to target instruction for our grade level and reading intervention students, rather than spend inordinate amounts of class time with exploratory word study and word games.

My reading specialist colleagues were ruthless revisers. We argued over many test items, but finally achieved consensus on a comprehensive assessment that mirrored the Open Court phonics program sound-spellings and added the conventional spelling rules which applied to the “Syllable Juncture” and “Derivational” spelling stages of Words Their Way®. We field tested the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment in grades 4-8 and teachers found that this comprehensive assessment provided much more teachable data than did the old spelling inventories.

To compare the more popular Words Their Way® spelling inventories to the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment, I’ve put together a four-minute video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aczs81Jhcz8 to compare test items and determine which assessment provides the most teachable data. I’ve also included the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment (with audio file), recording matrices, and sample spelling worksheets as a free download in case the video convinces you to do so. Just click the link in the YouTube description.

Unfortunately, the Open Court® program, which did such an admirable job with decoding and comprehension had no systematic spelling instruction. As you know, decoding (phonics) is the one side of the words coin and encoding (spelling) is the other. Our spelling scores remained far below our phonics scores. Principals, who tend to always be about test results, demanded spelling curriculum. However, publishers remained reticent to invest monies and resources in outlier states, such as California, because just a few years back at the height of the whole language movement, State Superintendent of Instruction, Bill Honig, refused to adopt spelling workbooks for the state and directed principals to squash direct spelling instruction.

I was tasked by a school principal from the highest performing elementary school (out of 33) in our district to develop curriculum to “get my spelling scores up.” For that entire school year, two days a week, I continued to refine the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment and write targeted spelling pattern worksheets to correspond to each test item. Students benefited from my hyper-focus in the reading intervention class I taught after school and grade-level teachers snatched up my targeted worksheets to use in their classrooms. Yes, our spelling scores shot up through the roof on the spring standardized tests.

Differentiated Spelling Instruction Programs

Differentiated Spelling Instruction

The next year I published (with district permission) my own spelling workbook for reading intervention. Over the next few years, I wrote five grade-level spelling programs (grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8), using the best of the Words Their Way® instructional components (word sorts, book searches, games, etc.), but using a much more efficient deductive approach. Each program retained the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment and the corresponding spelling pattern worksheets, each with a formative assessment, that teachers found so valuable to pinpoint spelling instruction. The result? The Grades 4-8 Differentiated Spelling Instruction programs, designed to help students catch up while they keep up with grade-level spelling instruction.

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Words Their Way® Spelling Inventories v. the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment

Spelling Assessments

Diagnostic Spelling Tests

Teachers who are committed to differentiated and individualized spelling to help students catch up, while they keep up with grade-level instruction believe that spelling assessment should inform their instruction. The relevant question for this presentation is which spelling inventory or assessment provides the most teachable data for grades 4–post secondary students who struggle with spelling.

We’ll take a look at the two most popular spelling diagnostic tests, the Words Their Way® Elementary Spelling Inventory (ESI) and the Upper-Level Spelling Inventory (USI) and compare these to the Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 Differentiated Spelling Instruction Diagnostic Spelling Assessment (DSA).

What’s the Same?

The ESI is designed for kindergarten–sixth grade; the USI is designed for upper elementary, middle school, high school, and post secondary students. The DSA is designed for grades 4–post secondary students. Note that Words Their Way® also provides another spelling inventory which will be excluded from our comparisons: the Primary Spelling Inventory, which is designed for kindergarten–third grade

The ESI, USI, and DSA  tests are administered in the traditional word–example sentence–word format, and the focus spelling appears at the beginning, middle, and end of words. Only the focus spelling is corrected. For example, if the focus spelling is short /o/, the misspelling of the double consonant “gg” would not be marked incorrect for the test item foggy. Thus, “fogy” would be marked correct, but “fuggy” would be marked incorrect. All 3 spelling tests include features analysis on recording matrices. Each of the 3 tests diagnostically points to areas which need spelling remediation and practice for individual students.

What’s Different?

However, the purpose of the ESI and USI inventories differs from that of the DSA. The ESI and USI have been designed to identify which of the 5 Words Their Way® developmental spelling stages matches the spelling competencies of the assessed students. In contrast, the DSA has been designed to identify which specific spelling patterns and conventional spelling rules have and have not yet been mastered by the assessed students.

The test administration differs in that the ESI and USI administrator may stop an individual’s test when the student has missed 8 items in succession because the test is in order of difficulty. Students taking the DSA take the entire allotted amount of test items assigned to each grade level. Note that the DSA includes a recommended audio file for test administration.

Finally, the composition of the ESI and USI differs from that of the DSA. The ESI and USI test sample words for each of the program’s 5 developmental spelling stages. The ESI includes 10 single syllable words and 10 multisyllabic words; the USI includes 6 single syllable words and 19 multisyllabic words. The ESI has 25 test items with 62 measurable features, and the USI has 31 test items with 68 features. Both assessments use some words to assess more than one orthographic feature. For example, the test item,  float, assesses knowledge of the “fl” consonant blend, the “oa” long /o/, and the “t” consonant.

In contrast, the DSA assesses all common spelling patterns introduced in previous grade-level spelling programs and reading. Fourth grade students complete the first 64 test items to assess kindergarten–third grade spelling patterns; Fifth grade students complete 79 test items to assess assess kindergarten–fourth grade spelling patterns and conventional spelling rules; Sixth grade students complete 89 test items to assess assess kindergarten–fifth grade spelling patterns and conventional spelling rules; Seventh grade students complete 98 test items to assess assess kindergarten–sixth grade spelling patterns and conventional spelling rules; and eighth grade, high school, and adult students complete 102 test items to assess assess kindergarten–seventh grade spelling patterns and conventional spelling rules. Unlike the ESI and USI inventories, all test words are multisyllabic to attempt to isolate the sight word variable, and only one spelling feature is assessed per test item.

Which Test Provides the Most Teachable Data?

Now, let’s get down to comparing the specific test items for each of these three spelling tests to determine which test provides the most teachable data to help teachers remediate the spelling deficits of their students. To see all kindergarten–third grade spelling pattern test item comparisons, check out the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aczs81Jhcz8 

Diagnostic Spelling Assessment

Which Test Data Would You Prefer?

Most teachers prefer comprehensive spelling assessment data, rather than sample spelling features. Rather than learning that a child is spelling in the “Within Word” developmental stage, most teachers would prefer knowing which specific “Within Word” spelling patterns have and have not yet been mastered.

In our example chart, both Words Their Way® inventories provide minimal test items for the Silent Final e. To be fair, remember that the purpose of these inventories is to determine students’ developmental spelling stages. These test items in conjunction with other vowels, consonants, blends, and digraphs do accomplish their purpose. However, learning students’ spelling stages does not indicate what students know and what students do not know within those spelling stages. 

For example, the Silent Final e test items on the Words Their Way® inventories only show whether students know the “a_e” and “i_e” spellings. Teachers have no data on the “u_e” long /u/ and long /oo/, “o_e”, “le”, “i_e” as in motive and as in submarine. Students may have mastered some of these spellings, but teachers do not know, so students are forced to study all Silent Final e spelling patterns, as well as all vowel, consonant, blends, and digraphs. Hardly efficient assessment and instruction.

In contrast, because the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment tests all common spelling patterns, teachers will learn which of the 9 Final Silent spellings their students know and do not know (plus all the other common spelling patterns in the “Within Word” stage as demonstrated in the video link above). As a result, teachers can target spelling instruction to what students need and avoid teaching what students already know. Effective spelling instruction need not take up too many instructional minutes. In fact, many teachers have abandoned the Words Their Way® programs because of time constraints.

Additionally, although the Words Their Way® authors claim that their instructional approach is word study, including spelling, syllabication, phonics, writing, and vocabulary, other instructional approaches simply work better and are more efficient.

Differentiated Spelling Instruction Programs

Differentiated Spelling Instruction

Compare the Words Their Way Spelling Inventories and their plethora of word study resources to the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment and the resources in the Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 Differentiated Spelling Instruction. Each of the latter’s full-year spelling programs include weekly grade-level spelling pattern tests and spelling sorts, summative spelling assessments, and remedial spelling worksheets corresponding to each test item on the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment with sorts, rhymes, book searches, jumbles, and a writing application which serves as a formative assessment. Also get supplementary word lists, spelling songs, and spelling review games. These no prep, minimal correction programs take much less class time than Words Their Way® and other programs. Plus, at $29.99 and the 10% discount (enter code 3716 at checkout), every teacher can afford the spelling program designed to help students catch up while they keep up with grade-level spelling standards.

The Differentiated Spelling Instruction programs are easy to teach. We even provide two quick YouTube training videos to ensure your success!

Get the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment, Mastery Matrix, and Sample Lessons FREE Resource:

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Individualized Spelling Patterns Instruction

In this article, teachers will learn how to how to diagnose and remediate the spelling pattern deficits of their individual students to help them “catch up while they keep up” with grade-level spelling instruction. To read my article about how to differentiate and individualize grade-level spelling instruction, click How to Teach Spelling. First, let’s forget what we have heard about older students who are poor spellers:

“Once a bad speller, always a bad speller”; “You can’t teach an old dog new spelling tricks”; “Einstein was a horrible speller”; “Spelling is only an editing skill”; “Now that we have spellcheck, spelling doesn’t matter.”

Reading research demonstrates that your students can learn what they’ve missed while they learn grade-level spelling rules and patterns. But, first you need to determine specifically what your students do and don’t know and how to fill any gaps in their spelling knowledge. Let’s not waste valuable instructional time re-teaching what they already know. Instead, use the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment to pinpoint exactly what they need to learn. I’ll provide a FREE download at the end of the article.

Diagnostic Spelling Assessment

FREE Diagnostic Spelling Assessment

But, wait. Most of the teachers in my school use the Elementary Spelling Inventory found in Words Their Way. Isn’t that just as good?

In a word, “No.” The Elementary Spelling Inventory includes 25 words. The test is designed to indicate which developmental spelling stage each of your students has and has not yet mastered. Laying aside the theory of developmental spelling for our purposes (many notable spelling researchers including Louisa Moats and Richard Gentry dispute this theory), the individual test results only narrow down the spelling deficits to general stages. Knowing a student’s developmental spelling stage does not tell the teacher what to teach and what not to teach within that spelling stage.

In contrast, the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment provides that specificity. Reference the graphic to see examples of how much more teachable data is provided by the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment than that provided by the Elementary Spelling Inventory.

Yes, the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment takes a bit longer to administer and correct, because it tests all of the common spelling patterns. However, the included audio file makes administration simple. Total test administration time is less than 25 minutes.

  • Grade 8 students complete words #s 1–102 to assess all kindergarten–seventh grade common spelling patterns. 
  • Grade 7 students complete words #s 1–98 to assess all kindergarten–sixth grade common spelling patterns. 
  • Grade 6 students complete words #s 1–89 to assess all kindergarten–fifth grade common spelling patterns. 
  • Grade 5 students complete words #s 1–79 to assess all kindergarten–fourth grade common spelling patterns. 
  • Grade 4 students complete words #s 1–64 to assess all kindergarten–third grade common spelling patterns. 

The Diagnostic Spelling Assessment uses multisyllabic words to isolate the variable of sight word knowledge. The test is ordered according to the research-based instructional phonics sequences of instruction. After all, encoding (spelling) is the opposite side of the same coin as decoding (reading). Spelling and reading are mutually dependent and research is clear that good spellers and good readers tend to be good writers (Adams, 2011; Gentry & Graham, 2010; Moats, 2005; Reed, 2012).

How to Administer the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment

Preparation

Pass out binder paper and pencils. Model how to number the test items on the board and tell students to number accordingly.

Administration

I recommend using the audio file, which includes the test directions, spelling words, and example sentences. The test pacing is exactly timed to ensure proper and controlled testing. Additionally, make-up tests for absent or newly enrolled students is a simple task with the audio file.

However, some teachers prefer to read the directions and dictate the words and example sentences themselves.

Introduce the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment to students. Say—

“This is a test to see if you can accurately spell the words I say out loud. I will first say the spelling word; then repeat it; then use it in a sentence; and then repeat the spelling word once more. Listen carefully because I won’t repeat the words after the test is finished. Please print the spelling words.”

Don’t elongate the vowel or consonant sounds to emphasize spellings. Keep a consistent pace of about seven seconds per test item. Any longer and students will lose their place or begin daydreaming. Since this is a long test, teachers may elect to take a short stretch break in the middle of the test administration.

Grading

Grade the assessment, marking only the specified sound-spelling pattern for each word.  In other words don’t mark the word wrong because of other spelling errors in the word. For example, if the sound-spelling pattern is Long /a/ “__ay” and the word is “payment,” the student spelling of “paiment” would be wrong, but “paymunt” would be right. This selective grading isolates the sound-spelling pattern problem areas for each student. I’ve found that instructional aides and parents are quite capable of accurately grading and recording the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment with minimal training.

Recording

The teacher, instructional aide, or parent charts the individual skills that your students have not yet mastered on the mastery matrices. Yes, these recording matrices are provided in your FREE download. Record a slash (/) for un-mastered skills, and leave the box blank for mastered skills. Make two copies of the matrices: one for student reference and one for teacher reference.

Post one set of the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment Mastery Matrices on a wall at the rear of the classroom for student reference. Note that teachers may choose to list students by identification number rather than by name on these matrices. Keep the teacher copy in a binder at your desk.

How to Remediate Spelling Pattern Deficits through Individualized Instruction

Each of the spelling test words corresponds to the Spelling Patterns Worksheets. Count and total the slashes (/) for each of the spelling patterns on the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment Mastery Matrices to determine how many of each Spelling Pattern Worksheets you will need to copy. Copy these worksheets and group them in separate numbered  file folders.

The Spelling Pattern Worksheets are designed to help students master the previous grade-level Common Core Language Spelling Standards. Each worksheet lists the sound-spelling pattern focus, example words, a spelling sort, a rhyme or word search activity, word jumbles, a short writing application, and a sentence dictation formative assessment. Students progress at their own rates to master previous grade-level spelling patterns. Yes, sample Spelling Pattern Worksheets are included in your FREE download.

Let’s look at the individual instructional components. The format of the Spelling Patterns Worksheets is intentionally similar to promote independent student work. The spelling pattern  is listed first and connects the sound to the spelling. For example, Spelling Pattern Worksheet #47 (numbers vary per program) lists: oo Sound as in woodpecker “_u_” and provides the FOCUS: The oo sound heard in woodpecker can b spelled “_u_” as in put. Notice that blanks are included in the spelling pattern. Each represents a missing sound-spelling. In this case, the “_u_” spelling is missing both beginning and ending consonant sounds. No syllable can be written as a consonant–u (oo sound). No syllable can be written as a u (oo sound)–consonant. Both consonants must be included to write a syllable. For example, put could be written as put to show the spelling pattern.

The next instructional component is the SORT section. Students use pronunciation, analogous spelling patterns, and the spelling marks and blanks to categorize the spelling pattern words. Notice how the Spelling Pattern Worksheet #47 sort provides the key components of the /ion/ spelling rule. Students are told the rule up front and apply the rule with the spelling variations. Unlike “other discovery sorts” in which the spelling rule must be learned inductively, don’t leave your students guessing! Teach and apply the explicit rule. Here a teacher might opt to have the student(s) listen to, practice, and memorize the /ion/ spelling rule with a little help from the “Ending /ion/ Rule” spelling song. The author’s grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 Differentiated Spelling Instruction programs include conventional spelling rule songs and raps.

Students also complete a RHYME or BOOK SEARCH activity. For spelling patterns conducive to rhyming, such as the “aw” spelling pattern, four rhyming words which apply the /aw/ spelling are provided. For other non-rhyming spelling patterns, students use their sustained silent reading book or a class novel to write example words which use the focus spelling pattern with their corresponding page numbers.

Additionally, students complete four JUMBLE words, which include the focus spelling patterns. Students quickly discover that using the spelling pattern clues helps them unravel the jumbled words A multisyllabic Bonus JUMBLE is included. For example, in Spelling Worksheet #48, knowing the “al” spelling pattern helps students identify also; the “awl” spelling patterns helps identify drawl; the “aw” helps with pawn; and also helps with the Bonus jawbone.

Finally, the WRITE section requires students to apply the spelling patterns to additional words, not listed on the Spelling Pattern Worksheet. This spelling pattern application serves as the formative assessment to determine whether students have or have not yet mastered the individual spelling pattern.

Correction and Formative Assessment

After completing a Spelling Pattern Worksheet, the student self-corrects and self-edits with a different color pen or pencil from one of the Spelling Patterns Worksheets Answer Binders. I suggest making several of these binders and storing them in different parts of the classroom for student access. Tell students that they receive the same credit for completing a worksheet with errors and different color revisions with the correct answers as they do for completing a worksheet without errors. It’s the practice that’s important. This procedure eliminates the incentive to cheat. Note that no answers are provided for the WRITE formative assessment.

When finished correcting the worksheet, the student comes up to the teacher’s desk to mini-conference. If the student has self-corrected and self-edited the practice section and “passed” the WRITE formative assessment, change the slash (/) into an “X” for mastery on the appropriate box on the mastery matrix and record an A on the student’s worksheet. Convert the A to points, if you use a point system for grading. For example, 10 points for an A. Note that the teacher determines the level of mastery for each WRITE formative assessment.

If the student has not yet mastered the spelling pattern or patterns, you have two instructional options:

1. If the student understands the spelling pattern after the mini-conference, direct the student to re-do the WRITE formative assessment and return for re-correction.

2. Record a a instead of an A and direct the student to move on to the next worksheet. The student will have the chance to re-do the worksheet after completing the rest of their assigned worksheets. Award half-credit, say 5 points, for a .

Here are a few Helpful Hints to ensure instructional success. 

Tell students to begin with the lower numbered Spelling Pattern Worksheets and to complete only those worksheets indicated by slashes (/). Tell them that they won’t receive credit for completing worksheets without slashes because they have already mastered those spelling patterns.

After a student has mastered a Spelling Pattern Worksheet, direct him or her to change the slash (/) into an X for mastery on the appropriate box on the matrix. Using pencil of course. Filling in the X gives students a sense of accomplishment and motivates students to complete additional work. Don’t forget to mark the X in your teacher binder, as well.

Set an expectation as to how many Spelling Pattern Worksheets must be completed per week. Teachers may choose to have students and/or parents set specific goals. Monitor student progress and adjust expectations as needed. Worksheets may be completed in class or for homework.

Maintain a productive work environment by managing time. Limit the mini-conference to no more than 30 seconds. The focus should be on the WRITE formative assessment, not the rest of the worksheet. Also, manage crowd control by limiting the length of your mini-conference line to three students. Waiting students can sign up for their places in line on the board and then work on their next worksheet until their turn arrives to conference. Finally, establish group norms regarding talking, helping peers, and work ethic.

Want to see how to use the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment and Spelling Pattern Worksheets? Check out this four-minute video!

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Differentiated Spelling Instruction

Grades 4-8 Spelling Programs

Differentiated Spelling Instruction is a complete grade level spelling program built upon conventional spelling rules and developmental spelling patterns. Five programs are available: Grade 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. This digital download (eBook) 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.

Plus, get the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment and the targeted spelling pattern worksheets you need to remediate previous grade level spelling deficits for all your students. Now that’s effective differentiated and individualized instruction! Your students can catch up, while they keep up with grade level spelling instruction. You’ll also appreciate the helpful resources in the appendix, including how to study spelling tips, spelling proofreading, word lists, spelling rule memory songs (Mp3s), and spelling review games.

The program is easy to teach. We even provide two quick YouTube training videos to ensure your success!

Get the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment, Mastery Matrix, and Sample Lessons FREE Resource:

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The Problem with Words Their Way®

Alternatives to Words Their Way

The Problem with Words Their Way

Back in the late 1990s, I served as an elementary reading specialist in a large Northern California school district. Our cadre of 21 reading specialists were in-serviced on new word study program, Words Their Way®. Dr. Shane Templeton, one of the authors, trained us for four days. Two of Dr. Templeton’s training components, the Qualitative Spelling Inventory (developed by colleague and fellow author, Dr. Donald Bear) and the developmental patterns of spelling, were novel approaches to word study. By the end of the fourth day, we reading specialists had bought in hook, line, and sinker to the Words Their Way® program. Our 50,000-student district adopted the Qualitative Spelling Inventory as our K−6 diagnostic spelling assessment, and teachers used the test results to both place students in reading programs and differentiate instruction within the classroom.

The elementary school to which I was assigned was over 1,000 students and drew from lower to middle income, ethnically and language diverse neighborhoods. Our supportive principal purchased each staff member a copy of Words Their Way®. I was allotted 10 two-hour staff developments, and we dug into teaching the program to our students.

By the end of two years, here’s what we teachers found: The Qualitative Spelling Inventory (now in three iterations: the Primary, Elementary, and Upper Elementary) was a reliable placement assessment, alongside of our phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and writing sample assessments. Certainly, spelling ability is one key indicator of reading ability as recent studies have demonstrated (Adams, 2011; Gentry & Graham, 2010; Moats, 2005; Reed, 2012). However, the assessment gave only general information as to which developmental spelling stages matched our students’ spelling mastery. Diagnostic assessments, based upon random samples, which produce only general student data are problematic for teachers in the trenches. Teachers want comprehensive diagnostic assessments which pinpoint specific deficits. In other words, teachers want teachable data. The Words Their Way inventories narrowed down the deficits, but were rather useless, according to my elementary school teachers, in terms of targeting differentiated instruction.

After the first year of training and implementation of Words Their Way® in my elementary school, only half of the teachers decided to continue the program for the next school year. By the end of the second year, only a handful continued use of the program. It just wasn’t their concerns about the utility of the spelling inventory; teachers found other problems with the program:

  1. The Words Their Way® program requires inordinate amounts of teacher prep and class time to implement with fidelity.
  2. The results from both standardized tests and teacher observations did not see the expected spelling improvement (nor reading and vocabulary improvement). That improvement did come two years later with the district’s adoption of the Open Court phonics program, albeit without a district-wide adoption of a spelling curriculum.
  3. Teachers began to see the Words Their Way® word sorts as only one means of spelling practice and wanted to use other spelling instructional strategies. Additionally, primary teachers, especially, questioned the accuracy the development stages. Their students and their spelling-reading instruction did not perfectly conform to and match each neatly described spelling stage. Intermediate and upper grades teachers found The Derivational Relations Stage to be an unwieldy creature to teach and did not see the pay-off for investing so much prep and instructional time in the program. As usual, teachers can be quite prescient when evaluating the application of theory into practice. Twenty years later, noted spelling researcher, J. Richard Gentry, PHD, echoed their concerns in his article, “Why America Can’t Read,”

Words Their Way is a guidebook for studying words; it is not a spelling curriculum. The original preface describes it purpose:  “…Ordered in this developmental format, Words Their Way complements the use of any existing phonics, spelling, and vocabulary curricula.”

Dr. Gentry cites what he views to be the theoretical flaw in the Words Their Way® program:

In Chapter 1 of Words Their Way® (2016 edition) we learn the theoretical basis for this method of word study: “Developmental spelling researchers have examined the three layers of English orthography in relation to developmental progressions from alphabet to pattern to meaning.” (Bear, et al, 2000, p.5.) As a developmental spelling researcher, I beg to disagree. There is no developmental progression in the child’s brain when constructing word knowledge that proceeds over time from alphabet to pattern to meaning. Word knowledge of alphabet, pattern, and meaning are being constructed at every stage of spelling development (Gentry, 2000).

More importantly, spelling development does not continue to develop in phases or stages beyond a ceiling which usually happens near the end of first grade if kids are developmentally on track. I pointed this out in The Reading Teacher in a refereed journal article about sixteen years ago (Gentry, 2000).

Let me be specific. There is no developmental stage for Ages 10+ in Grades 5 to 12 called “The Derivational Relations Stage” as claimed in all editions of WTW. In fact, as spelling researcher Louisa Moats points out, Derivational Relations begins in first grade: Words in a first grade spelling curriculum are Anglo-Saxon regular consonant and vowel phone-grapheme correspondences along with words such as goatwifemotherlove, and house. They all have an alphabet layer, an Anglo-Saxon pattern, and a meaning layer. In fact, derivational constancy is so dominant in English at early levels that the 100 most frequently used words in English—the ones teachers should teach in first grade—can all be traced back to Anglo-Saxon origins. This debunks Word’s Their Way’s “alphabet, pattern, and meaning” stage theory which suggests that clusters of error types develop later in brain development.

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So, how did these teachers continue to teach spelling without using Words Their Way®? We applied the best elements of WTW instruction: diagnosis, spelling patterns (not whole word) instructional focus, spelling sorts (albeit, not the time-consuming WTW exploratory sorts) based upon spelling patterns, differentiated instruction (individualization, if you prefer) based upon diagnostic assessment in a weekly instructional plan that was effective and efficient, yet required no prep, only minimal correction, and minimal amounts of valuable class time.

Weekly Instructional Plan

  1. Weekly spelling pattern pretest of grade-level spelling patterns
  2. Spelling pattern sort
  3. Personalized spelling lists
  4. Differentiated spelling patterns practice based upon results of diagnostic assessment
  5. Paired posttests of the personalized spelling lists

Differentiated Spelling Instruction Programs

Differentiated Spelling Instruction

Teachers bought into this Weekly Spelling Plan, but needed the resources that Words Their Way® did not provide. So, over the years I developed five grade-level spelling programs (4, 5, 6, 7, and 8) to help implement the Weekly Instructional Plan for grade-level, differentiated spelling instruction. I also developed a comprehensive diagnostic spelling assessment with targeted spelling pattern worksheets (each with formative assessments) to correspond to each of the 102 spelling patterns included on the comprehensive Diagnostic Spelling Assessment.* Check out my Differentiated Spelling Instruction, my Spelling Literacy Centers, or my Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary BUNDLES.

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*FREE as promised…

Fall 2020 Update: I recently created an audio version and Google forms self-correcting version of the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment to make life easier for teachers (especially for distance learning, make-ups, and for new students). The links to the paper, audio, and Google forms assessment formats, as well as recording matrices (paper and Google sheets) are available without cost in each of the product descriptions linked above. Additionally, make sure to preview the programs and print the free samples.

Alternatives to Words Their Way

The Problem with Words Their Way

Interested in side by side comparisons of the Words Their Way® spelling inventories and the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment? See all kindergarten–third grade spelling pattern test item comparisons in this four-minute video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aczs81Jhcz8

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Spelling Word Lists by Grade Levels

As an MA Reading Specialist and author of quite a few spelling curricula (eight at last count), I’m often asked about spelling word lists by grade levels. Which words are right for which grade levels? Is blank (substitute any word) a third or fourth grade word? Which spelling words are the most important ones to practice?

We Americans are fixated with lists.  Lists influence big money. For example, universities invest millions of dollars to adjust staffing, course offerings, and campus improvements to better their annual U.S. News and World Report rankings.

We American are also fixated with grades. We sort and categorize anything of value by grade. From diamonds to education, we esteem these divisions even when the placement criteria overlap or have dubious or arbitrary merit. In education, we divide our new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) into grade levels, although many standards are simply repeated in each grade level. See the CCSS spelling standards in the Language Strand as a prime example.

Of course, educational publishers promote and encourage our list and grade fixations. Lists and grade levels, such as with spelling instruction, sell more books. For example, no publishers in their right minds would offer a one-volume comprehensive spelling program, when separate grade level programs with separate spelling lists would sell more. Publishers of spelling curricula have been doing the latter for years. A brief history is illuminating:

American English Spelling Word Lists by Grade Levels

As early as 1783, Noah Webster published his first edition of what became widely known as The Blue-backed Speller. He began “with the alphabet and moving systematically through the different sounds of vowels and consonants, then syllables, then simple words, then more complex words, then sentences.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noah_Webster His grade level lists were used by teachers in multi-grade, one-room school houses and these divisions were further solidified with spelling bees. Webster’s 1806 dictionary sold poorly but served as the foundation for subsequent dictionaries bearing the Webster name.

By the 1840s, Webster had lost market share to the works of William Holmes McGuffey. McGuffey’s 1836 publication of his Eclectic Reader became wildly popular and McGuffey spun off his success with his 1846 Eclectic Spelling Book. McGuffey set out to standardize American spellings along the lines of Noah Webster’s 1806 dictionary and used Webster’s diacritical marks, as well as his “orthography, pronunciation, and syllabication (Preface).” Interestingly, McGuffey keyed his early spelling lists to the alphabet and not to the sound-spelling system. For example, his alphabet card for W has a picture of a wren and the spelling wren. Of course, the wr_ has the /r/, not the /w/. His lists are organized along the same lines.  Lesson 16 is titled “The Various Sounds of U” and has 44 words which include short /u/, long /u/, r-controlled /ur/, and others.

So, grade level spelling programs and word lists have been around for all of U.S. history. Educational movements to the contrary have proven to be short-lived. California removed grade level spelling books from its state adoption lists at the height of the whole-language movement in the 1980s. Principals were instructed by school district personnel to direct teachers not to use grade level spelling workbooks, and in some documented cases principals were even told to confiscate grade level spelling programs. More eclectic approaches such as Rebecca Sitton’s No Excuse Spelling Words program (more lists) replaced the grade level spelling programs. However, with the return to phonics-based instruction in the 1990s, grade level spelling programs and word lists returned.

Spelling Word Lists by Grade Levels: What Makes Sense

Ideally, spelling instruction would be tailored to individual student needs. However, our “factory system” of American education, which divides students into grade level instruction by age with accompanying grade-level standards is not likely to change.

Accepting this reality, it does make sense to establish a scope and sequence based upon research-based spelling patterns. Although there are no “set in stone” fourth grade words or fourth grade spelling patterns, there are spelling patterns that build upon previously mastered spelling patterns. The developmental nature of spelling has been well-established in orthographic research. Additionally, there is simply no doubt that good spelling instruction dovetails with good vocabulary instruction. As the reading-spelling connection is well-established for the primary grades, so is the vocabulary-spelling connection thereafter.

Of course, most grade level spelling programs and word lists are predicated upon the specious notion that spelling instruction equals spelling learning. Teach it and move on. Or add on a simplistic review before moving on. No attention is paid to whether the spelling patterns have actually been mastered or not. However, a spelling-vocabulary program for intermediate and upper elementary, as well as middle school students based upon diagnostic, formative, and summative assessments is certainly possible. A spelling-vocabulary program of “grade-level” spelling patterns and word lists organized in a meaningful instructional scope and sequence combined with individualized remediation of previous foundational spelling patterns is certainly possible.

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Grammar, 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 lessons. The lessons also 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, 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 PREVIEW THE TEACHER’S GUIDE AND STUDENT WORKBOOK  to see samples of these comprehensive instructional components.

The author also provides these curricular “slices” of the Grammar, 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 grades 4−high school Teaching Grammar and Mechanics.

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Free Instructional Spelling Resources

Pennington Publishing's Differentiated Spelling Instruction

Differentiated Spelling Instruction Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8

Despite having spelling instruction relegated to a mere editing skill tagged onto the end of the Writing Process by some writing “gurus,” good teachers continue to teach spelling through direct and differentiated instruction. Recent reading and writing research have reinforced the need to teach the structural components of words. Word analysis promotes spelling accuracy, correct pronunciation, and vocabulary development.

Spelling instruction is not solely the responsibility of primary elementary teachers. Intermediate, middle, and high school teachers need to both remediate spelling deficiencies and teach advanced spelling skills to their students. After learning the sound-spelling relationships, advanced spelling skills are acquired by learning and practicing the advanced spelling rules, syllabication and accent rules, and language derivations.

Following are articles, free resources (including reading assessments), and teaching tips regarding how to differentiate spelling instruction in the intermediate, middle, and high school from the Pennington Publishing Blog. Bookmark and visit us often. Also, check out the quality instructional programs and resources offered by Pennington Publishing.

Spelling

Spelling Scope and Sequence

https://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/spelling_vocabulary/spelling-scope-and-sequence/ 

Educators who once thought that spelling word check would solve students’ spelling and writing issues are squarely facing the fact that they do have a responsibility to teach spelling patterns. A spelling program with a comprehensive instructional scope and sequence, aligned to the Common Core Language Standards, College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards, and/or State Standards provides a well-defined instructional order. Check out the Common Core aligned grades 4-8 spelling scope and sequence of spelling patterns instruction.

Research-Based Spelling Worksheets

https://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/grammar_mechanics/research-based-spelling-worksheets/

Of course spelling, grammar, usage, mechanics, and vocabulary scores plummeted during the late 1980s and early 1990s, sparking yet another “Back to Basics” movement. Mom had warned her son about the cyclical nature of educational movements and philosophies. The educational research provides insight as to what makes a spelling worksheet an effective instructional strategy for knowledge and/or skills acquisition.

Spelling Diagnostic Assessment

https://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/reading/how-to-teach-spelling-part-i/

This diagnostic assessment tests all of the important vowel sound-spellings that students should have mastered (but frequently have not) as foundations to conventional English spelling. Included is a convenient recording matrix for the teacher to plan differentiated instruction to remediate unmastered spelling patterns.

Middle School Spelling

Middle School Spelling

Six Simple Steps to Teach Spelling

https://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/spelling_vocabulary/six-simple-steps-to-teaching-spelling/

Most 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.

30 Spelling Questions, Answers and Resources

https://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/reading/30-spelling-questions-answers-and-resources/

In the midst of the 1980s whole language movement, California State Superintendent of Schools Bill Honig strongly encouraged principals to confiscate spelling workbooks from their teachers. Even today, spelling instruction remains a contentious topic. No other literacy skill seems to run the complete gamut of instructional implementation from emphasis to de-emphasis. The article includes the 30 spelling questions, answers, and resources to help teachers get a handle on what does and what does not work in spelling instruction.

Spelling Assessment Questions and Answers

https://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/spelling_vocabulary/spelling-assessment-questions-and-answers/

That said, as an author of numerous spelling programs and an often-used Diagnostic Spelling Assessment, I get two questions quite frequently: 1. Does a diagnostic spelling assessment make sense? and 2. How can we use the weekly pretest as a diagnostic assessment? But I’ll let teachers ask those questions in their own words…

How to Evaluate Spelling Programs

https://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/spelling_vocabulary/how-to-evaluate-spelling-programs/

With increasing attention on following Response to Intervention (RTI) guidelines, it makes sense to follow the criteria that orthographic research has established for quality spelling programs.

Ten Components of a Successful Spelling Program

https://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/spelling_vocabulary/ten-components-of-a-successful-spelling-program/

Teachers truly want to differentiate spelling instruction, but the materials, testing, instruction, and management can prove overwhelming to even the most conscientious professional. Using this Spelling Program Checklist can help teachers re-focus  to improve their spelling instruction.

How to Differentiate Spelling Instruction

https://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/spelling_vocabulary/how-to-differentiate-spelling-and-vocabulary-instruction/

It makes sense to teach spelling and vocabulary together. Simply put, one affects the other. However, not all of our students are at the same levels of spelling and vocabulary mastery. So, how can an informed teacher (that is you) differentiate spelling and vocabulary instruction in an efficient manner?

Common Core Spelling Standards

https://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/spelling_vocabulary/common-core-spelling-standards/

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in English Language Arts provide instructional challenges for all conscientious upper elementary and middle school teachers. In addition to the Reading, Writing, Speaking & Listening Strands, teachers are expected to teach the grammar, mechanics, language application, spelling, and vocabulary Standards of the CCSS Language Strand (Standards L. 1-6). When establishing instructional priorities to address these Standards, many teachers have placed spelling (Standard L. 2) on the back-burner.

The  “able” Spelling Rule

https://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/spelling_vocabulary/2840/

The “able” suffix spelling is often misspelled, even by very accomplished spellers. Here are the applicable spelling rules for the “able” suffix.

The Vulgar “a” Spelling

https://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/spelling_vocabulary/the-vulgar-a-spelling/

This lesson on the vulgar “a” includes definitions, examples, writing hints, practice, a formative assessment, writing application, and related CCSS standards.

Visual Spelling Strategies

https://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/spelling_vocabulary/visual-spelling-strategies/

Spelling is primarily an auditory skill; however, when used as an appropriate instructional component of a comprehensive spelling program, visual spelling strategies, such as these “picture spellings” can make sense.

Why Spelling Is So Difficult

https://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/spelling_vocabulary/why-spelling-is-so-difficult/

This article explains why the English Spelling System is so difficult to master. Seven suggestions give hope to even the most challenged speller to improve his or her spelling.

Top Twelve Spelling Trends and Fads

https://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/spelling_vocabulary/spelling-instructional-trends-and-fads/

A dozen of the most popular instructional spelling trends and fads over the last thirty years are described and rated as “TRUE” or “FALSE,” in terms of recent spelling research. Get ready to be challenged, and perhaps redirected in how you teach spelling.

Diagnostic Spelling Assessments

https://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=885&action=edit

In this series on How to Teach Spelling, this first post discusses and provides teaching resources for diagnostic spelling tests.

English Sound-Spellings

https://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/reading/how-to-teach-spelling-part-ii/

In this series on How to Teach Spelling, this second post discusses and provides teaching resources for teaching the sound-spelling system. The sound-spelling system is the foundation of conventional spelling.

Spelling Rules

https://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/spelling_vocabulary/how-to-teach-spelling-part-iii/

In this series on How to Teach Spelling, this third post discusses and provides teaching resources for teaching the eight conventional spelling rules. These eight rules go beyond the sound-spelling system to lead students to conventional spelling mastery.

The Plurals Spelling Rule

https://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/grammar_mechanics/the-plurals-spelling-rule/

The Plurals Spelling Rule Spelling Rule is one of the most consistent and useful spelling rules.

The Ending “ion” Spelling Rule

https://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/grammar_mechanics/the-ending-“ion”-spelling-rule/

The Ending “ion” Spelling Rule Spelling Rule is one of the most consistent and useful spelling rules.

The “able” or “ible” Spelling Rule

https://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/grammar_mechanics/the-“able”-or-“ible”-spelling-rule/

The “able” or “ible” Spelling Rule is one of the most consistent and useful spelling rules. Find other spelling rules, tests, and songs or raps in Pennington Publishing’s Teaching Spelling and Vocabulary.

The Ending “an” or “en” Spelling Rule

https://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/grammar_mechanics/the-ending-“an”-or-“en”-spelling-rule/

The Ending “an” or “en” Spelling Rule is one of the most consistent and useful spelling rules.

The Double the Consonant Spelling Rule

https://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/grammar_mechanics/the-double-the-consonant-spelling-rule/

The Double the Consonant Spelling Rule is one of the most consistent and useful spelling rules.

The Silent e Spelling Rule

https://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/grammar_mechanics/the-silent-e-spelling-rule/

The Silent Final e Spelling Rule is one of the most consistent and useful spelling rules.

The Final y Spelling Rule

https://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/grammar_mechanics/the-final-y-spelling-rule/

The Final y Spelling Rule is one of the most consistent and useful spelling rules.

The i before e Spelling Rule

https://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/grammar_mechanics/the-i-before-e-spelling-rule/

Although only 50% of English spellings conform to a predictable sound-spelling relationship, applying The i before e Spelling Rule will significantly increase spelling accuracy.

Spelling Lists and Tests

https://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/spelling_vocabulary/how-to-teach-spelling-part-iv/

Teachers who are serious about effective spelling instruction use the spelling pre-test as a diagnostic assessment to differentiate instruction. In this article, teachers will learn how to supplement the spelling pre-test with useful free hyperlinked resources.

Effective Spelling Practice

https://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/spelling_vocabulary/how-to-teach-spelling-part-v/

Effective spelling practice is not exclusively memorization. Good spelling practice connects to language development, vocabulary, structural analysis, auditory processing, and writing. Learn how to practice spelling effectively.

Vowel Team Spelling Games

https://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/spelling_vocabulary/vowel-team-spelling-games/

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. These three spelling games will help your remedial spellers both recognize and practice these vowel team spellings.

More Articles, Free Resources, and Teaching Tips from the Pennington Publishing Blog

English-Language Arts and Reading Intervention Articles and Resources 

Bookmark and check back often for new articles and free ELA/reading resources from Pennington Publishing.

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Pennington Publishing’s mission is to provide the finest in assessment-based ELA and reading intervention resources for grades 4‒high school teachers. Mark Pennington is the author of two Standards-aligned programs: Teaching Essay Strategies and Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)Mark’s comprehensive Teaching Reading Strategies and the accompanying Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books help struggling readers significantly improve their reading skills in a full-year or half-year intensive reading intervention program. Make sure to check out Pennington Publishing’s free ELA and reading assessments to help you pinpoint grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and reading deficits.

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Spelling Lists and Tests

The there, their, and they're Words

there, their, and they’re

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.

Reflection

□ 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.

Rationale

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.

Spelling Resources

Five Steps to Differentiating Spelling-Vocabulary Instruction: The Five Ps

1. Prepare

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.

2. Pretest

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.

3. Personalize

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:

Vowel Sound-Spelling Patterns (for primary or remedial spellers), Outlaw Words (non-phonetic words), Dolch High Frequency Words, Commonly Confused Words, and the Eight Conventional Spelling Rules.

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.

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A Model Grades 4-8 Spelling Scope and Sequence

Differentiated Spelling Instruction Grades 4-8

Differentiated Spelling Instruction

Preview the Grades 4-8 Spelling Scope and Sequence tied to the author’s comprehensive grades 4-8 Language Strand programs. The instructional scope and sequence includes grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary. Teachers and district personnel are authorized to print and share this planning tool, with proper credit and/or citation. Why reinvent the wheel? Also check out my articles on Grammar Scope and Sequence, Mechanics Scope and Sequence, and Vocabulary Scope and Sequence.

FREE DOWNLOAD TO ASSESS THE QUALITY OF PENNINGTON PUBLISHING SPELLING RESOURCES. 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, Mastery Matrix, and Sample Lessons FREE Resource:

Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary Programs

Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has compiled the assessment-based Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)  BUNDLES to teach each of the Common Core Language Strand Standards. The full-year grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 programs provide 56 interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics worksheets and includes 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.

The program 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 author’s program.

Grammar/Mechanics, Literacy Centers, Spelling/Vocabulary, Study Skills , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Final e Spelling Rule

The silent final at the end of a syllable is a holdover from Middle English. It sometimes serves three purposes.

  1. For one, it usually indicates that the preceding vowel will be a long sound if a single consonant, but not a double consonant, is placed between the vowel and the e. Examples: stove, gazelle
  2. It also ends English words ending in and Examples: pave, argue
  3. Lastly, the final softens the preceding /c/ and /g/ sounds. Examples: nice, cage

    Silent Final e Phonics

    Silent Final e Sound-Spellings

Yes, there are plenty of exceptions which must be memorized. Most of the exceptions are high frequency words. In fact the top 100 non-phonetic words, in terms of frequency, include 8 of them: were, where, there, some, come, gone, sure, lose

However, the single syllable silent final words are not the spelling problem for most students. It’s the multi-syllabic words in which as suffix is added on the ending silent final e that creates the spelling challenges, so that’s what the following spelling rule addresses.

Final Silent e Spelling Rule

Final e Spelling Rule

The Final e Spelling Rule

Drop the e (have-having) at the end of a syllable if the ending begins with a vowel. Keep the e (close-closely) when the ending begins with a consonant, has a soft /c/ or /g/ sound, then an “able” or “ous” (peaceable, courageous), or if it ends in “ee”, “oe”, or “ye” (freedom, canoeing, eyeing).

Exceptions to the rule: acknowledgment, acreage, argument, awful, duly, judgment, mileage, ninth, noticeable, outrageous, simply, truly, wisdom

Check out the Chant! The Final e Spelling Rule

Final e Memory Chant

Drop the final e

When adding on an ending

If it starts with a vowel up front.

Keep the final e

When adding on an ending

If it starts with a consonant.

Also keep the e

When you hear soft c or g

Before “able” or “o-u-s”

Mostly keep the e

When the ending is “y-e”,

“e-e”, or even “o-e”. YEO!

The Pennington Publishing Goldmine of Spelling Program FREEBIES

Want a concise list of all eight conventional spelling rules with corresponding songs? Click HERE.

Want a list of the 10 English Accent Rules to help you teach the conventional spelling rules? Click HERE.

Want a list of the 20 Advanced Syllable Rules to help you teach the conventional spelling rules? Click HERE.

Want the 104-word Diagnostic Spelling Assessment with audio file and recording matrix? Click HERE and download at the end of the article.

One great way to practice the rule is with worksheets targeted to the results of the Diagnostic Spelling Assessment. Download the FREE Double the Consonant Spelling Pattern Worksheets at the end of this article to help you check out the quality of Our Pennington Publishing spelling programs. Each worksheet sound-spelling example words, a spelling sort, rhymes or book searches, word jumbles, a short writing application, and a brief formative dictations assessment.

Why waste your time downloading each of these? Buy the grades 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8 Differentiated Spelling Instruction and get everything you need to have the best grade-level and remedial spelling program.

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Differentiated Spelling Instruction Grades 4-8

Differentiated Spelling Instruction

I’m Mark Pennington, author of the full-year Differentiated Spelling Instruction programs for grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. The grade-level programs include weekly tests, based upon conventional spelling rules and developmental spelling patterns, weekly spelling sorts, review games, and audio links to catchy spelling songs. Additionally, the comprehensive diagnostic spelling assessment (audio file included) tests spelling patterns from previous grade levels, and the corresponding worksheets allow you to pinpoint instruction according to individual needs. Each worksheet includes a formative assessment to help you determine whether students have mastered the spelling instruction. The program is simple to implement and doesn’t take up too many valuable instructional minutes. You do have other subjects to teach!

Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)

Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 Programs

Or why not get the value-priced Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 BUNDLES? These grade-level programs include both teacher’s guide and student workbooks and are designed to help you teach all the Common Core Anchor Standards for Language. In addition to the Teaching Grammar and Mechanics program, each BUNDLE provides 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 the grammar, mechanics, and vocabulary components.

The program 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.

Check out the brief introductory video and enter DISCOUNT CODE 3716 at check-out for 10% off this value-priced program. We do sell print versions of the teacher’s guide and student workbooks. Contact mark@penningtonpublishing.com for pricing. Read what teachers are saying about this comprehensive program:

The most comprehensive and easy to teach grammar, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary program. I’m teaching all of the grade-level standards and remediating previous grade-level standards. The no-prep and minimal correction design of this program really respects a teacher’s time. At last, I’m teaching an integrated program–not a hodge-podge collection of DOL grammar, spelling and vocabulary lists, and assorted worksheets. I see measurable progress with both my grade-level and intervention students. BTW… I love the scripted lessons!

─Julie Villenueve

Get the Silent e Spelling Pattern Worksheets FREE Resource:

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