Spelling Tests? Spelling Lists? Spelling Songs? Spelling Games?

May I pick your brain about spelling? What do you think about formal spelling instruction, tests etc.?
Dawn (one of my favorite students who became a terrific teacher!)

Hi, Dawn!

Here are some random thoughts on spelling from one who did it all!

Spelling is important, but spelling instruction will probably go by way of the sundial in our digital age. We dictate our texts, but given a choice of spellings, how do we choose correctly?

I used songs for word families, games to focus on accuracy, word-of-the-day, and old-fashioned repetitive practice, but was never convinced that any one strategy worked better than another.

I'm not afraid to expect kids to MEMORIZE correct spellings. How do you know they can spell? Test them or study their spellings in authentic, personal writings. Some say we're too touchy feely with everything. "Not everything in the world is fun, games, and song." As a master of using fun, games, and song in my classes, I must say that teaching kids how to memorize spellings-- by spelling grouped syllables, families, and so on, is a valuable skill, just as memorizing math facts and the periodic table saves a lot of time and grief, too! JUST DO IT!

Great teachers can evaluate their spelling in their writing and personalizing their spelling lists. I tried to be that great. Frankly it was overwhelming --I DID ALL THE WORK---and I can spell! I have a feeling that great teachers who stuck with it went nuts and started mowing lawns!

Some kids break the spelling code naturally. They don't need on-grade level spelling tests to encourage them. Let's use their time wisely, so they can fry bigger fish.

When I was language arts instructional strategist, I compiled a list of words by frequency and made grade level lists for each grade to master and review from lower grades. It would have worked perfectly if the teachers had done it. They refused. Kids learned to spell anyway... or not. Ha.

Our brains do not function in a linear manner. They filter the constant barrage of new experiences and file the ones that offer the most important information at that time. That's why we're so smart! We need to find ways to improve our tactics to appeal to our brain's need for problem solving and importance!

Whether songs work or not to teach spelling (I think they do), they do change the atmosphere in the classroom. They bring us together in rhythm and tune (brains do love that) and give us a break from stress and occasionaly monotony. We're ready to tackle the tough stuff after a rousing song. Here are some of the songs I wrote and used. My grown-up students can still sing them, they say.

The OUGH Song (Learning this song will save pain in constant review of -ough words!)
The Good OULD Family Song (My kids even acted out this one as they sang it...total body involvement is good for the brain!)
Vocabulary Development
Geraldine's Homework--make it authentic! Kids became the teachers!
Check out my favorite spelling game that provides active competition. Kids beg for it, but (a warning) it is intense, and needs strong rule-enforcement!
The Little Red Writing Room--Apply what you learn!

Keep walkin' in the sunshine and passin' it along!

Thank you very much for your response and the ideas. I hope you and your family have a blessed Christmas!!! Dawn

Suzy Red
Kids' Wings Educational Associates
1707 Twin Island Dr.
Lockhart, TX 78644
Website: http://kidswings.com
Email: suzy@suzyred.com
Kids' Wings Phone: 512-558-1121
Kids' Wings FAX: 888-558-1123
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