J. Richard Gentry
Many aspects of an
individualized spelling program are daunting. What teacher, for example,
has time to give each student a separate weekly test? Getting kids to
quiz one another is one solution. This idea not only saves you time, but
it also strengthens skills because students work together on words they
To prepare for partner
quizzes, students need to collect and study six to ten words that they
have not yet mastered, but would find useful. These "need to know" words
should come from weekly whole-class quizzes that you conduct and from
students' own writing.
ACTIVITY 1: MATCHING
Purpose: To establish a weekly routine for bringing spelling
Materials: a set of student name cards, students' "need
to know" word lists
Time Needed: 5 minutes at the end of each week
- To prepare, create
cards with individual student names on them.
- Ask students to
get out their "need to know" lists for the week and gather in the classroom
meeting area. Be sure their lists are neat and readable. If a list contains
homophones, such as our and hour, the student should draw a picture
clue, such as a clock, next to one of the words to help the test giver
- Shuffle the cards
and draw pairs randomly to determine who will work together.
- Have students
find their partners and select a spot in the classroom.
ACTIVITY 2: CARRYING
OUT PARTNER QUIZZES
Purpose: To clarify procedures for administering partner
Time Needed: 10 minutes
Once students have
agreed on a place to work, explain that the purpose of partner quizzes
is to help them help each other become better spellers. Then ask them
to follow these steps.
- Exchange lists
and decide who will be quizzed first.
- Quiz givers should
call out each word and use it in a sentence, while the quiz taker writes
the word down. Remember, no hints your partner is
responsible for knowing his or her own spelling words.
- If you're the quiz
giver and you can't read a word, let your partner help if he or she
can (without looking at the word), or ask the teacher to whisper it
- When you've finished
the first quiz, switch roles and repeat the process.
- Work quickly and
efficiently. Two partner quizzes should take only about ten minutes.
ACTIVITY 3: SCORING
Purpose: To assess students and use results to inform teaching.
Time Needed: 5 minutes
- 1 After students
have quizzed each other, have quiz givers call out the correct spelling
of each word, while quiz takers mark the ones that they misspelled.
- Ask students to
turn in their quizzes so you can quickly check their work.
- Have students
recycle misspelled words by putting them back on their "need to know"
- If a student is
continuously scoring poorly, confer with her to find out why. She may
need to try harder, work on fewer spelling words at a time, or choose
- Have your super
spellers use spelling time for vocabulary enrichment. Encourage them
to identify words that they might use in their writing, but aren't sure
how to spell. One fifth grader, for example, chose the word millennium
to use as the title of a movie he wanted to write about. Most adults
misspell millennium, but this student mastered it by researching the
word and including it on his individualized spelling list.
TIPS FOR MAKING PARTNER
- Keep spelling
lists short. Second graders should choose about six words a week, while
older children should choose about ten. Short lists will reduce the
time needed for partner quizzes and other spelling activities, leaving
more time for reading and writing.
- Make sure lists
are composed of words and patterns that your students use. Egypt, for
example, is generally more appropriate for fifth graders than sarcophagus!
- Don't underestimate
the power of recycling words. Continued practice is a good way to build
- Set a tone of
comfortable rigor. Encouraging shorter lists or easier words for good
reason doesn't mean you're lax about spelling.