Friday, September 21, 2007

Spelling: A Naturally Planned Approach

We are having such marvelous success with our spelling program this year and so many people have asked me to forward them the information on it, that I just decided to write a post about it.

While Spelling Workout appealed to my children last year, our problems with spelling were such that a random list of words to memorize for Friday and forget by Monday just wasn't improving our writing skills any.

We needed a more planned and targeted approach. Natural Speller by Kathryn Stout is a non-consumable word part based speller for first through eighth graders. This single workbook contains spelling lists based upon the easy phonetic spelling rules ay-/long a/ gray, say, play, etc. used for first through third graders-- all the way up to lists based upon Greek and Latin root words such as agon: struggle, contest: agony, antagonize, protagonist, etc. for use in higher grade levels.

In addition to word lists, Natural Speller provides ample suggestions for activities used to study the spelling of words. Ideas include hands on and multi-sensory activities like writing list words in clay, general practice ideas like breaking words up into their syllables, dictionary skills such as alphabetizing spelling lists, and grammar skills like identifying parts of speech, changing tenses of list verbs, number of list nouns, and adding -ly to list adjectives to make them adverbs. Author, Kathryn Stout, also provides simple and clear instructions to help parents find the activities that will best suit their child's age, interests, and abilities.

Next, in order to target and study the most important words to spell correctly, I referred to my Reading Teacher's Book of Lists (mine is an older edition). There, I found a list of the most frequently used words in the English language, ranked in frequency order. The first hundred of these words compose almost half of all written material! If your child has difficulty spelling, these are the words to study first. Here is that same list on the web.

I tested my children on the spelling of the first hundred of these words and marked all the words they struggled with or misspelled. Then I looked over all the words they missed and grouped them according to the child's mistakes. Incorrect spellings such as Hiz, wuz, iz, and uze, for example, show a need to learn the rule of s /z/. I wrote these words in a spelling notebook with the rule clearly stated at the top and found this rule in the Natural Speller as well where more examples were given to add to my words and form a complete list. I now had a list of ten words that exemplified this rule and each day we completed a new, short and enjoyable activity using the list words. We wrote them in clay, composed short sentences using them, spoke their spellings aloud, highlighted the letters in each word that exemplified the rule, and drew word pictures.

By Friday, the rule was learned and the words were spelled correctly. The child continued to spell the words correctly the following Monday and since seven of these words were on the list of hundred most frequently used words, that child's general spelling ability was improved by roughly three and a half percent in just one week! By the end of our second week, spelling was improved by seven percent, and by the end of our third week, roughly TEN percent.

I plan to work through the first thousand most frequently used words in this same manner-- composing lists and using activities from the Natural Speller. Working this way, we are receiving the highest payback for our efforts and the spelling lessons are short and pleasant. I don't think I will buy another spelling book again.


Ann Horan said...

Hey Suzanne, this is great. I use the Writing Road to Reading which uses a similar approach. I am surprised how much learning the rules really helps them spell.

Suzanne Temple said...

Yes, the writing Road to Reading would work in a similar way. The Natural Speller is a sort of simplified (less exceptions to the rules)method and the ideas for spelling activities are great. We like to vary them to keep things interesting.

Jennie C. said...

Suzanne, we're really spelling challenged over here, and I appreciate the recommendation. We tried the workbooks from CHC, but they seemed so random, and the kids weren't able to apply a rule to words not on the list...frustrating. I've read the Writing Road to Reading, but I've felt overwhelmed by the method. I've got a copy incoming, and we're all looking forward to it.

Erin said...

I've tried the WRTR with my dc but they are most resistant. The numbering irks them and I have to say I find the lists random in a way too. When you say Natural Speller is simplified do they tend to group words together? ie. play, clay, way etc? I'm most drawn to the idea of the spelling activities and the price is excellent!!

Suzanne Temple said...

Erin, Exactly. The list you give is one such suggested list in Natural Speller. Try it out. I don't think you'll be disappointed and the price is so right! Let me know how it goes if you do try it.