August 30, 2014

Spelling: 2 Step Back to School Assessment for Learning Strategy

It's back to school and time to implement an assessment for learning strategy to support your spelling program in Grades 4-8.  Over the past several years, the teaching profession has moved away from weekly spelling dictations and spelling lists.  More and more teachers are striving to gather authentic spelling words from children's writing to make spelling more meaningful for learners.  The challenge teachers encounter is how to gather these words in an easy and efficient fashion. The 2 step spelling strategy below allows for easy gathering of spelling words straight from children's writing.

Step 1: Underline misspelled words.  During the first week of school (or anytime throughout the year) ask children to quickly underline words they are unsure of spelling correctly as they draft their writing.  Children will do this for every draft they write, no exceptions. 

Explain that when a writer is drafting, he/she will want to use words they may not be able to spell.  When writers get nervous about their spelling, rather than using the best vocabulary they know, they revert back to using simpler words because they know how to spell them.  This results in less effective writing.  Underlining misspelled words while drafting (not after the draft has been completed) allows children to use the most effective vocabulary they know while writing. 

When writers are unsure of spelling, they automatically pause to think about how to spell the word.  This mental and physical pause is a child's cue to spell the word the way they think it should be spelled, then underline the word before continuing to write.  Underlining should be quick and without fuss (no rulers required) to allow the child to continue writing without losing their train of thought.

We underline words during drafting for the following reasons:
  • allows writers to use the most effective vocabulary
  • allows writing ideas to continue flowing
  • saves time by drafting and identifying misspelled words at the same time
  • it's more difficult to go back and find misspelled words after the draft is completed
  • looking for lots of misspelled words after a draft has been completed is quite frankly a pain so children rush and words get missed
  • children become more aware when they don't know how to spell a word and are more likely to go back and correct it later
  • assessment for learning as teachers can assess spelling patterns and words not underlined

Step 2:  Children do the work of gathering weekly spelling words for you.  After two weeks of school, children should have written several different drafts.  Ask children to review all of their drafts. On a separate piece of paper, they write a list of 6 words they did not spell correctly but wish to learn to spell correctly.  This works best if children are sitting in groups as each child can write their list of 6 misspelled words on the same piece of paper. 

Collect the paper with the words children have gathered from their own writing.  Look through all of the words and organize the words into groups of five based on spelling patterns.  There may be two different spelling patterns grouped together.  Each group of 5 words become the class spelling words for the week.  The teacher should now have four or five groups of words that can be introduced weekly over the next 5 weeks.  Repeat this process every 4 - 6 weeks to assist in gathering authentic spelling words.

Introduce 5 new spelling each week as part of your Word Wall activities.

For Word Wall activities appropriate for Grades 4 - 8, go to my TpT store:

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