Saturday, July 26, 2014

Word Smarts: Managing Partner Spelling Tests in the Classroom

Hi Friends!
This is the third of four posts in a series I'm writing about spelling.  You can check out the other two here:  Individualized Spelling and Developing a Spelling Consciousness.  Today I am going to share with you how I manage partner spelling tests in my fourth grade classroom.  This might seem like a SCARY idea, but if you train your students well and stick to a routine, it will save you a lot of time.

Each of my students has an individualized spelling list each week.  The list has 5 words that correspond to the spelling focus for the week (a spelling rule or spelling pattern) and five "Words-to-Learn" from their writing.  Because I have up to 34 students it just isn't feasible for me to give a whole class spelling test.
Example page of the spelling lists I use in my classroom.  See below for more details.  
The first step to managing successful partner spelling tests is to match up spelling partners.  Partner your students based on their spelling and reading skills.  Partners will need to be able to successfully read their partners list to them, so having similar reading and spelling levels is helpful.

The second step to a smooth partner spelling routine is to model, ModEL, MODEL!  Model for students how to give and take a test well BEFORE you start your weekly spelling.  Have a student volunteer help you by acting out the procedure.  Model several times and have students model for each other.  Model the correct way to give a test and the "incorrect" way (example/non-example).

Here are the guidelines for my class (see video below) :

  • One student is the "giver" and one is the "taker".  The giver has the taker's spelling list in his/her hands.  
  • The TAKER sits at a table/desk with the spelling test sheet (I use notebook paper cut in half vertically).  
  • The taker writes his name, date, and list number at the top of the test paper and numbers the paper.  When he is ready for the first word, he raises his pencil as a signal that he is ready to begin.  .
  • The GIVER stands DIRECTLY behind the taker so that she cannot see the taker's paper.  When the taker raises his pencil, the giver tells the taker the first word.  
  • When the taker is ready for the next word, he raises his pencil once again and the giver gives the next word.  This continues until all words have been given.
  • When the test is complete, the GIVER takes the test from the taker, staples it to the right side of the weekly list, turns it in, and grabs a test paper for herself.  She returns to her partner and they switch roles.
  • When both partners have completed their tests, they come to the carpet to quietly read, write, draw, etc. until ALL students have finished taking their tests.  
Keys to Success:
  • The two students DO NOT talk to each other except to read the spelling words.  
  • The taker DOES NOT turn around and the giver DOES NOT look at the taker's paper until she/he takes it from them at the end.  
  • Students do not sit directly across or beside each other while taking the test.  They sit diagonally at tables. 
  • Privacy folders are helpful.  
  • If their is a question or concern about the test, students raise their hands and the teacher comes to help.  
  • The teacher roams the room to provide assistance and to monitor the testing.  
  • Have two areas in the room for stapling and picking up test sheets.
  • Practice, practice, practice!  
  • Have high expectations for following the routine.  

I hope that the information above has eased your mind about giving partner spelling tests a try in your classroom!

Thank you for visiting and if you are interested in knowing more about my "Word Smarts Year Long Spelling and Vocabulary" product on TpT, just click the link.

Here are links to the other posts in the "Word Smarts" series.

  1. Word Smarts:  Managing Individualized Spelling in the Classroom
  2. Word Smarts:  Developing a Spelling Consciousness in the Classroom
  3. Word Smarts:  Managing Partner Spelling Tests in the Classroom
  4. Word Smarts:  Instilling a Desire to Spell Correctly

I've linked them as I've posted them.  This is the third in the series.  If you are interested in the other topics, please follow me on Bloglovin, follow by e-mail, or bookmark my blog.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Add Classroom Pizazz with a Pennant Banner

Hi Friends,
I just wanted to share a quick project that I just finished.  I moved classes this year, and in August I will be heading back to set up for early September's first day of school.  We have pretty large class sizes in my district (34 students the last couple years) so I find myself downsizing in class as much as possible.  This year, I plan on getting rid of my desk and just going with shelving and my circle table.  While I'm at it, I thought I would revamp my teacher corner to give it a bit more pizazz!  I spend enough time there, the decor should make me happy, right?
I came across some great teal chevron fabric at Joanne's the other day.  It was 2 dollars off a yard, so I scooped it up!  While I was there I saw pennant banners on sale and thought, "I can do that!"  So instead of buying one, I came home and made one of my own!

I just purchased a Silhouette Cameo electronic cutting machine and I decided creating a  pennant banner would be a great first project!  I cut the triangles with slits in the upper corners using the Cameo.  I used regular card stock, but if I had to do it again, I'd probably use thicker material.
I used a sharpie to create "stitching" around the edges.  I could have used my Cameo, but I didn't think about it at the time.  It has a cool "Pen" feature.

Next, I cut out the letters to my name.  I thought I would go with green, but ended up liking the pink better.  I'll use the green letters for something else down the line.
I glued the letters on with Tacky glue and then threaded the pennants with a ribbon.
Viola!  My banner.  I think it looks great against the teal chevron fabric.  I hung it up in on my living room wall to see how it looked.  It will look better at school.  Less droop.

Thanks for stopping by!  If you have any suggestions or questions, be sure to leave a comment!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Word Smarts: Developing Spelling Consciousness in the Classroom

Hi Friends!

This summer I've been thinking a lot about spelling and how to improve my spelling plan as I go into the next school year.  There are three big components to my spelling plan:

Help students to:

1.  Develop their spelling consciousness
2.  Develop individualized lists that focus on the spelling rules and patterns of the English language as well as student specific "Words-to-Learn".
3.  Develop a desire to spelling correctly in daily work.

Last week I posted about creating and managing individualized spelling lists.  This week I want to talk about helping students develop a spelling consciousness.  Let me first say that I am NOT a spelling "expert".  I don't have degrees in spelling, I don't research and write published articles about spelling (except here on my blog).  I am, however, an experienced classroom teacher who has seen her share of spelling programs come and go.  I've also spent numerous hours developing my own spelling resources.

A few years ago I came across a book by Linda Hoyt called "Mastering the Mechanics".  This book is full of mechanics lessons, but the most important one for me was the first one about "spelling consciousness".  It was this lesson that really got me thinking about the fact that good spellers need to have an awareness of when their words are spelled incorrectly and gave me a direction to begin working on that in my classroom.

Mastering the Mechanics
Spelling consciousness is that doubt you get when you are unsure you have spelled a word correctly.  It is that double-take, that "Wait a minute...  is that right?" that good spellers have.  Many students, especially in the younger grades, have not yet developed that awareness and for some children (and even some adults) spelling consciousness remains underdeveloped.

In Linda Hoyt's book, she suggests introducing the concept of spelling consciousness to your students by modeling and thinking aloud while writing a short paragraph in front of the students.  When you come across a word you are unsure of how to spell (or pretend not to know), you think aloud about why you are having doubts, circle the word, and move on.  This circling of the word is a signal to come back to that word at a later time and check it.  You model this consistently throughout the year and expect students to do the same in their own work.

I give each of my students colored editing pens that they keep year round.  When they are drafting or working on daily work they circle words that they have doubt about.  This is a great way to see which students have spelling awareness and those who are still developing theirs.

While doing some research online, I came across a  pdf called "Teaching Tips- Spelling Consciousness".  The author suggests pretesting students by giving them  cloze sentences to fill in using their spelling words.  The teacher dictates the sentences,  including the spelling words,  and the students fill in the blanks writing the spelling words to the best of their ability.  When sentences are complete, the students go back over their tests and write a "C"  or an "I" above each of the spelling words.  The "C" and "I" indicate whether the student believes he/she made a "Correct" or "Incorrect" spelling decision when spelling the word.  At this point, the teacher displays the correct spellings and students check their work.  Words that they spelled correctly do not need to be studied for the week.  Students also keep a graph of their spelling decisions so that they have a visual of their spelling awareness development.

I have not used this specific approach in my own classroom, but I am contemplating adding it to my weekly routine.  Students who spell most of the words on their base list correctly during the pre-test would then work on the "challenge list" for that week.  I think this would be a great way for students to actually have to stop and think about their spelling and a way to determine which students need more challenge in their weekly spelling.
This is an example of a pre-test that might be used.  I am developing them for my "Word Smarts Year-Long Spelling and Vocabulary Bundle".  

I think the main take-away here is that as a teacher, we have to model, model, model what we want our students to learn.  I am constantly circling words while working in front of the class.  "Oh, wait!  I'm not so sure about this word.  Is it -ea- or -ee-?  I think I'll circle it."  Sometimes I will have students help me correct and sometimes, depending on what we are doing and our time limit, I'll just circle it and move on.

I'd love to hear your suggestions or advice for helping students develop their spelling consciousness.  Please leave a comment!

Here are some other posts in this "Word Smarts" Series: 
  • How do You Get Kids to Care About Spelling?
I've linked the above titles to the posts as they become available.  This one is the second, so if you are interested in the other topics, please follow me on Bloglovin, follow by e-mail, or bookmark my blog.  I will be posting them throughout the rest of July in preparation for Back-to-School!
Thank you so much for stopping by!  

Thanks for visiting!

If you are interested in learning more about my "Word Smarts:  Spelling and Vocabulary Year-Long Bundle"  Please check it out in my TpT Store.  I have the product split up into four 8-week sets or the year-long bundle.  
Word Smarts BUNDLE

Set One

Set Two
Set Three

Set Four

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Word Smarts: Individualizing Spelling in the Classroom

Hi Friends,

Let me get to the point...  I hate teaching spelling.  Ok. There, I said it.  My problem with weekly spelling lists is that you hand out 10 or so words on Monday, say, "Go study.", work on the words throughout the week, and then give your students a test on Friday.  Friday comes and you grade  30+ test happily writing 100% in bright purple marker across the top of several pages.  You may even slap on a happy face sticker!

You grab that pile of writing, get your purple pen ready to make smiley faces, write specific comments and feedback only to notice that those same students who just got 100% on their spelling test have made spelling error after spelling error in their writing.  YIKES!

Some kids are good memorizers.  They can memorize their spelling words for the weekly test, then the test comes and goes and so do the words.

I've really struggled with this.  A couple of years ago it really got to me when I noticed a few of my students who were getting perfect scores on their spelling tests (above grade level spelling by the way) were making spelling error after spelling error on their daily work.  These were my advanced spellers and they were getting below grade level scores on conventions in their writing.

I almost gave up teaching spelling.  What was the point?    But, I took a step back and decided to do a little research.

Through my research and experience with my own students I've come to the conclusion that good spelling habits require many skills including:

*having a spelling consciousness
*having an understanding of the rules and patterns of the English language
*having a desire to spell correctly

I also believed that students should be learning how to spell words that they WANT and NEED to use in their own writing, thus individualizing their spelling lists.  INDIVIDUALIZED SPELLING LISTS!?? I have 34 students.  That means 34 different spelling lists!  34 spelling tests!!  That's CRAZY talk!

Actually, it isn't as daunting as it sounds.  Trust me, you can do it.
First, you have to have a plan for tracking words students need to know how to spell.  In my classroom (4th graders), students keep a "Words-to-Learn" list. There are a few ways that words get added to the list.

  1. The first is words that students want to use, but are unsure how to spell.  These are words they circle in their work using their "spelling consciousness" or words they ask others how to spell. 
  2. The second way words are added are words that I find misspelled in their daily work.  I either circle the words and write directly on the paper, or I write the words on a sticky note.  The students then know to add these words to their journals.  
  3. The third way words get added is from words students misspell on their weekly assessment.  

I created this "Personal Spelling Journal" for my students to keep track of their words to learn:
Personalized Spelling Journal
But you could also have students keep a list in their writing journals or create a journal out of notebook paper.

Because students have different levels of spelling skills, learning to spell words from their writing individualizes and differentiates the lists.  Some students may be spelling below grade level words incorrectly while others are stretching their spelling limits and want to learn above grade level words.  
When the weekly spelling lists are handed out, students choose 5 words from their journal to learn that week.  They add these words to their weekly spelling list.  
This is a diagram of the first list in my "Word Smarts Year-Long Spelling and Vocabulary Bundle".  
So, this is one way that I individualize my students' spelling each week.  I use the my "Word Smarts" product for my year-long spelling curriculum, so another way that I am able to further individualize my students' spelling is assigning either the base list or the challenge list to students.  

The base list consists of grade level words that fit the spelling focus for the week.  The "Challenge" list is above grade level words that also fit the focus.  This way, each week, students are learning about and practicing spelling rules and patterns with words at their level and also studying words that they need to learn from their own writing.  

Yet another way to differentiate spelling is to limit or extent the number of words students spell.  

As you can see, there are a lot of different ways to individualize spelling in your classroom and with a little training of routines with your students you will have your spelling study running like a well oiled machine! 
If you'd like to know more about individualized spelling in your classroom I'll be adding more blog posts on this topic.  

Here are some other posts in this "Word Smarts" Series: 
  • How do You Get Kids to Care About Spelling?
I've linked the above titles to the posts as they become available.  This one is the first, so if you are interested in the following topics, please follow me on Bloglovin, follow by e-mail, or bookmark my blog.  I will be posting them throughout the rest of July in preparation for Back-to-School!
Thank you so much for stopping by!