Mastering New Words for Writing
A seven-year-old recently told me that instead of the whole class learning the same spelling words, students would be better off learning the words they wanted to use for their own writing. Smart kid! So how do we help children select and learn relevant words?
Strategy 1: ProofreadingAs soon as children are spelling some words conventionally, encourage them to proofread: Underline words they think are wrong, and then try to get them right. A Try-It-Out sheet (with columns for First Try, Second Try, Third Try, and Correct Spelling) can help. Children try each word two or three ways and then use a resource to check the spellings. This is also useful for charting spelling growth.
Strategy 2: Choosing WordsFrom their proofreading (and class theme lists, if appropriate), children select a group of words they think will be useful for future writing. Often, I also indicate in the Correct column of the Try-It-Out sheet one or two other words a student might want to learn.
Strategy 3: Learning WordsTalk about useful ways to learn how to spell words, such as:
Strategy 4: Learning Related WordsIt is most useful for children to choose a few words to learn, to learn them thoroughly, and then think about related words they now know how to spell, such as:
Strategy 5: Geeting FeedbackIf children want to check how well they've learned their words, they can have a partner ask them to spell each word. I also ask children to record in a notebook the words they are learning and how; I collect a few notebooks each week to see where kids may need help. Make time every week or two for children to share their ideas about learning words.
Diane Snowball is an internationally known educational consultant focusing on language arts. Some of the material for this column was adapted from Ideas for Spelling and Teaching Spelling (Heinemann).