My theory is that when students are given weekly spelling tests, they may memorize the words for the week, but it does not translate into their writing. Therefore they don't really "learn" the words. My action research hypothesis is that students can improve their spelling levels without the need, or stress, of a weekly test. However, I believe that students cannot just absorb words through incidental exposure like reading. There are specific patterns in spelling, and if students are taught these patterns, their spelling can improve.
beginning of the year, and right before the end of the quarter, I gave students the Intermediate Spelling Inventory that goes with Words
Their Way. Then, I grouped the students according to their spelling
ability and assigned homework of words at their level, using Words Their
Way. Although a few students did improve their spelling, others
actually slipped from the beginning of the year. So, starting in the
second quarter, I gave students who had slipped 2 patterns per week to
study for homework. Unfortunately, I did not take much time to truly
teach Spelling patterns so far this year, other than having students
sort the words from the Storytown Lessons. Perhaps, I will be able to
teach more patterns in Small Groups as I just began workstations this week (read my other post about that).
I know a third
grade teacher at my school also uses Words Their Way for Spelling. I
took a survey of students (show of hands) and asked who had that
particular teacher last year. Many of my below-grade-level spellers came
from that class. This made me question the efficacy of the idea of
using Words Their Way with students who are below- rade-level. I
started thinking that if I continue to give these students
words at their level to spell, they might NOT improve their spelling,
as they will not get the exposure they need to grade level words. This
is especially true since some of these students have difficulty
completing homework, and I don't have as much time as I'd like during class to truly
delve into word study with them.
I am going to be making some changes in how I
approach Spelling Instruction with these students. Starting after winter
break, I will be giving these students worksheets from the Storytown
Spelling Lessons for homework. This will give them exposure to words
that is higher than their spelling level, but at grade level which is
where they NEED to be. I like that Storytown does use words that follow a
specific spelling pattern each week and one of the activities is for
students to sort the words according to patterns. I still will not be
giving weekly spelling tests. So, I will be curious to know if these
students' spelling will improve.
As I further reflect
on the idea of grouping students by their Spelling levels, it reminds me
of something a fellow teacher said at a recent training. "It smacks of
tracking." She was referring to the Walk-to-Read program that some schools use. However, I think it definitely applies to spelling as well. I
grouped my Workstation/ Small Groups according to their spelling
levels. However, I now realize I really need to push some students so
they do not end up in a certain track forever.
Our school spelling bee is coming up in January. My top 2 spelling groups will
be challenged to start preparing for that starting on Monday. Their
"fluency" station time will be used for them to drill each other on
spelling words for the Spelling Bee. There "word study" time is used looking up words in the dictionary.
I will be giving the Spelling Inventory again before the end of the second quarter. It will be interesting to see what the results will be after I make these changes.
A parent made a statement this week that her child may not be putting in the effort to study the words without the stress of a weekly test that she is graded on. If students' spelling levels do not improve by the end of the 2nd quarter, I may test the control groups (2 other 4th grade classes) and have enough information for my research to influence my instruction.