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

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