I often get a lot of questions about spelling and I will try to answer them here. You may refer back to this page as often as you like. Your questions may change as the year goes on. If you click on the headings beside the bee, it will take you to the appropriate section which may answer your questions.
I want to start by giving you some words to think about:
- be, bee, Bea, beet, beat (think about how many ways we spell the “e” sound)
- like, make, made, nice, live…….. live, give, done, love (words that end in “silent e” don’t always have a long vowel sound)
- no, know (words that sound the same aren’t always spelled the same way)
- blow, snow……….cow (words spelled the same don’t always sound the same)
Learning to spell occurs in stages and instruction this year will help your child work through those stages.
We work on words every day in many different ways. Monday-Wednesday each have a particular focus. Thursday we mix the focus words all together for more difficult practice. On Friday we take our spelling tests to see what we have learned.
Monday- spelling words– Each week, starting the fourth week of school, your child will be bringing home spelling lists. The words on these lists are taken from our program called “Fundations” and language arts series called “Treasures.” The words on the lists will also be in the books your child is reading, which improves spelling and reading!
I will send homework activities with the lists to help your child practice the words.
At the beginning of the year, and until I get to know the children, we will all work on the same lists. I will use alternate lists based on what each child needs. Spelling is a part of writing and reading, and I look beyond a “spelling grade” to decide if a child needs a harder set of words. For example, if your child is doing very well on spelling tests but is still working really hard in reading or writing, I may wait to offer a harder list until those become easier. Harder words should not take focus away from other subject areas. We work toward a balanced approach.
Tuesday– word wall words- These are the most common words your child will see while reading or use while writing. Each Friday your child will bring home word wall flashcards for words we will focus on the coming week. The flashcards are sent home BEFORE they are taught in class so they are likely unknown to the kids. All flashcards should be kept in the plastic bag I send for repeated practice throughout the year. Please click here to go to the word wall page to see lists and activities for extra practice.
Wednesday- word families- Word families are groups of words that share a common pattern or “chunk” of letters. Our first word family is “at.” We will practice cat, bat, rat, fat, that, etc. The word family is chosen to compliment the spelling list of the week so the kids will practice the same spelling patterns in more than one way.
We practice word families with poems which we will keep in the 3-ring binder that you provided with your child’s school supplies. It will stay at school for repeated readings. We also practice word families with something we call a “flip book” which your child will bring home weekly. I suggest you keep these for repeated practice.
Thursday- mixed practice– We will work on words from our spelling lists, word wall lists, and word families. The idea is that the kids know the words so well they are not just memorized- the kids are learning how to spell and how to use a variety of strategies to write and read unknown words.
Friday- spelling tests- In our classroom, our spelling tests are in dictated sentences. I create sentences that include words from our spelling, word wall, and word family lists. For example, if our spelling lists include words like “cat” and “man,” and our word wall list includes words like “see,” “like,” and “can.” We might have a sentence like “The man can see the cat.” Or, we might have “I like the cat.”
- We don’t always use every word on the spelling list.
- Once a word has been learned, it can be used on any future test.
- The children will be able to see the word wall words on our wall and on a sheet that is kept at their desk.
- Once a word wall word has been taught, it can be used on any future test.
I will talk about spelling a LOT in our weekly newsletters to help you understand what skill we are working on.
One of the first questions many families have is about something commonly known as “invented spelling.”
The definition of “invented spelling” is spelling unfamiliar words by making an educated guess as to the correct spelling based on the writer’s existing knowledge. Sometimes it is referred to as “best guess spelling.” Examples of invented spelling include:
- “iz” for “is”
- “lik” for “like”
- “wet” for “west”
- “hed” for “head”
- “difrint” for “different”
The part of invented spelling that is really important to understand is “educated.” We will work on words every single day to help us understand vowel sounds, common patterns, blends, digraph, suffixes, etc.
Some children constantly ask adults to spell for them. Families often ask what they should do when this happens at home. I believe that children will enjoy writing more (and therefore do it more often) if they are encouraged to put their thoughts down on paper without worrying about conventional spelling at this age. In class, I refer to conventional spelling as “adult spelling.” Most children have not yet reached the stage where they should be expected to spell like an adult.
It is very important that children try to spell words they don’t know when they are writing. If they do not have the chance to ‘try’ to spell using what they are learning about words, they will miss the opportunity to experience this new strategy. If children only use words that they know they can spell, they may never make a mistake, but they will not get the chance to become fluent writers. Therefore, when children write creatively in class, I do not tell them how to spell a word. Instead, I ask them a question or remind them of what they know to help them. I might say:
- That word is on our word wall. Find it…
- What sounds do you hear in the word? (Caution- MANY words in our language cannot be spelled by sound. Try to sound out the word “the.” That is why we approach spelling in many different ways.)
- I hear two syllables. (When a word has more than one syllable, I clap the syllables: “happy” is “hap” “e”- Spell each syllable and then clap the word again. Early in the year you may then see the word spelled “hape” because that is what your child can hear. We consider that a great spelling. As we learn harder spelling patterns, and add words to our word wall, I may point out a word that ends in “y” but makes the sound they need.)
Spelling lists will come home every Monday starting the fourth week of school. At the beginning of the year, we may all work on the same lists until we are comfortable and confident enough to work on a list that is chosen specifically based on spelling levels. I will discuss this in more detail at our September family meeting.