Setting Up A Spelling Programme
Using Lists and Tests in your Spelling Programme
Spelling in the NZ Literacy Progressions:
What does research say about using spelling lists?
My tips for using spelling lists and spelling testing:
Once again, these are simply my suggestions – take what you like and add it to your professional basket of knowledge.
- On a Monday, give each student a number of spelling words from their list. The number of words is up to you and based on your knowledge of your students. Personally I gave students five-seven words from their list, plus a few topic-specific words that fitted with whatever we were investigating in science, health or social studies.
- Alternatively, you could also add words that students are regularly spelling incorrectly in their writing. If you know a student is passionate about ballet and writes about it often, it makes sense that they learn to spell that word ASAP!
- In addition to using the words from the Essential Spelling list, I took the opportunity to highlight word families. For example, if the word “call” is on the list, you could also add the words “calling”, “called”, “caller”. You could also look at spelling patterns like “igh” in words. If a speller is learning “right”, then you could add “light”, “tight”, “might” and so on. This can help students with their phonemic awareness when they come to a word they aren’t sure how to spell. You can learn more about phonemic awareness here.
- There are multiple options for the practising of these spelling words during the week. A common approach is sending the list home each night for homework testing. I still remember being sent home with a list of spelling words for my parents to test me on during the week. You will know if this approach suits your school, their policies around homework, and the students in your class.
- Another approach is to get the students to practice their list of words within class time. I built spelling into my reading and literacy rotations each day. Students would use my spelling activities task cards to practise their spelling words in a variety of ways.
Our spelling activity task cards are designed to save you time while providing students with a range of fun and interactive ways to practice their spelling words. The best thing about these activity cards is they work with ANY spelling list, so they are perfect for differentiated learning. Save your time when setting up a spelling programme.
- At the end of the week, test students on their spelling words. An easy way to do this is partner testing where pairs of students test each other on their words. Other teachers prefer to do this testing themselves – each to their own. If students get words wrong, they will need to practice them again. If they get them correct, move them on to the next words in that list the following Monday.
- An important reminder: Ensure you check they have written the words correctly into their spelling notebook. The last thing you want is the embarrassment of a parent pointing out that they are learning an incorrectly spelt word.
- To help with goal setting and to celebrate success, I recommend giving the student a copy of their Essential Spelling list e.g. list six, to glue into their book. As they successfully learn a word, they can tick it or highlight it. I think displaying and checking off one list at a time is better than giving the students the full list to check off – it can be a bit overwhelming!
What is next after the Essential Spelling Lists?
I have two resources that explore prefixes, suffixes and Greek and Latin root words. Click on each image to see more.
Teaching the Spelling Rules and how words work
Another approach to teaching spelling is to explicitly teach the spelling rules. Literacy Online explains that “teachers need an understanding of the knowledge, strategies and awareness students require to become competent spellers. This involves knowledge of … spelling rules and conventions.”
As part of the Literacy Progressions for the End of Year Three, students should be “applying their growing knowledge of useful spelling rules (e.g., the rules relating to adding simple plural suffixes such as those in baby/babies and half/halves) and their growing knowledge of morphology (e.g., adding a d to hear to make heard)”.
Teaching students how to spell unfamiliar words
Popular Spelling programmes you may like
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Other blog posts in our beginning teachers series
Onwards and upwards,