Thursday, February 28, 2013

Finding a new strategy for spelling practice

As I have mentioned before, Cate's first grade class has spelling tests each week.  Her class is given 10 spelling words on Monday, homework related to those words each night (Monday - write each spelling word 3 times, Tuesday & Weds - write sentences using half spelling words, Thursday study for test), then a test on Friday.  The modification for Cate in spelling is that she gets only 5 of the words, she does the same homework using only her words, then has a one-on-one test on Friday.   Her spelling grade was a 84% for the last academic quarter - not too bad especially since the words are getting harder, not the 3 letter ones we started off with in the beginning of the school year! Spelling was going pretty smoothly in the months before the holiday break when our routine looked like this:

Friday - teacher emails me the words
Saturday - I make flash cards and velcro them on the wall by her desk.  We work on learning to read the words she doesn't already know.  I usually make the cards the same color if there is a similarity like they all end in the same letters or have the same vowel combination so I can ask her what is the same on all the "orange words" and we can also work on finding patterns.
Sunday -  read each word then write the word 3 times on her dry erase board.  The dry erase board is easier for her to write on since there is less resistance and since this is an "extra" practice day I try to make it as low impact as possible.
Monday - write each word 5 times on homework
Tuesday - write 5 sentences, one for each word on homework
Wednesday - write a different sentences for each word on homework
Thursday - practice spelling test, she writes any words she misses 3 times on the dry erase board
Friday - daddy quizzes her in the car on the way to school

Like I said that was working for us until after the break.  After the holiday break she really started rebelling on writing sentences for the second time and I can't blame her because she has already done a full day of school and an hour of private speech on Wednesday night. I feel Cate can compose sentences for her spelling words very well for her age.  I say she does so pretty much independently, probably 85% of the time.  For example recently she had "nice" as a word and her sentence was "My sister is nice.", on Tuesday for "fly" and she said "I fly with my bee.".  Of course once in a while a word throws her like yesterday her sentence for "by" was "I want to by a dress.".  But she takes correction on that type of thing pretty well and usually won't make the same mistake the next day.  It is more a problem of fine motor & motor planning skills - the spacing, writing multiple words, spelling the other words, and remembering her composition are all tough and time consuming for Cate.  But given her challenge in learning her words I can't just give her a night off if we want to her to get good grade on the spelling test. Fortunately for us her teacher is very understanding and willing to allow me to make modification when it comes to homework on nights she has therapy. 

Finally after weeks of fighting it, I realized we just needed a new spelling practice routine.  I left the rest of the nights the same but took an idea from another mom to make on spelling practice more of a game on Wednesday nights. I take wooden letters (enough to make all 5 words if I have the capacity) and put them scrambled up on her desk. 
this night we used magnetic letters since every word had repeating letters it was less letter on the board
The first time I leave the flash cards on the wall in front of her desk and she searches through the letters and creates the word on the desk, then write it on her homework paper. 

Then I take the cards down, put out fewer letters (if we'd been using more then the night in the pictures - the teacher took it easy on us the first week after winter break), then read her the words and see if she can remember how to spell them.  She may not get them all but we celebrate with a little chair dance every time she does get it right and she loves that! 

The manipulative and game qualities of this work make her much more compliant in the process while still helping her learn the spelling.  This simple strategy change has not only reduced our homework time, Cate has gotten 100% of each of the three tests since we started it!!!  I'm sure this won't last forever (although the number/bean game from the beginning of the year is still a favorite) but with Cate it is all about being creative within the routine when things get rough.


  1. That's a good idea. If you have an iPad, we have a good app for spelling words on there. I use it for my 6 year old.

    1. Please let me know the name of the ap - Cate is an ipad Master but I haven't had good luck finding a spelling ap that I can program the words. Thanks!