Saturday, March 19, 2011

Changes: Spelling

I've never really been happy with any spelling program that I've tried.  We started with Spelling Workout and Spectrum Spelling but it was too repetitious.  The kids hated doing all of the activities when they already knew the nearly all of the words.  I gave that up and switched to Spelling Power because it promised that the kids would only have to learn the words they missed on pretests.  For Mika, it didn't work out all that well because, again, she knew most of the words.  Pretest after pretest, she would miss maybe one word out of 25, if any.  Sam missed more, but he didn't particularly care for the program.  We didn't like the activities listed for learning the words.  I put spelling on the back burner.

Then while he was reading aloud one day (we rarely do this), I noticed that Sam mispronounced a lot of words.  He has a tendency to just spit something out rather than sound out a word that wasn't immediately familiar.  Many times, it would be a word he knew but didn't immediately recognize it in writing.  Additionally, I noticed some articulation errors left over from his early days.  I adopted Webster's Speller because it breaks the words into syllables and specifically addresses pronunciation.

Because I'm working with articulation and pronunciation, I decided to start at the beginning. The kids hated it because that meant a lot of review, especially for Mikaela.

What I'm doing now is giving them a learning contract that lists which word list they are responsible for each week of the month.  They have to be able to pronounce the words correctly and spell them correctly.  At any time, they can test for mastery.  If they pass with a 90% or better, they are done with spelling for the week.   By doing it this way, they are making forward progress that I can report to our virtual academy but it doesn't take up a lot of their time, and they are free to learn their words using any method they wish.

In addition, I have provided a list of spelling activities that they can use while learning their words prior to testing.  Once we get to a level they are having a harder time with (and they will with Webster's Speller), I will utilize the activities as assignments to help them learn the words.  These activities* include things like:

-- Use all words to create as few sentences as possible.
-- Create a crossword puzzle on graph paper and include an answer key
-- Use pairs of unrelated words, put them together, and invent definitions for them

    Sam looked at his list of words for this month and wanted to test immediately.  He tested out of spelling for the entire month.  That's okay because I'm still finding his level for both pronunciation and spelling.  Eventually, we will get to the harder words.  My hope is to go through all of Webster's Speller, which will take quite a while.  By the time he's finished the entire curriculum, he should be able to read and spell very well, and he will have a much better grasp on more advanced phonics like determining whether that c or g is soft or hard and whether that vowel is long or short based on the syllables and which syllables should be stressed.  In the meantime, they will hopefully be less bored.

    * See Teaching Gifted Kids in the Regular Classroom for more spelling activities

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