Personalized Learning: Spelling

“Don’t they teach you how to spell these days?” “No, they teach us how to use spell check.” -Jodi Picoult

spelling beeI have to confess…I am one of those people who never had trouble with spelling.  It came easily for me and my nickname in middle school was “dictionary”.  I hated that then, but having the ability to spell has always served me well.  In this “spell check” world, it seems as if spelling may not matter.

Fortunately, my 5 year olds have some of the same desire for spelling correctly as I.  They don’t like to get things wrong and they get concerned when they are typing in Pages and they get the red, squiggly underline indicating they have spelled incorrectly.

Since we are focusing on personalized learning, I have different spelling lists for different groups in the class.  We are working on word family words mostly at this point.  Spell Test is a free (for now) app that is very basic and simple but provides me a helping hand in managing different spelling lists and tests.

How does Spelling Test work
1. Create a Spelling Test
2. Choose a Name for Your Test.
3. Start by adding Words to your test.
4. Record your own Pronunciations in an easy to use format.
5. Now Take a Test.
6. Listen to the Pronunciation and Spell the Word in the Box correctly.
7. Instant Feedback on how you did, Did you get that right or wrong
8. Complete the Test to see a Summary of Words.
9. Each time you take a test, you will know which words you got right and which you got wrong
10. Track improvements as you take the test multiple times.

The kids like using their own voice to record the words.  I can also record words if pronunciation is an issue.  The app doesn’t show them the words during the test.

This is an easy way to personalize spelling for each child.  I’m not ready to give up to spell check completely.  I still see value in teaching words, word roots, and phonics.  Practicing with an app makes it fun for the kids, but it also allows me to individualize each list if necessary. Because it is an app that is available for iPhone and iPad, parents can also have students use it at home to practice.

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Montessori Crosswords

Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.-Henry Ford

Learning to read begins with learning to talk.  Children listen to their parents and mimic sounds.  They eventually begin to associate these sounds with words that represent things and actions. From there, vocabulary increases as parents read stories, sing songs and rhymes. As children learn the alphabet and letter sounds, they soon learn that words are made of combinations of several letter sounds merged together.

While easy to write about, it’s not so easy to accomplish.  It is also a complex task to meet each child where he/she is and personalize their learning.  We immerse our students in a language-rich environment all throughout the day.  Part of that immersion involves using iPads.  One of the apps we like to use for associating letters and sounds is Montessori Crosswords.  Montessori Crosswords helps kids develop their reading, writing, and spelling skills by building words from a set of 320 word-image-audio-phonics combinations using a phonics-enabled movable alphabet.  Montessori Crosswords allows you to select words according to their difficulty or sound categories:
➜ Level 1 displays a three-letter word with no difficulty for beginning readers (CVC words)
➜ Levels 2 and 3 offer more complex words that contains more complex phonics (as long vowels sounds or blends), and also offer the option to automatically create multi-word crosswords in tens of thousands of different combinations
➜ Alternately, you can choose from 44 sound categories (i.e. choose words that contain a specific sound.  This app costs $2.99 and is worth it!

As my students work on their emerging literacy skills through a variety of ways, I love that I have a tool that gives my students the ability to personalize their learning.  We have to be willing to look at our students as individuals and give them what they need as they need it.  Learning is not one size fits all.  Just because our lesson plans say we are teaching a certain skill this week doesn’t mean all of our students will master it in that time frame.  iPads give students the ability to practice just what they need.

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Spelling on the iPad

“My spelling is Wobbly. It’s good spelling but it Wobbles, and the letters get in the wrong places.” A. A. Milne

How many times in a day do I hear “How do you spell…”  They know better than to ask.  They know I do not spell for them.  I guess hope springs eternal and they think if they ask often enough, I will cave.  We use inventive spelling strategies in the classroom along with environmental print and word walls.  There is no shortage of words in our room.

On the iPads, we like to use a few apps to work on spelling.  The favorite of my students is Montessori Crosswords.  This app is a little pricey at $2.99 but it is very good. Students build words in crossword puzzle form using sounds and picture clues.  We also use Word Wizard. There are 189 word lists to choose from and 1000 frequently used words.  Students use a talking, moving alphabet that enables them to create words and read.  This app is also $2.99.  For individualization, I use the Spelling 1-2 app.  This app is very pricey at $9.99.  It has skyrocketed in price.  I bought it for much less last year.  The best feature of this app is the ability to create individualized spelling lists for students.  The newest app we have is FREE.  It is called NG Word Builder.  It is created by National Geographic.  Word Builder is an interactive resource that lets students build words and sentences using letters, blends and digraphs, vowel patterns, endings and affixes, word families, and high frequency words. It is perfect for reinforcing phonics and spelling.  Did I mention it is free??

In addition to using these apps, we do word work daily in the classroom.  We use the iPads to write the room, make lists, work on word families and even take spelling tests.

I recently read “I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More” by Karen Beaumont. If you haven’t read it, it’s hysterical.  The illustrations alone make me laugh.  In the story, the young man gets in trouble for painting all over the house and making a terrible mess.  After the story, we talked about things the students have done that have gotten them in trouble.  We went to the iPads and illustrated.  Some wrote directly on the illustration, others imported it into the Pages app and typed their story.  Boy, talk about true confession time! Here is my favorite.  It is a good way to end a Friday blog post.

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