Monday, November 28, 2011

Individualized Spelling and Stuff!

Stuff First!
I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.  It was so nice to have a four day weekend and spend time with family.  The good food was also a plus.  My thighs, belly, and I are very thankful pecan pie only comes around once a year or else my belly would soon be looking like I was having a Pecan Pie Baby!

( I know nothing about this book, but it has to be good because it's got Pecan Pie in the title!)

There were some really nice comments posted over the long weekend that I will respond to tomorrow.  It is always nice to know people stop by.  I was hoping to have time to respond over the weekend, but didn't happen.  After Thanksgiving, I spent a couple of days decluttering and cleaning so that we could put up the Christmas decorations.  I love, love, love Christmas and all that comes with it!  I know this is a teaching blog, but I am so happy with my Christmas decorations I just may do a post on them.  Would that be a turn-off to you?

Then, it was back to work today.  We have parent-teacher conferences this week, so it's going to be crazy.  I'm not sure how much I will be able to post this week, so I thought I would leave you today with my take on. . .

Individualized Spelling!
I haven't used packaged spelling lists/program for a long time.  I find the kids memorize the words for that week, and then they are gone.  There's also a core of kids that are great spellers, so there's no challenge for them.  This brings me to individualized spelling.  It's a bit of work, but not as hard as it sounds. I only do about two spelling quizzes a month.  I don't feel the need to do one each week, and instead prefer to give my friends a little longer to work with their words.  So, here's how I do it.

At the start of the year, I make a spelling board.  You could use this for notes on anything, not just spelling.  I use an acrylic clipboard and two different colored stickies.  Use an acrylic clipboard so you can pull the Post-It notes on and off easily.  Just alternate the colored Post-It notes in two columns.  Then, write  your friends names at the bottom of the sticky.  That's what is under those colored blocks in my picture.
I keep this around when I am grading papers, writing assignments, conferencing, etc.  If I see my friend has misspelled a word, I write it on their sticky.  What's nice about this is that as the sticky notes fill, you can lift out their sticky and replace it with a new one.  This is where I get most of the words for my friends' individual spelling lists. Vocabulary from the content areas is also fair game. I will also sometimes take a note or two on something I notice about their writing.

When it's time to make a spelling list, I refer to these lists and write the words on a separate sheet.  I can get two on a page, so I cut it in half and each friend gets their own list.  They then get five homework assignments for the week, or however long I give.  Usually, I give the quiz about seven days after I give out the spelling lists and assignments.  The first homework assignment for the first night, is to write a sentence for each word that must show they understand the meaning of the word.

The next four assignments are student choice, to a degree.  Many years ago, I made a spelling menu.  I had seen a few on the web and thought it would be a good idea.  This menu was inspired by the ones I saw.  It is two sided and has four columns that divide the spelling activities in to four categories:  language activities, practice activities, meaning activities, and seeing/touching (kinesthetic) activities.

Now, before you ask I will tell you that no, I do not have a copy of this.  As I said, I made it many, many years ago and sadly have no idea where or if I saved it.  Thankfully, I had a bunch of paper copies in my files.  My friends had to select one assignment from each column to be completed and turned in on the quiz day.  They cross off each activity they have done.  This allows us to reuse the menu until all thirty-one spelling activities have been completed.

I have since revised the spelling menu to make it a tic-tac-toe board.  I pick nine different activities from the different columns and fit them in a tic-tac-toe board.  My friends then have to complete three activities for the week following a tic-tac-toe pattern.  They still cross them out which allows us to reuse the board a couple of times.
So, how do we quiz?  Well, remember the spelling sentences I collected the first night?  We use those.  I have already checked them over to make sure they make sense.  I then pair up my friends who sit across from each other.  They exchange sentence papers and take turns quizzing each other.  They read the word, then the sentence, then repeat the word again.  If they have trouble reading the word, or the quiz taker doesn't understand what they said,they just raise their hand and I come over and read the word and sentence.  It sounds kind of crazy to have them all quizzing at the same time, but it really does work.  The key is to model it first so they see how it is done. Isn't modeling always the key? I will say the first couple of quizzes will be a bit hairy, but I promise you they will quickly get the hang of it.

So, that's how I do individualized spelling.  I prefer it because my friends get ten words that are relevant to them, at their level, and are words I know they are misspelling.  It's much better than a standardized list of twenty words they either already know or memorize for just a week.  Since I am taking most of the words from their own writing, I can also hit words that they may have previously tested on but are still getting wrong.  We get back to the word, it's not just a one week quiz of a list never to be seen again.  The expectation is that once we have had a quiz on it, it should be spelled correctly from then on out.  I know, I live in a dream world! 

Do you do individualized spelling or follow a spelling program?  If you do individualized spelling, I would love to hear how you do it.  I'm always looking to tweak what I do!  By the way, if you find any misspellings in my post about spelling I apologize in avance adbanc advance!   ;-D


  1. Hi Nancy! I used to be able to do differentiated spelling but now we have a new program we must follow. However...I am DEFINITELY adding individualized words to the basic list--I LOVE how you did this. My students are newcomer ELL students and this would be extremely helpful for them. Thank you so much for sharing, I always love reading your fabulous ideas!
    Kristen :)

  2. This is so wonderful! I am trying my best to adapt these same ideas for 120 seventh-graders... it's hard to do!

  3. Wow. I really like how you manage this with the stickies.

  4. I just found your blog and am now a new follower and can't wait to get home from work and dig in and read:)))))

    4th Grade Frolics

  5. Hi Tara!
    Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you like what you see. :-) I will be sure to top by your blog. I love reading other teacher's blogs, too!

  6. Thank you so much for sharing. I am excited to try and implement this with my second graders this next year.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing. I am excited to try and implement this with my second graders this next year.

  8. Thank you for sharing! I cannot wait to share with my team and get started this year!

  9. Thanks for sharing--I was looking for a way to update my spelling instruction this year. I'm going to give it a shot!

  10. I totally agree with your philosophy on spelling. I love they way you organize the clip board. I too use sticky notes for conferencing but I am going to steal your organizational idea. Thank you for posting.

  11. Thanks so much for sharing! I love this idea. I may have to try this next year! It really makes a lot of sense! I found your blog through Pinterest! I am a new follower!
    Second Grade is Out of This World!

  12. I am an Elementary Education student, and I found your blog through Pinterest, and I'm really excited to use this in my future classroom; I think this is such a great idea for more effective learning for individuals!

  13. I am a parent that home schools. I was out looking for spelling lists to use , but really wanted to make spelling relevant to her, she aced all of her tests she had in Public school. I love the idea of keeping track of words you notice on a sticky note. I think I will use a combination of a list and her own misspelled words. With the lists that i have that are grade appropriate I will give a pretest, if she gets the words right there isn't any reason to work on them. We will take the ones she misses and her own words as our list. The reason I decided on the regular lists also is I think it will add words that she may not come across normally to see if she can spell them. I will also have a sticky note for vocab. We seem to have words as we are reading that we want to look up what it is, then can't remember what the word was when we get to a place to look it up. Thanks for the ideas.