originally published November 8, 2010
Maddy has been so proud of her spelling and word-learning progress over the last few weeks (and so are we!). She really is borderline excited when I print out a new list of Spelling Word Cards for each list, which makes this teacher-mama want to do a jig of joy.
Maybe it’s that we’ve upped the ‘fun factor‘ of word learning, or maybe she’s riding the high of her success; either way, I’m loving it because her spelling work is something that we’ve begun to look forward to each week.
We’ve been starting each new spelling list with the same activity–Trace, Copy, Recall–except that instead of tracing, she’s been writing the word twice. Because until tonight, I didn’t think to make a handy-dandy little sheet so that she could trace the words. Maddy was simply copying once from the word card, copying then from the word she wrote, and then covering both and writing the word from memory. Poor, poor Maddy.
It only took a minute for me to whip up a little Trace, Copy, Recall sheet so that she actually could trace the word the first time, and I’m so excited because I’ll just modify the template each week for my happy little speller. Woo-hoo!
- Trace, Copy, Recall: As only one of the many fun ways to learn spelling words, I really think it’s worthwhile to begin with this activity because it prepares learners in a graduated way to begin committing the words to memory.
When kiddos trace the letters of the word, they’re getting their fingers ready to write the letters. When they copy the word, they’re composing the letters for a second time and working their brains to remember the letter order. That final recall of letters forces students to think about the letter sounds as they fit together to form the word.
Maddy’s trying to recall the spelling of one of her ‘short o’ words.
I encourage Maddy to say the letters out loud, and although she sometimes loses steam by the end of the list, if she says the letters at least one time for each word, I’m happy. When kiddos say the letters as they write them, it’s one more way to ensure that the letters, sounds, and patterns make their way into the learners’ brains–the combination of the physical writing and the vocalizing helps.
When she’s finished with the word, she checks her work with the word on the card. Then she reads the word aloud and moves on.
It’s short, it’s worthwhile, and it seems to help build a slight foundation for the rest of the week’s Spelling Word Fun if we start with this. So we’ll keep it up, I suppose. . .
In case you’re interested, here’s what we’ve been using to help support Maddy’s spelling word work:
- BLANK CARDS (write your own words in) | spelling list-blank sheet
Trace, Copy, Recall Sheets:
- BLANK Trace, Copy, Recall sheet | spelling list-trace copy recall blank
Fun Ways to Learn Spelling Words:
- the original fun with spelling teachmama post
- Fun Ways to Learn Spelling Words handy-dandy sheet: fun ways of learning spelling words
- Fun Ways to Learn Spelling Words handy-dandy cards to put in a box (so you can choose an activity each work session): fun spelling games — cards to cut
So, should every student in every be coming home with spelling words every single week? What’s the deal?
All recent reading research points to the fact that the ole days of random spelling word lists should be long over and that the approach to spelling instruction should be more word learning than simply spelling memorization. The word-learning approach is “teacher-directed yet student-centered” and when integrated into a comprehensive literacy program, this kind of instruction can most fully “help support young children’s literacy development”. It should be systematic, organized, and individualized.
Essentially, Word Study instruction should be:
- based on individual student’s multiple, varied assessments;
- used with homogeneous, small-group instruction;
- given special class time each day;
- teaching word knowledge (about words), not just the words themselves;
- clearly demonstrated and used in reading and writing instruction;
- incorporated in strategy instruction (how to read, write, and use the word);
- used with the Word Wall;
- involving time for ‘Word Work’ and play with the words;
- integrated into authentic reading and writing experiences.
What does this mean for you? It means that if your child is not coming home with a spelling list each week but she is following some sort of Word Study program in school, one that contains all–or most, or even some, of the above elements–then maybe there’s no reason for a spelling list after all.
If your child is coming home with a spelling list each week, and the words aren’t grouped according to similar patterns or sounds, and the words seem totally random or disconnected, then maybe you want to talk to the teacher about the Word Study program they’re using. Ask why they’re using it and how it supports the balanced literacy program.
For more, please see Williams, Phillips-Birdsong, Hufnangle, Hungler, Lundstrom’s article, “Word Study Instruction in the K-2 Classroom” (The Reading Teacher, April 2009). The information and quotes in this post are taken from this article. It amazed me how much reading research the authors integrated into this article, and I found it extremely informative.