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Nuts & Bolts: Individualized Spelling Program

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Individualized Spelling Program

On October 9th, 1996 a parent posted on a multiage listserve a description of the individualized spelling program used in her daughter's multiage classroom. Although it is different than what is done in my classroom, it is an excellent way for students to learn how to spell in a multiage setting. With her permission I have reposted it here.


My daughter's multiage classroom (2/3) has individualized spelling that works very well. This is a summary of it:

Each student has a spelling notebook, which consists of pages divided into thirds vertically. Each Monday, the students take a spelling pre-test over the 10 district spelling words in the first column. These words usually cover some spelling/sound pattern, such as making words ending in 's' plural, words that have the same sounds spelled differently, etc. This first set of words are then checked, and any misspelled words are written into the second column. The students then add on to the list to form their weekly spelling list. The words added on come from a variety of places.

First, they come from words the students have misspelled on written work in the past. Whenever the teachers notice a misspelled word in written work, they write the word on the inside of the student's folder. As the students include these words on spelling lists, they cross off the word on the folder. If they misspell the word again in written work, it is added to the folder again, and then eventually added to a spelling list again.

If the student does not have enough words on their folder (usually this means they are pretty good spellers), the classroom has a list of words they have compiled that include words the teachers have used in discussions, words dealing with a particular subject matter they are studying (such as dinosaurs, plants, current events, etc.), or simply words the students have added to the list, because they like the word. These words can be used as spelling words, if the students have no more on their folder list.

The students continue to add words to their list until they have 10-15 words. The student chooses how many words they want to include. When they have formed their list, the teachers check the lists to make sure the students have included their folder words, if applicable, and if they have included additional words, they ensure the words are appropriate for that student. They also verify the words are spelled correctly. If the list is approved, the teacher initials the top of the list and the student then copies the list onto the third column of the page. This third column is then cut off the page and used to take home the spelling words to study at home. This system ensures the students have a list of spelling words at home and at school, so they can study them at either place, as well as providing individualized spelling for each student. The teachers admit that the system is rather teacher-intensive, but it works well, so they feel the extra time it may take is worth it.

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