Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Things to Improve: Spelling and Vocabulary

At the moment, I'm taking a bit of time to reflect on where I want to improve and what I'm doing well. You can find the master list of reflections here.

Teaching Spelling and Vocabulary

How do you continue to improve spelling and vocabulary when you're teaching children who are already pretty competent in both?

At the moment, I have no clear plan or path to follow for spelling. I've tried a number of ideas - using Greek and Latin roots to brainstorm words (I always lose my list of root words and have to begin again), using dictionaries to find 'connected' words, children grouping a list of spelling words into groups of their own choosing etc. But I've not yet found something that really sticks. And as the children are already good in this area, I tend to let it slip, rather than really looking for how to extend them.

When I was a primary school student, all I remember about spelling was getting a list of words and being forced to memorise them. I was excellent at memorising, but this skill didn't always transfer into spelling correctly in my writing. So how can I give the children strategies to a) find the incorrect words they are putting in their writing and b) to correct them. And how do I put these strategies into interesting lessons with some sort of guiding plan? Without worksheets.

Alternately, since the majority of my students are good spellers, do I need to teach spelling (and vocabulary) as a separate subject? Or can I bring it into my writer's workshop, by explicitly teaching editing skills and insisting that the students use them? Maybe we could increase our visual clues with 'word banks' of interesting/difficult words? Just because most people do long lists of spelling words for tests, does not mean my students have to do the same.

It turns out it's a question which goes beyond the simple 'I want to teach spelling better'. Instead, it turns into a question about 'What's the best way to teach spelling for my students?". And maybe, the best way to find out is to start by asking them. I'll do that Wednesday and keep you updated.

In the meantime, do you have any ideas to make good spellers even better? Let me know!

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  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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