Friday, August 12, 2011

Spelling Emergency... 9-1-1!

Howdy blogosphere!

I have been contemplating all summer about radically changing my spelling for next year. This is what I do currently. We use "Treasures" and I run the 1st grade list, the 2nd grade list, and a list that is a combination of 2nd/3rd grade words. About half of my class works from their own grade-level list, which the other half is on one of the other lists.

It works out fine. On Fridays, I give the three tests and while I give tests (which takes about 20 minutes) the kids add poems to their poetry notebook and those who need extra handwriting practice do that too. And life is good.

BUT... I would love to do individualized spelling lists. I do not want to begin "Words Their Way" especially not with only have three weeks to pull it together.

What I do want to do is this:

1.) Whatever our phonics focus is for the week, all students will have spelling words with that sound or spelling pattern. I would do the same phonics skill for both of my grades and would be using "The Phonics Dance" which I LOOOOOVE!
2.) Students will choose their own lists.
3.) On Friday, students will have a spelling partner who they will meet with, swap lists, and give each other the quiz. Then switch roles.

What I need to know from you all is as follows... feel free to answer as many or as few as you can:

1.) Is this the most ridiculous plan ever?
2.) Does anyone do it or something similar?
3.) Can you give me any tips or advice?
4.) Am I nuts for waiting until the end of the summer to take action on this or is there time?
5.) If you do this, how does "word choosing" go logistically?
6.) What reactions have you had from parents, students, administration, etc...?
7.) If you don't do this, can you suggest an alternative to just using the lists from a basal reader?

I think that's it! I'll be working on some kind of freebie for everyone for the end of the weekend. Not sure what yet, but I'm in a creating kind of mood! So, thanks for your help with the spelling and check back this weekend to see what I'm sharing!


  1. Hi!

    I also use Treasures - the New 2011 National edition. This will be our district's second year with it. Since I teach 5th grade Inclusion, I use the Grade 5 list, but our version of Treasures has the Approaching (1 year below grade level) the On Level (On level, obviously) and the Beyond(1 year above grade level) lists, which all have words that follow the same phonics pattern for the week. I also use a Spelling Choice board(Tic Tac Toe Board) for the students homework, which works well with the series and the parents and kids love. Does your Treasures have these lists?

  2. Before I did Words their way I did something similar to this where I gave all the students a spelling assessment on the previous grade level's word list. Then I gave each student words to study that they maybe missed but I knew they could handle. Each student kept an index card with their words to practice throughout the week. When it was time to quiz, the students just traded their cards with a partner and quizzed each other. Any words not mastered were carried over to the next index card and the kids chose new words to work on. As long as you train your kids it can totally work. You'll never have to give another spelling quiz!

  3. I think it could actually work. We do use words their way-which is wonderful, but I would like for all my kiddos to be working on the same sound at their level and may do that. It is what I did in 4th grade. I did not have kids pick their own lists...and not sure how it would work. Anxious to see what you come up with.
    I have not used words from the basal since I took my first class for my Reading graduate degree. The professors all loved Word Journeys and Words Their Way lists, and I also have lists they gave us from old spelling basal when they were a little more realistic as far as level. I used lists from Words Their Way before we got the program last year. The manual has a plethora of patterned lists that vary in difficulty which would be exactly what you need to go by pattern the way you'd want to.
    From what I see on your site and Ning, you do a great job differentiating with spelling-but change is fun. Especially at the last minute. But really 3 weeks is ample time! More than I usually have!

  4. Last year I used Words Their Way and had 4 different spelling groups based on ability. I too am looking for a way to have everyone work on a similar pattern at once - and incorporating The Phonics Dance would be lovely! Looking forward to seeing what you come up with... :)

    Have you checked out this teacher's blog yet? She is totally awesome! Maybe her spelling documents will help or spark some ideas:

  5. It will work! This is very similar to what I do and as long as you set it up at the beginning of the year it works splendid! You will love it!

  6. We use Treasures as well and I tried 3 different lists a couple years ago (when I was teaching 2nd). I assessed them on Mondays. I don't see a point in them taking a spelling test on Fridays if they already know how to spell the words (just my quirk as a mother of a G&T child), and I didn't realize how much that bothered me until my daughter was in my class---then I revamped how I taught. I based my word lists on how the did on Monday's tests. It worked for a while, and I gave the tests during my guided reading slot (I generally don't have guided reading on Fridays--as I review tests, run catch up, work on Poetry Notebooks, do guided writing, etc...guess it's kind of a Freaky Friday--)it went smoothly-but then it just kind of stopped. The students weren't studying words outside of what I was doing in class. The challenge list wasn't being worked on by many, and neither was the lower leveled list. I felt like I was failing my students at all levels. I'm anxious to see how people respond to your question. I'm eager for some advice myself! :) Thanks for posting this!!!

    First Grade and Fabulous

  7. I did something similar but for 5th. The words were kept in a manilla folder and as they mastered the word it was highlighted.

    If a student misspelled a word, it stayed on their spelling list for the next week so by mid-quarter there were many different lists. Therefore, homework was a little different for each child.

    It requires a little bit of work but can work.

  8. First, not sure if you found a solution to your storage problem with switching to tables... but I saw this blog post and thought of you. Is her classroom not amazing? Anyway, you need those cool chair cover dealios! I'm sure I'm late... but I thought I'd share.

    As for spelling, I am amazed that you have a choice! We do Word Study groups - religiously. I either use Kathy Ganske's Word Journeys (to make my own), or MORE happily, I use her Word Sorts and More and just copy them - although I hate that they don't have headers. We totally skip our Basal spelling. After years of doing Word Study, I am not sure it is the be all and end all. I know the kids memorize the words each week, and there is not much emphasis on sight words.

    Let us know what you do. :)

  9. We use Words their Way and this year my team also do high frequency words they way Beth Newingham describes on her Scholastic page. I really like the WTW assessment piece - it gives me a really clear picture of the kids level. I also do Phonics Dance and wouldn't teach without it!

  10. We start with a pre-test on Mondays. Students who miss one or zero words then get a Challenge list using the same pattern as the regular spelling words. We do word sorting all week and other activities where the students work on their own word list. It works. We then give the tests on Friday. Sometimes one teacher will give the Challenge list and then she splits her regular list students with the other three teachers. It is a program we have done for the last three years. We use the Imagine-It! program at our school.

  11. My team has decided to implement the Word Study program Beth Newingham created. You can see what it looks like here:

    In order to develop our weekly regular/challenge word lists, we followed the weekly skill from our intervention program from 95% Group. You can read my post about it here:

    and on my webpage at:

    Hope that helps!!

  12. You are not crazy! This is pretty similar to how Nancie Atwell does spelling. I did a week long internship at her school and adopted a combination of her way and word study from Fountas and Pinnell through my training with them.
    When I taught 5th and 2nd grade I gave students 5 words that followed the phonics rule for the week and then they choose 5 words from their word study lists that they need to learn. They did set activities throughout the week and then on Friday they switched lists with their study buddy and gave each other their tests. Any words they missed automatically became a word for the following week.
    I would be happy to share some of the activities I did throughout the week if you want them. Hope this helps!

  13. I forgot to address word choosing. I start the year by having kids make a list of priority words that they need to know how to spell. Ex: parents names, address, sibling names
    Then as the year progresses I had them add content specific words as well as words I noticed they were consistently misspelling during writing workshop time. I would just say "I noticed you are having a hard time with ---. This is how you spell it and please add this to your words to learn list in your word study notebook. They stopped what they were doing in writing workshop and did that right then. Hope this helps!

  14. Do you meet with your students for Writer's Workshop? If so, have them come with a mini notebook (like a mini composition book). The students can write down words you are pointing out they are having a difficult time spelling.

    What I am doing this year is dedicating 10 words to my prefixes/suffixes/root words study and the other 10 to the current spelling pattern. There will be three spelling groups, so the second 10 words will be different for each group. Yet I am also having the students maintain their notebook- and bring it every time they meet with me at Writer's Workshop. I may ask the students to spell some of their challenging words to me at times for extra credit points in spelling. Depending on the child's level of spelling, I will never call him or her out on a word that is too much over his or her head.

    Victoria @


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