Slice of Life March 18th, 2013 #slice2013

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“Today’s Specials”

“Pastachio Pancakes with whipped cream and strawberries”

I couldn’t stop staring at the sign in our local diner.

“They spelled pistachio wrong on the specials menu,” I told Chris.

“Are we going to have to leave? Because they spelled it wrong?” he asked.

Ok, so maybe I have an obsession with establishments spelling words correctly.  But really, pastachios?  How can you

Diner

Diner (Photo credit: Jayjay P)

leave that up there for all the people in the restaurant to see?  And how is it possible that no one else who works at this diner noticed the issue?  It was the first special on the list!  And it was written in green (in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, perhaps?) so it stood out even more!

Normally, I don’t patronize restaurants where they can’t spell or use spellcheck on their menu.  Seriously.  I have a problem.

I did not leave the diner, as I wanted my eggs and pancakes, and Chris really wanted his Eggs Benedict with Corned Beef Hash.  But the sign haunted me through our entire meal.  I couldn’t look up without seeing it, staring at me.  I was tempted to go over and fix the spelling myself, but I decided that would be obnoxious.

And then, right as we were about to leave, a waitress walked over to the whiteboard and erased everything!  It was apparently time to switch from the breakfast specials to the lunch/dinner specials, so the offensive spelling disappeared.  Even better?  They stopped writing the updated specials about halfway through because it got busy, and I didn’t have to stare at anymore misspelled words.  :)

Preparing for a new week

Update on this post:

I just spent the majority of my evening creating individualized spelling lists for my students. Last week I gave them the upper-level inventory from Words Their Way: Word Study for Phonics, Vocabulary, and Spelling Instruction (4th Edition). I then spent the week going through each test and grading it with the accompanying chart. I was thrilled with the results! I was able to see where my students were struggling and where they were succeeding. If I hadn’t given this inventory many of my students would have struggled with their weekly spelling lists, as they are not yet at that level. And then I had a few students who would be bored to tears because they scored well above a 6th grade spelling level.

I love that I can now challenge each student. However, I did not think I could handle doing 42 separate lists. Instead, I grouped my students within their spelling stages. Thus, I ended up with 7 groups in each class. The groups are color-coded, so the students won’t know who is higher or lower. Plus, it makes it a lot easier for me to stay organized.

I am also tied to my district’s spelling curriculum, so I must keep using it. I knew Words Their Way: Word Study for Phonics, Vocabulary, and Spelling Instruction really needs to be used as the sole program in the classroom and I just knew I could not commit to that. Thus, I was out at Barnes and Noble at 8pm tonight picking up the book that will be my spelling bible this year- Word Journeys: Assessment-Guided Phonics, Spelling, and Vocabulary Instruction.

Word Journeys is similar to WTW in that it provides spelling lists for literally dozens of rules at each spelling stage. However, I was able to easily adapt it to my district spelling program. Below is an example of the list one group of students will choose from this week (this group of students is at the middle-to-late syllables and affixes spelling stage). We will take our district spelling pretest (the top rule on the page). (I did make the decision to slightly alter the district lists, only including the spelling rule words and not the basal story vocabulary words. I don’t use my basal very much and the words never meant anything to my students as they weren’t a part of the novel/short story we were reading at the time. ) Students will put any words spelled incorrectly on their personal spelling list. They will then choose the remainder of their 20 words from the individual list they are given. Each week I will meet once with the groups to discuss and practice the rule.

Click here to see a sample group list!

Differentiated Spelling

Over the last few weeks I have been working on a new spelling contract for my students. I firmly believe in differentiated spelling lists but I am tied to to my district’s spelling curriculum. It’s been an uphill battle as I try to come up with a compromise that I am happy with! I think I finally have it. This week I plan to give my students the Upper Level Inventory from Words Their Way: Word Study for Phonics, Vocabulary, and Spelling Instruction (4th Edition) and then level them into 2-3 groups.

Each week I will give our normal spelling pretest on Monday, using the district curriculum. However, in a change from the past, there will no longer a “Get 100 on the pretest and you have no spelling test on Friday” rule. Each student will grade their pretest. Then, each word that they spell incorrectly will go on their spelling list for the week. Once they write those words on their personal list, they will then choose from a leveled list until they have 20 spelling words for the week (20 most weeks, though more or less in certain weeks, according to the curriculum). The students will then complete a spelling contract that will be due on Friday. Friday morning, students will give each other their spelling tests in pairs

I think this will be manageable for me while still serving the students best. As I use a points system for grading (e.g. a spelling test would be a 20/20 instead of a 100), this will allow for even more differentiation. Should a student have more or less words than the rest of the class one week, it will not upset my grading system. This format will also allow me to follow the same schedule that we have always used for formal spelling. I do not have enough hours in the day to cover all the subjects necessary for language arts. I hate devoting a good chunk of time to whole-class spelling instruction on a daily basis. This allows me to focus on spelling on Monday and Friday while the students continue to work on it at home Tuesday through Thursday. That lets me concentrate on grammar Tuesday-Thursday.

If you are interested in my weekly spelling contract, check it out. One of my new additions is requiring a semantics map each week (an idea I gleaned from Emily Kissner’s Differentiated Spelling Program). The semantics map will cover our core curriculum standards for increased use of the dictionary and thesaurus, something most students need. At the same time, the contract gives them a choice of various other activities to choose from in order to fulfill all the weekly requirements. It’s a combination and compromise that I am happy with.

What about you? Do you use a differentiated spelling program in your classroom? How does it work?

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