At the beginning of the school year, I always give my boys a diagnostic spelling test. The curriculum we use provides monthly diagnostic tests which are useful for pinpointing problem areas. They are also a great way to gauge their progress.
I was very disappointed to learn that they really didn’t make much progress in spelling last school year and I couldn’t understand why. We have a premium membership for Spelling City, and we use the spelling lists from our curriculum with it, so I thought we had the best of both worlds.
And we did. Sort of.
Trouble is, I love technology. I love it so much that I thought the online spelling program would teach them just as well, because we were using our curriculum’s spelling lists. I was wrong.
This year has been all about getting them back on track with spelling. I didn’t want to ditch our curriculum, and I didn’t want to cancel our membership, so I decided to find a happy medium. I instituted weekly Spelling Workshops.
So what’s a Spelling Workshop?
A spelling workshop is like an intense phonics session. About once a week, or once per spelling list, we go over their words the SWR way. My boys are on different spelling levels/lists, so I do this individually. We break them down, phonogram by phonogram, syllable by syllable, and spell them by sound and by rule. It’s not fun and games.
We begin by me looking over the list in The WISE Guide. At the top of the page there is a list of key phonograms to go over for that list. I go through them one by one, and we talk about the sounds that each makes, and think up a couple of words that use them. I like to use a small dry erase board for our spelling workshops because either one of us can easily jot down the phonograms and associated words, then just erase and move on.
The next thing that we do is pull out their spelling notebooks. I dictate each word, use it in a sentence, and then say the word again, broken down into syllables. I encourage him to say the phonograms out loud as he writes his spelling words. I correct him as he writes, because I don’t want to encourage poor spelling or bad habits. Charlotte Mason believed that you should never allow a child to see a misspelled word, and if they do misspell something you should immediately erase it or cover it up and replace it with the correctly spelled word. The rest of her spelling theories are interesting and helpful also, and use utilize them on an as needed basis.
I have him mark each word with a red pencil, the SWR way. This helps him to see the phonograms and makes him more aware of them within the words.
We also go through the Notebook Charts, adding them to their spelling notebooks when called for. Each chart serves a purpose, and while sometimes they do take quite a bit of writing (not their strong point), they also do help. I like that I can point the boys back to their spelling notebook charts when I see them struggling with misspellings in their writing. Usually just a quick look at a chart is all that’s needed to remind them of the spelling rules and patterns.
How long does it take?
The whole process can take up to 45-50 minutes, but we don’t do this every day. We use Spelling City for the daily spelling exercises. I usually hold Spelling Workshop midweek, after they’ve had the chance to take one practice spelling test. By that point, my son is aware of the words that are giving him a tough time, and he is better about paying attention to his trouble areas.
Don’t do anything crazy.
When I first realized that they hadn’t progressed much, I was ready to throw everything out and start something new. Then it occurred to me that I hadn’t done a real great job of doing the teaching part of spelling last year. Here and there I dictated lists, but not consistently. This year, things have changed. We’re still using these two fantastic programs that we love, with some changes.
And now they are progressing very nicely in spelling.
I’d love to hear your spelling tips too! What do you do to help your kids really get it?
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