Want to set aside that spelling workbook for good? You can. Here are meaningful spelling activities – no workbook required!
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Have you read through my Word Study series? If so, you’ve learned
- why Word Study is a better approach than traditional spelling instruction
- about the stages of spelling development
- how to determine exactly what spelling instruction your students need
Now we’re at the conclusion of the series — and I want to show you how to set up a week of meaningful spelling activities in your home or classroom.
What’s traditional spelling instruction look like for the week? It’s been almost fourteen years since I started teaching (you may do the math and figure out my age), but I’ll try to remember what it was like when I used the traditional spelling book and workbooks.
First I introduced the list. Then the kids did a workbook page. I assigned a few more workbook pages during the week, gave a pretest on Thursday, and a test on Friday.
I’m pretty sure that’s as creative as I got.
While some of you have, no doubt, found interesting ways to teach your students their spelling lists, Word Study lends itself to fun, meaningful spelling instruction. I’m not promising that your students will cheer every time you start a Word Study lesson. And you can’t please everyone all the time.
But wouldn’t you love to have spelling instruction that you can be proud of? A weekly schedule of activities that you know is truly meeting the needs of every learner?
Meaningful Spelling Activities
A sample weekly spelling schedule for kindergarten
Monday: Picture Sort: You model the sort, and the students practice it on their own. (Read this post for more about choosing and using word sorts.)
Tuesday: Draw and Label: Students get out their bag of pictures (which they stored in a safe, communal location on Monday) and sort them again. Then they draw and label additional words. For example, the sort might be between the sounds /sh/ and /ch/. The kids would draw pictures of words that begin with these sounds.
Wednesday: Cut and Paste: After sorting again (you want kids to sort their pictures or words 5-7 times per week), students look through magazines with a friend and cut out pictures that begin with a particular sound.
Thursday: Game Day: Children play homemade board or card games to support and build on what they’ve learned in their weekly sort. The teacher observes and monitors group behavior. I’m sorry, but you will probably have someone who cries because he did not get the red playing piece.
Friday: Assessment: At this level, assessment is mostly informal. Observe students’ sorting and evaluate how well they did on the week’s activities. If you desire, administer a test in which you call out a word and have students circle the letter or digraph which begins the word.
A sample weekly spelling schedule for the elementary grades
Monday: Introduce the sort: You pass out the sorts, the students cut them out before meeting with you, and you meet with each word study group to introduce the week’s sort. If you’re homeschooling, this part’s simple to manage. (Unless you have eight kids!) (Read this post for more about how to introduce word sorts.)
Tuesday: Practice the sort and write it: Students get out their bag of words (which they stored in a safe, communal location on Monday) and sort them again. You circulate and ask students to read the words and declare their categories (such as short a and a-consonant-e). Vary the types of sorts you ask your students to do to keep it interesting: try writing sorts, blind sorts, and speed sorts. (Learn more about the types of sorts here.) Students appreciate working with partners to learn their words. If you’re homeschooling, assign an older sibling to help your child, or be the partner yourself.
Wednesday: Game Day: Students in the same word study groups play homemade board games or card games for extension and practice.
Thursday: Buddy Practice Test: Students do blind written sorts with a partner. You check each paper and send it home to call attention to challenging words.
Friday: Assessment: Give the spelling test. For homeschooling parents, this is easy. For classroom teachers with multiple groups, it’s easy too — if you have a good plan. When I taught in the classroom, I’d call out each group’s number one first. And I waited for each member of a group to raise her hand when her group was called. This way no one got lost or confused. It worked very well. “Group A, number 1…. Group B, number 1…” Some Word Study teachers choose to call out words that are not on the spelling list but that fit the pattern — if you plan to do this, make sure you let your spellers (and their parents!) know in advance.
Wait a second – where’s the fun?
First of all, the fun lies in what your students are not doing… they’re not memorizing random words on a list. They’re not doing mind-numbing workbook pages. They’re not doing word searches or copying their words 3 times each.
The fun also lies in the fact that Word Study is hands-on. Moving pieces of paper around as they read the words and determine where they belong is active learning. While kids may not call it “fun,” you can call it “meaningful.”
The weekly games add excitement and interest to spelling instruction. If you’re a homeschooling parent, this will be fun for you. You’ll get some special game time with your child. If you’re in the classroom, you’ll have a little more work to do – more games to prepare, and more behavior to monitor. If your students are young, you’ll need to teach things like this:
- we hand the dice to the next player when we’re done
- the teacher decides who gets which playing piece
- we stay sitting on our bottoms while we play
- there will be a consequence for students who don’t play nicely (and you know there will be someone!)
But where do you get the game ideas? From Words Their Way. I find that the book gets better with each publication, but you’ll still get a good resource if you buy an older edition.
For more detailed information about word study, see this post from This Reading Mama: Word Study: What Exactly Is It?
Read the rest of the series!
And if you’re looking for printable games that you can use with any word list, we highly recommend this ebook. Many of the games are editable!
© 2013 – 2018, Anna G. All rights reserved.