Saturday, June 11, 2011

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 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.


  1. Thanks for sharing your ideas! I did the same thing with Beth Newinghams' spelling list when I was teaching 3rd grade. Last year we adopted the 2011 version of Reading Street, and I may use your spelling ideas with my 2nd graders this fall.

  2. Thanks for the comment, I also looked at The Phonics Dance and lined it up with my spelling list as well. I think I am going to do a choice board of some sort but I want something meaningful. How were you doing your homework?

  3. Your plan looks great! I use Reading Street for first grade. :)

  4. I love this post! I discovered Beth Newingham's spelling method back in the early spring and decided that's what I wanted to implement in my classroom next year too--and I've been thinking about how to do it with the Daily Give as well. I like how Beth pointed out that anyone can memorize a list of words, but this method helps to ensure that students can apply the pattern with words that they haven't tried to spell before.

  5. For homework I use activities from and a list of ideas from my website:

    I never had much luck with getting back spelling homework and make it optional.

  6. Thank you so much for sharing. I'm trying to figure out how to do something similar.
    Little Treasures

  7. I love Beth's spelling method too. Do you remember if her students have individual spelling lists, group spelling lists, or if everyone has the same list? I've been doing individual lists, and to be honest it's wearing me out.

  8. I believe that she does a challenge and a regular list. Since this is my first year doing it, I am going to do one spelling list.

  9. I tried to do something similar. I made 2 spelling programs ...They are are called Spelling Lists that Make Sense (one for first grade, and one for 2nd grade)
    The kids are given 5 words that follow a pattern and 5 high frequency words. We work with that pattern throughout the week, and then the kids are asked to spell those words + 5 new words that use the patterns for the week. They are also asked to write 5 high frequency words from previous weeks.

    Rockin' Teacher Materials