Friday, September 23, 2011

Regarding Spelling

Hello parents and students,

As I discussed with students in the class on Friday Thursday, I have not taught a formal spelling program in the past. There are many reasons for this, including some research showing that it is more important for students to be able to get their ideas down in writing, even if they don’t get the spelling right and the existence of spell-checkers. There is also the challenge of programming appropriately across a variety of spelling strengths in one classroom. If I was marking spelling on a writing task, I usually made it clear that a portion of the mark was based on following conventions.

That being said, I have also had some conversations with students about how important it is to spell properly and how people will make judgments about your intelligence if you don’t spell things correctly on important documents like job applications. I have also taken some feedback from parents of previous students and looked at some of the early work we have done this year and I think that a spelling program would benefit this group of students. However, the spelling program that I implement will not be the same for all students in the degree of difficulty as some students are already adept spellers and need to be challenged, while others need to develop their automatic spelling of common words.

I think I have found an online tool that will help me do this. Spelling City ( is a website that allows me to create word lists for different groups of students and assign different tasks to students. I can create word lists related to their different subjects (like the air and flight unit in Science). There is a large variety of built in spelling and vocabulary tasks and games that will help students improve their language skills and it will even give oral dictation tests.

I will be expecting students to work on these tasks at home and during free time (i.e. after finish other assignments, etc.). I will give some time during class, especially as we begin to use this tool and everyone gets comfortable with it, but as the year progresses it should become a more independent activity.

Spelling City will record oral dictation scores and these will form a small part of students’ Writing marks on the report card. Good or final copies of written assignments will continue to have a portion of the grade for spelling. This will count relatively more than spelling dictation scores because this is a practical application of spelling. This will be indicated on rubrics or checklists accompanying assignments. Spelling will not be marked on rough drafts, or in math tests, or possibly in some other Language assignments, so that students do not receive the message that spelling matters more than anything else. I truly believe it is very important that they get their thoughts down in words, without always worrying about spelling, but that good spelling will not distract readers from interesting and engaging ideas.

Feel free to try out Spelling City. Students can log in using their YRDSB username and password. It is linked from the class blog on the right side under “Important Links”.

Let me know what you think, and please get back to me with any feedback. The first few word lists on the site that I am using come from bell work, student generated problematic words, and their air and flight unit in Science.

Have a good weekend!