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Are spelling tests really helpful/necessary?
Old 06-05-2007, 08:17 AM
 
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This is an area I'm debating over changing for next year. I'm not so sure I'm seeing the weekly tests as being helpful in my students' spelling ability. They seem to memorize for the test, then misspell the words later anyway. Does anyone else find this to be true?

I'm a statistics person, so I'm curious if anyone knows of studies that proves weekly spelling tests are actually helpful or not. Is there a better way of doing them?

I'm thinking of possibly making them write any misspelled 3rd grade words (in their writing papers) 10x each, but that seems more like a punishment instead of a teaching tool. My other thought is to give spelling tests once a month (instead of weekly), to eventually cover all the 3rd grade words needed (they're on my word wall, so I'd have to cover them that week). I just don't know the right answer.

Any thoughts?


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Old 06-05-2007, 08:32 AM
 
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Your students need to learn to spell and construct sentences correctly whichever way you look at it. What may have been missed is how, exactly, they prefer to learn or learn well.

I've seen only a couple of classes that will actually learn to spell from spelling/phonics work. Instead, they will typically pick up the words after they correct their own, or neighbor's, test.

Here's a plan:

1) Introduce the new words on Monday. Choose words that have been most heavily misspelled throughout the year or according to their teachers from last year. Try not to go over 10 words until the students are used to this pattern.

2) On Tuesday, send them home with homework that will require them to use the words in a sentence and have them spell the word 5 times in a row.

3) On Wednesday, give them a "pre-test" which "will count for a half their test points". I say that in quotes because it's wrong to score a student who hasn't had his best opportunity to learn, but similarly they will not test well without motivation. For the words they got wrong, tell them they can get a single point per question (instead of 5 for a correct one) if they repeat their Tuesday homework for the words they missed.

4) On Friday, give them their "Spelling Final" in which they will be required to spell each word after you say it a few times in proper pronunciation and use each word in a sentence. This will be the score you mark down.

Just like with any language, a person needs total immersion to learn it enough to become fluent. Don't ever give up or become discouraged. Whenever your students are showing low progress in one area and good progress in another, just shift the balance of your focus for a bit and let them know you are doing so. =)

Bon courage!
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Statistics
Old 06-05-2007, 08:40 AM
 
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Oh! And as for your statistical evidences for proven methods, I believe it would be rather difficult to test much of anything in elementary school simply because any teacher who is willing to participate is UNwilling to be one of the "control" classrooms that doesn't receive the experimental treatment.

I ran into this problem time and time again when I was looking for similar classes (one that wanted to use an experimental Language Arts/Social Science Curriculum and another to be the "no treatment" class).

The best you can do here, as I do myself, is to keep a log of your own work -- like a comedian. Many comedians have log books they use that help them to remember which jokes elicited what kinds of responses so that they can continue to make stronger and stronger sets.

Start this on your own and then after a year or two, introduce what you have been doing to your administration. Who knows? They may take a couple of your methods and suggest them to other teachers as best methods. (Be wary, though. They may also request you teach other teachers. =P )
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spelling test
Old 06-05-2007, 10:52 AM
 
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I worked with a class of second graders who at the beginning of the year didn't know how to spell first grade words, so I gave a test daily. I would give them their list in the morning, then test after lunch. The children had to pass the test with at least an 80%. Some children passed them the first time, some took two weeks to pass a test, but I figured they should know the words before moving on to another test.
This method was a lot more work for me, but at the same time, the children were learning the words, not merely memorizing them for the test. It also helped with the reading. When they would get stuck on a word, I would tell them they had it as a spelling word, and they remembered studying the word so they could more easily read it.
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patterns
Old 06-05-2007, 04:35 PM
 
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I don't know if it would work for all grade levels, but I give my kids a pattern on Monday, work with it all week, and then on Friday give a two sentence dictation which contains many words of that pattern and of patterns from earlier weeks.

This way, they are held accountable for applying taught patterns. I post those patterns in a prominent place in the classroom as I teach them, so that children can reference it.


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spelling
Old 06-05-2007, 07:01 PM
 
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Our district supplies us with a list of words that each grade level should be able to spell "in a snap". These are targeted words that need to be addressed. I also work with the spelling pattern each week that goes along with our basal as well as the commonly spelling pattern "chunks". Our spelling list will address a few of the pattern words but I go further--we spell many more words with that same pattern/patterns.

For my spelling quiz I give them the words. Then I also dictate sentences using the spelling words, spelling patterns, phonics/ sentence structure. If the students can only spell a list of ten words and not take it further, then it's not really helping (in my opinion). The dictation of the sentences gives a chance to reinforce what is done with interactive and shared writing, etc.
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Dictation
Old 06-05-2007, 07:28 PM
 
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I use dictation. We talk about a pattern and then I dictate words that use that pattern that they need to spell correctly. During the lesson I walk around the room and read their response phonetically to them so they can fix the word to spell it correctly.

I also use word cards on my wall to prompt their pattern memory. The cards will say ay as in play and the ay in play is a different color. We pick a memory word from each pattern. This helps the kids to remember what appropriate patterns they can use. We also post lists of words next to the card for a few weeks and then put the lists into a large sized book called "The Word Book" where the kids can look to see if their word is in a particular part.

I use to want a spelling test, but my district didn't have an adopted spelling program and it was just too much for me to wrap my head around. So, I went to dictation. Their spelling has improved by practicing the patterns, it also cuts down on my need to write down Tommy - 97% each week. But, my district bases it's grades on a 1,2,3,4 system.

-----
Also, I use the Wordcrafting Spelling Inventory to check on their progress through the year. We're about to take it for a third time.
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Old 06-05-2007, 08:27 PM
 
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I don't have an answer for you. I just wanted to share that this has been on my mind lately too. This year I switched to Words Their Way program because it was individualized and taught spelling patterns rather than just words that are quickly forgotten. I kept some data about if they spelled words correctly that follow patterns learned in their writing. The highest group applied what they learned almost all the time. The other groups were not as successful.

I don't know what I am going to do next year. Words Their Way took too much time in class for the mediocre result I saw. I am anxious to see what others say. I am afraid of what parents might say if I just teach spelling in the context of their writing instead of with a "list".
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I'm still debating...
Old 06-05-2007, 11:41 PM
 
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I started off the year keeping a record of the misspelled words the students used in their writing. In other words, I kept a tally of all of the incorrect words of each student. After going through the tally, I would take the most frequently misspelled words for each child and that would be their spelling words for the week.

Not sure if this was a good idea, but towards the middle of the year I switched to studying different patterns and gave a test based on the patterns.

But, like you, I am still struggling with the whole spelling words concept!!
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Words Their Way
Old 06-06-2007, 06:18 AM
 
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I thought I would try a combination of Words Their Way and learning from some "most frequently used" word list. I'm sorry to hear that WTW takes up a lot of class time - the book says it shouldn't be more than 10-20 minutes or so. I really liked the concept.


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Old 06-06-2007, 02:03 PM
 
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I have wondered this myself. What I ended up doing at the end of the year was institituing the following policy:

We have a pre-test every Monday. If you score 100% on the pre-test, you only need to turn in one spelling homework assignment, and do not have to take the test on Friday.

This means the student is not doing three homework assignments and one test. That is pretty motivating for some of them to study over the weekend.

(The pre-test is not graded, but shows the students where they need to work, the assignment is because I have to have a spelling grade each week).
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Old 06-06-2007, 06:29 PM
 
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10-20 minutes sounds about right, but for each group. So if you have 5 groups, multiply that by 5.
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Old 06-07-2007, 07:36 AM
 
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I guess my only defense for traditional word lists is that it is a kind of homework that most parents feel very comfortable participating in. A lot of parents are math-phobes, but just about everyone has had a word list to learn. Moms feel just fine calling out words and having the kids spell them out.

I don't think that spelling should be a large portion of the child's grade though. Besides spelling rote-style, I think kids need to learn word anatomy and tools to figure out unknown words by structure and context. These are more valuable than great spelling.
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spelling
Old 06-07-2007, 12:00 PM
 
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I've been thinking about that too. Lots of research says that the traditional spelling homework & practice we give isn't beneficial. (The write the words five times, write the words in a sentence, etc...) Also, when we give spelling tests they just memorize the words for the test, which wastes their time. But then again, most of the research I've seen is in books like Words Their Way and Word Matters, so it could be biased.

Honestly, I've always done the spelling lists that our district provides with weekly spelling tests to appease parents. I have been looking for something more meaningful for a while now. I've been reading Word Journeys, and it seems pretty good so far, and provides a lot of word lists in the apendices. So we'll see... good luck!
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Old 06-07-2007, 05:51 PM
 
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I too am up in the air about an effective way to teach spelling. I started out by giving lists of words and the routine Friday test. I found that my students were not applying their skills to their daily work.
This year, the school I am at is using the Words Their Way program. While I think the concept is great, I also am not finding this program effective. As other posters have stated, this program takes way too much time both in the classroom and to grade. I currently have 2 different leveled groups. This takes about a half an hour of classroom instruction. The lists take me about an hour to grade later because I am looking for correctly spelled and correctly sorted words.
I believe that I should have had more levels as well, but the leveled groups were created before I took the class over in January. This would have taken more time.
I am toying with the idea of teaching a pattern and then looking for words correctly spelled that fit the pattern in their daily writing.
It's an ongoing process!
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Old 06-08-2007, 01:36 AM
 
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It seems that we need to find some sort of happy medium. As I said, I went back and forth this year between spelling lists and studying word patterns.

But, I also think that studying spelling words at home does have its place. Students need practice in studying! They need to know how to sit down and study for a test, which sometimes includes memorization and the associated activities.

Studying is an important skill and studying spelling words can be a form of practice. They will definitely need that practice for middle school, high school, and even college.
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also struggling
Old 06-08-2007, 06:00 AM
 
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I too have been contemplating this topic, for four years. This year I used patterned lists of words from a book called Recipe for Spelling. I gave the kids a list of 20 words (I teach fourth grade) and told them that any word from the list, as well as any word that COULD have been on the list because it fits the pattern, is fair game for the test. I felt this caused them to think a little more. I gave three sentences and about 12 words in a dictation test. This worked to a degree. However, the kids who are already good spellers got almost nothing out of this, since they never studied for the tests and already knew the words. The average spellers studied for the test and then forgot the words after, and the poor spellers who forgot to study did poorly. I also recycled words from previous lists into this test as a maintenance program. I was somewhat pleased with the results, more so than anything else I've tried, but still not thrilled. Right now I am torn between two ideas for next year: 1) Doing what I did this year, but having the entire test be sentence dictation, because that is more like real life. 2) Skipping spelling altogether "as a class" and teaching it as a part of vocabulary, reading, English, writing, etc. To me, spelling is more a part of proofreading than anything else, so maybe that's where it should be taught. I'd have a lot more time for writing if I didn't teach spelling as a separate class. Any thoughts?
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Old 06-08-2007, 06:46 AM
 
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I have been thinking about spelling a lot lately, too. I'm not sure if it will work, but I think that I am going to have 3 parts to my list. About 5 words will have a certain spelling pattern that we will study, about 5 vocabulary words from our story, and about 5 words that I see commonly misspelled. I am trying to integrate spelling into reading and grammar, but they will still have a pattern to learn and will have a chance to work on words they spell wrong. We are also going to work on affixes and their meanings in spelling so they can better break apart words when reading and understand them better.
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Old 06-09-2007, 02:42 PM
 
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I have a question about the dictation that you use- do you teach the pattern (ay as in play), spend the week working on it, then test them on some words that use that pattern? In other words, the kids don't have a pre-set list of words to memorize, but a pattern- the words on a test would follow that pattern? Maybe test isn't the right word- I like the idea and it seems that it would be very beneficial to learn some spelling rules instead memorizing a list of words each week. (I seem to remember that is how I was taught- thanks to Sister Mary Elizabeth!). I may not be expressing myself well....but this seems a very good basis for helping with spelling. I don't want to give up on a spelling program altogether, because in NC, the kids take a state writing test in 4th grade and consistently get KILLED on their conventions scores. I teach 3rd grade and would like to help with spelling. Hmm......
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spelling
Old 06-09-2007, 03:36 PM
 
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Spelling --- we give core words no practice on Monday. Words they miss go on their list for Friday plus words they miss on writing assignments and sight words and etc. They each have their own list of words. Individual spelling. We have excellent spellers placing in the top five at our county spelling bee. On Friday teacher says the first students name and word one, student two and their first word, student 3 and their first word. Around the room back to student one say their name and word 2 and etc. NO TALKING...


Our school is noted for the super spellers we have. Each year we go to the county spelling bee and have students earn the right to go to the state spelling bee.
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Old 06-10-2007, 09:24 AM
 
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I am working on my lesson plans for 2007-2008 and have just the same questions you all mention here. Last year I tried many different methods ie using math words, history words, basal words, words the students wrote down in their independent reading, the spelling word book, and lists of words they should know for fourth grade. I am still lost and still wondering what is most effective.
I tried to level the words for the reading level of the student. I nearly drove myself crazy trying to find a way that the students could really "learn" and not just "memorize."
The way I had spelling set up, (once I decided on the words), was to introduce the words on Friday, teach on Monday, homework/classwork taken from a contract, check on Tuesday, study and work Tuesday night, pre-test Wednesday, write words missed, take final test Thursday.
I am trying to decide if I want to set up spelling stations where the children work on words and do all or most of their spelling work at school or if I want to include spelling as needed to go along with whatever book we are using.
Not only how to teach the words but what words to teach is really giving me something to think about.
One question I have is what are the core words you are talking about? Where do I find them?
Thanks!
Sharon
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Old 06-10-2007, 01:01 PM
 
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I don't have an answer to any of the questions but I'm glad I'm not alone in thinking about it.

I used to use Words Their Way. I had separate groups for the introductions but they had independent sorts each day. The others in their group checked to see they agreed with the sorting and the spelling. I only did it one year so I'm not too sure about results but at least the kids seemed more aware of WHY certain words were spelled a certain way. Of course, English is so irregular, it sometimes created problems.

Now we have required spelling books. They are by the authors of WTW but still, they are mandated word lists each week. I have been differentiating by adding challenge words, etc. I like the fact that they can sort their words online and get automatic feedback.

This coming year, I think I am going to incorporte parts of Month-by-Month Phonics (from the 4 blocks people). One of my goals this summer is to figure out the parts of Month-by-Month that correlate with our spelling pattern. I like their philosophy on spelling-
  • some words are ones that you just need to learn and know automatically
  • some words have predictable rime patterns
  • some words have two possible rime patterns and it is more of "What Looks Right"
  • some words have word parts (prefix/suffix) and learning these word parts can help you become a better reader and speller
  • These ideas of spelling should be applied to reading and writing or else they are worthless
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Sitton spelling
Old 06-11-2007, 06:10 AM
 
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I took a quick look at this program, which does not use tests. Not sure how it works. Has anyone used it, do you like it, and can you give a short short explanation of how it works? Thanks.
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Spelling
Old 06-11-2007, 07:07 AM
 
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I too have found that Friday tests just don't seem to work. I have used Words Their Way in the past and found it way too time consuming especially for the results. We are going to be using Sitton Spelling this year. This may be the program that the above poster is asking about. There are no weekly tests, however there is a cloze activity after every unit. The units focus on spelling patterns and word usage. There are core words for each grade level and priority words. There is a web site that can explain it much better. One thing I like about this program is that it really seems to give the students more responsiblity about spelling correctly in everything they write. I will be spending the summer really getting to know this program.
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spelling as an intervention
Old 04-19-2015, 05:29 PM
 
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Hello! I am not the only one in debate over this either!!!! So this year I changed everything with homework, spelling and math. Here is my new take on spelling...

Weekly spelling tests are still a go, but I modified the lists this year and made my own. I use prefixes, suffixes, word families, contractions, homophones, etc. I chose word lists that fit our unit of study at the time. This works well for 80% of the class. (which is okay at this point) In addition to this, I use the district list of HFW and give monthly tests. We give 15-25 words a time. I have an aid that assists in my room so she pulls the kids in small groups that missed only certain words. Each kid is to write the word three times and copy the sentence she creates word for word. Then they are to create their own sentence using it. (hopefully to help stick with them in the process of applying it). I have seen children be successful in this format. I don't think I will have an aid next year so I am trying to think how it will go.

I hope this helps. I love the small group idea because it allows the kids to only have to work on the words they missed so kids don't have to practice the words they already know.

Enjoy your last few weeks
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