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Spelling Smart


Submitted by: Leslie Nichols, Plateau Valley School, Collbran, CO

Grade Level: 4th grade, used originally in a 2/3 Multi-Age class

Student Materials Needed: (put this on school supply request list for parents)

Index card file box

3 packages of index cards (white)

ABC index card dividers

5 colors of highlighters (green, yellow, blue, pink, orange)


Spelling Smart- teaching children to use words that are "real" and meaningful, and challenging them at the same time. I believe that most students can spell. Not all of them rely on the spelling rules ( I was one that did not), however I have concluded that this is the most effective way to teach them.

Begin the year by doing a mini lesson on the different styles/types of learning. Share what type of learner that you are, and what works for you, also explaining that most people are more than 1 type of learner.


Students are tested on Tuesdays, and given new word lists on Thursdays. Begin discussion about spelling program early and explain it first few days. Then begin on the first Wednesday that you feel is the best time to do so.


Words Selection-Wednesdays

Students choose words from spelling rule list for the next week test. These lists can be personalized by you, or you can use the book called "Spelling Smart" which lists all of the rules. Children can start at 10 words and choose no more than 20. But eventually should be at 20 words after consistent mastery of the number chosen, so as to not discourage them. Some will begin immediately with 20. Walk around the room to ensure that students are choosing challenging words, but everyday, realistic words. Once words are o.k'd by you, have students transfer their new words to the Spelliing Rule Word List Sheet. Students then turn these new lists in to you for checking, and photocopying. The sheet should have a place for the students name at the top, the name of the spelling rule, a brief summary of how it works, followed by the test date and lines for the words to be placed on (20 lines max). The back side of this list sheet should have a brief explanation of ideas and things to do to prepare, and a signature and date line for guardian to sign. Collect all lists, photocopy them that same day so that your students can take the original home with them to study with. The original must be signed and returned on test day-Tuesday.

***As the year progresses you will also add words misspelled from journals, daily work, and words they have chosen that are of interest to them, and obviously those misspelled from the previous weeks' test, as no words leave until they have been mastered.

*** I use a green marker to add the extra words, and those missed from the previous week on the last few lines. So, if Sarah misses 2 words from the last weeks' test, then she only chooses 18 from the new rule list, and those 2 missed remain on the list, and are written in green marker.


Skill Reinforcement-Thursdays

Introduce new spelling rule on Thursday. Process through examples with children on white board as to why/how the rule applies to spelling words. Hand out a worksheet that has sentences on one side with blanks and a word list at the bottom. On the opposite side of the worksheet is a list called "Categories". Students use spelling rule spelling words from wordlist at the bottom of page to fill in categories. Ex Things that fly, Things you cook, Things that have motors.............

Students may work in with a partner, a small group or individually to complete. Should be completed in the class period allowed. At least 40 minutes.


Friday-Monday-Independent practice at home/school


Tuesday-Test Day

Call students up in small groups. I use a horseshoe shaped table. (They are grouped together in similar abilities, but are unaware of this, I do not tell them). No groups larger than 5. Students bring original copy of list to you, and turn in (for your records). Test begins, no talking, looking, etc. I use a large Art drawing board to lay all of their copies out on in front of me. I hold it up so that they can't see it..... Begin test..... Say " Josh, science, Kaitlin, believe..... and continue until all words have been completed. Some students may have 15 words, while others have 20, that's o.k. direct those with less words to finish up quietly, turn in their spelling test, and return to their desks....

During the time that students are testing, the other students practice their words quietly with a partner or independently. Some just recite, some use mini-whiteboards to practice, or new techniques that work for them. Some use shaving cream, beans, etc...Remember this is a time to encourage them to use any and all methods that work for them.

Process continues until all students have completed their tests. Once completed, students turn them in, and I grade them later that day or have an aid do so.


Wednesday-1st part, before new words selection-

Hand back graded tests. Answer and discuss q's and concerns if any. Praise and report your thoughts overall! Now it's time for helping them make their words meaningful, and useful..... Personal Word Dictionaries. Each student at this time transfers all correctly spelled words to a 3x5 word card. 1 word per card, and will eventually insert it alphabetically into their index card box. (Use ABC dividers). Once words are on their cards, they rubber-band them and turn them into you. At planning time or end of day. Go through cards to ensure that students have spelled their words correctly on the card (many will make errors sometimes), and if their cards have correctly spelled words on them clip the right corners off of all of them with a designer pair of scissors from Fiskars.

Return to student. Student then files it away. This dictionary will serve many purposes. Reading, Writing, Spelling resources for all subject areas.

It is so exciting to see them referencing "their personal word card dictionaries". Many students take these with them to their next year classes.

Added mini-lessons and bonus of dictionaries-

Practice verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, etc. Assign each one a color. Ex Verbs-Pink Nouns-yellow....... Take a day and have students go through, using highlighters and pull all verbs and color them pink.

For those that they are not sure about check it in the dictionary.

GOOD LUCK! I hope that this works for you. Modify, modify, modify if need be.