As classrooms shift towards a Comprehensive Literacy approach, a common issue pops up around the topic of SPELLING. The following are some ideas to consider and discuss with your colleagues.
Spelling was historically an area of literacy that was based on published lists sent home as weekly homework in preparation for a weekly test.
Spelling is defined as "the act or process of writing words by using the letters conventionally accepted for their formation; orthography. the art or study of orthography. the actual way in which a word is spelt. the ability of a person to spell: John's spelling is good." according to Dictionary.com.
However, practicing spelling words was a concrete and easily understood way for parents to participate in their child's homework routine and it allowed them to feel connected to the classroom learning even though it took considerable time for teachers to prepare through photocopying, etc.
Classroom time was devoted to teaching these words and testing spelling usually on a Friday. However the amount of learning was limited, as teachers often attested to the lack of transfer of these words into student writing which was the ultimate reason for teaching spelling.
Teachers also debated "which words" should be "on the list" and eventually many settled on using lists of high frequency words such as the Dolch sight word list, etc. Teachers were also marking spelling errors in children's written work and then often children were taught to use repetition to re-learn their error words.
Now, take a look at these pictures which represent various spelling activities and consider the optimum learning model which involves the gradual release of responsibility from "I do, we do, you do". Also consider which pictures represent strategies and which represent activities.
Now consider this. In comprehensive literacy, we use the gradual release of support method of instruction as follows:
Spelling words correctly involves understanding these 14 basic principles of how words work and it is directly related to both reading and writing at a very early age as children begin to learn that words carry meaning:
Please click the picture above to go to the link on google drive.
Now consider, is it appropriate to teach a list of words only, or should we be teaching students to be flexible word smiths who try a variety of strategies to read & write?
Parents can still be very active in the word work section of comprehensive literacy just as they were with practicing weekly spelling words, however there may be some need to explain the difference between the two before parents leave the comfort of their weekly spelling words. For more information on spelling and word work, please refer to the Working with Words Guidebook in your Literacy Place for the Early Years teacher's package, or the Program and Planning Guidebook in your Moving Up with Literacy Place teacher's package.
Now here's hoping I have no spelling mistakes in this week's post!