As a student, I hated spelling. I was good at spelling and thought it was a waste of my time. It wasn't too far into my teaching career when I realized I felt the same way about giving spelling tests. I would get so frustrated when my kids would study the words all week, get them all right on Friday... and not have any clue how to spell them the following week. Someone I knew had once told me that his daughter who was in junior high in a private school took spelling tests based on spelling patterns and one day it came to me... bingo! First graders can do that too! Instead of giving my students a word list, I give them a target sound and spelling pattern. We brainstorm words, create anchor charts and do word work with our sound and pattern throughout the week. When Friday comes, they know I will call 10 words based on those skills. I love testing this way because it requires that my kids think about and apply the skill, rather than just memorize. This week our sound is short /i/ and our spellling pattern is CVC, so I might call words such as big, lip, or kid. As we go through the year and study more sounds, the words may get more complex. After we've studied things like blends and digraphs, I might call words with those as well as the target vowel sound and spelling pattern. I really feel like my students are better at spelling as a result and are able to spell more words than just a 10 word list correctly. The great thing is that you can still differentiate your spelling words to meet the level/readiness of your students. For example, some kids may be ready for short i words with digraphs and blends like chip, ship, whip, or slip, while some stick to the short i words I listed above.
It's always easier to start something new like that when you can get your whole team on board with you, so I explained my idea to them and being the fantastic teammates they were, they were willing to try it with me. We started by sending a letter to explain the new method to our parents. Getting them (the parents) to understand why we would want to do it this way and how they can still help their children study for the test was really important.
Here are some examples of what I've sent home to explain this method to parents. My google docs keeps signing me out so I'm trying something new and uploading with Scribd... hope this works! The first file is text that I pulled off of a slide from my curriculum night presentation. The second file is a parent letter that I used last year when we made the switch from word lists to word families. Feel free to use it in your own classroom!
Spelling Test Policy
New Spelling Test Letter
How do you make spelling meaningful for your kiddos?
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