A Second Look at the Idea of Weekly Spelling Lists
For the last several months, I have been racking my brain about how I wanted my spelling homework to be next year. I am someone who believes that spelling tests are not backed by sound research and therefore I have a hard time justifying giving weekly spelling list. In the past I have tried individual lists, regular and challenge word lists and modified lists, but I have still not been satisfied. I fee that in education sometimes we do things because it is what we have always done, and that how it has been for me with spelling until now. A while back I came across a post by Beth Newingham http://blogs.scholastic.com/top_teaching/2010/10/my-november-top-ten-list-word-study-in-action.html and it changed the way I thought about spelling. At first I was overwhelmed at all the work she had put into her spelling lesson. But like her, I agreed that having students memorize a spelling list is a waste of time. We have to teach students the patterns and help them apply those patterns in their writing. After reading her post I pulled out all of my spelling materials. I printed off her free spelling test sheet and her high frequency words. I even printed off a copy of her 3rd grade word study unit for the year. Then, I began creating my own second grade word study unit for next year.
This year my school used Reading Street as their basal reader, but next year we are switching to a workshop method. I did not want to recreate all of my spelling materials (like my laminated spelling lists) so I decided that during Daily Five my students will use these list to do word study and the spelling list will go home with them to practice along with a letter to the parents each week about the spelling pattern we are learning about. However on Friday students will be tested on the assigned pattern words and “New Pattern Words" (which they have never seen) to see if they had learned the pattern or memorized the word. I am also going to give them the five high frequency words as well.
At the beginning of the year for the first two weeks I am going to give every child the first 100-300 High Frequency word list and the words they do not know I will add to their words to learn list. These are the words I will require that students memorize because they are hard to decode. Then, I will administer the Words Their Way spelling inventory and use that information to find out what lessons I can skip.
I feel that this program is a little more accountable. One because the (parent) letters that I have created for each focus (30) really explains to the parents what the focus of the week is and the patterns or rules that apply. It also gives the parents strategies for helping their students learn the list that is not based off of memory but rather immersion. Another reason I like this program better is because when students are unable to spell a word using that pattern it does not just vanish, I record patterns that are problematic and work with them during small groups.