It is said that even Jane Austen and Ernest Hemingway were challenged with aspects of standard spelling. Standard spelling instruction is most successful when it includes learning a combination of spelling patterns and rules, along with special attention given to the practice of words that are not spelled intuitively or do not follow usual patterns. Here are some of my favorite tools:
- Building Spelling Skills: This was my go-to spelling resource and provided the structure for our weekly spelling work! Each of the units provides grade-specific spelling lists and activities. The word activities are fun for students and they enjoy the feeling of making progress through the lessons, which gradually increase in difficulty. Building Spelling Skills is also available as interactive lessons supported with audio. Check out the Building Spelling Skills series for grades 1-6.
- Making Words: This resource presents a great supplementary activity and makes spelling practice fun! Students start with a long grade-level appropriate word, and then use and rearrange the letters in a long word to make other words (1, 2, 3, 4, 5 etc. letters long) This is a great group activity, and I never met a student who didn’t love to participate. Making Words can be done spontaneously and with no prep. Choose the skill/grade level that you need.
- Spelling Journal: I used to buy a class set each year, but you could certainly make them, too. The format I used had two landscape pages devoted to each letter of the alphabet enable students to add words they use in their own writing. The spelling journal is a huge help toward achieving spelling independence. Every Friday, I would have “Free Choice Friday Writing,” which included having each student choose a word to add to his or her journal. This was brainstormed whole class on the board, so students would end up adding other words of their choice as well. Students came to rely on their spelling journals to answer their own spelling questions.
Student Flip Books: For practicing spelling words that follow a particular pattern, I liked to use flip books. Students can learn to assemble and make themselves. It is easiest to do with an index card and precut papers. These can be devised to work for any grade level or spelling pattern. Then it can be kept at school or home for practice. Then it can be kept at school or home for practice. Here’s one example of a flip book made from spiral note cards.
- “Pocket” Word: When there was a particularly troublesome word, I would write the target spelling word onto small papers (about 1”x 2 ½”) that could be folded up and placed into a pocket. For students that didn’t have a pocket, we used his or her shoe (which students thought was extra silly). The object was that this target word went everywhere with students while throughout the day, which they would have fun spelling aloud to as many people as they could. This activity encouraged interaction, and a team/school/home approach to helping each other succeed.
Students who feel confident with their spelling skills are empowered to be creative and expressive with their writing. What tools and strategies do you use to enable your students’ good spelling skills?
Marti Beeck started her career in education as a parent volunteer in her three children’s classrooms. Her many years of teaching experience, including adult school, intervention, and the primary classroom, was inspired by her background in brain-based learning. After working for four years as an editor in educational publishing, Marti currently works as a freelance writer and content developer.