Spell to Excel An inquiry approach to teaching spelling patterns and generalizations Outcomes Know the history and organization of Spell to Excel Revisit a sample weekly plan for spelling instruction Understand word sorts as Spell to Excel’s core instructional activity Consider research-based practice activities Explore the need for an instructional link between Spell to Excel, reading, and writing Know the expectations for implementation. What is Spell to Excel? Spell to Excel is a district-adopted program for teaching spelling in grades 1-5. It is an inquiry-based approach to learning built on sound research (Bear, Shane and Templeton of Words Their Way, Gentry, Ganske, Snowball, et al.). What is an inquiry approach to learning? Students actively seek answers to questions. Active involvement leads to understanding. The knowledge constructed can be widely applied. How is Spell to Excel organized? This program is designed to systematically build spelling knowledge over time. Teachers use grade-appropriate lists of words to guide students in discovering the patterns and generalizations present in the English language. The lists include 37 common rimes from which approximately 500 English words can be spelled. “Week at a Glance” To implement the program, a suggested weekly sequence of instruction is provided. “Week at a Glance”: Why it Works Daily,direct instruction is balanced with research- based practice activities. Explicit instruction engages students in learning new vocabulary in context, sorting words, and spelling by analogy. Practice activities are multimodal study strategies (combine visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning modes). “Week at a Glance” Since this model is a suggested sequence, teachers may: Begin Day 1 on a day other than Monday. Revise the sequence or add other research-based instructional activities. Word Sorts Word sorting is the core instructional activity in Spell to Excel. Sorts engage students in thinking critically about the way words look and sound. The Week Begins with Sorting • On Day 1, students are introduced to spelling words through a sort. • What is the purpose for the Day 1 sort? Purpose of Day 1 Sort Engage students in 1) noticing and thinking about the week’s focus pattern(s), and 2) forming a generalization. Day 1 Word Sort What does it look like? What are the steps? Day 1 Word Sort Steps: 1. Identify key words that illustrate the patterns/generalization to be learned students may be familiar with, or will see often in reading and/or writing will support comparing and contrasting features Rationale: Students will be able to use these words to anchor their learning. Day 1 Sort Cont’d. 2. Introduce the words in a way that supports students in reading and understanding them. Provide a context for understanding the words (sentences, explanations). Consider providing a picture context to support ELLs. Rationale: Students need to be able to read the words to sort effectively. If students can’t read the words, sorting will always be a visual matching exercise. Day 1 Sort Cont’d. 3. Think aloud to model sorting by the pattern or generalization. Compare and contrast features of words. Engage students in thinking along during the sort as they demonstrate readiness. Rationale: Just as in learning strategies for comprehending, students need to hear an expert (someone who understands the pattern/generalization) make thinking visible. Day 1 Sort Cont’d. 4. Summarize and record the learning (generalization) related to the sort. Rationale: Verbalizing the learning supports students in constructing the target generalization rather than focusing on some less important feature (“They rhyme!”). Students will need to apply these generalizations to read and write proficiently. Days 2-5: Direct Instruction Week at a Glance Optional Lessons Cloze Sentences Sentence Lifting Closed/Open Sorts Develop a Making Connections Classroom Resource Teacher-designed lessons Cloze Sentences Purpose: What to do: Create at least 5 sentences with • Build vocabulary. the week’s spelling words. • Practice using patterns Write them on sentence strips or on a transparency, using to decode words in blanks for missing spelling words. context. Together, read and decide which words best complete the • Compare and contrast sentences, building concept word features. knowledge and vocabulary as you go. Reinforce use of patterns to decode efficiently. Closed/Open Sorts Purpose: What to do: Revisit Day 1 sort by Provide word cards for each releasing responsibility student. to students for noticing Student reconstructs Day 1 sort and thinking about or sorts according to own rule. patterns in words. Student may ask partner or Build independence of teacher to “Guess my rule.” thought by leaving the Sort may be glued in a word study sorting rule open to notebook with a written student choice. statement about the learning. Making Connections Purpose of Lesson: What to do: • Demonstrate how Identify a key word with the focus knowing a key word pattern. Model “If you know…, it helps you helps us know other know… .” words (spelling by Repeat with other key words for analogy). patterns in week’s lists. • Build knowledge of Engage students in making pattern to apply in connections while stating, “If you… .” Explicitly link this strategy to reading and writing. reading and writing. Sentence Lifting Purpose: What to do: Select a sentence from the Use a familiar context cloze activity. to model and engage Prepare for lesson per students in strategic “Sentence Lifting Routine.” thinking. Plan models, teaching points, Assess students’ ability and cues to support the to apply knowledge of strategic thinking your spelling skills and students need. strategies Assess what students know independently. and need to know for future teaching. Develop a Classroom Resource Purpose: What to do: Actively engage Use interactive writing to build a students in using word family/generalization resource. Negotiate and begin list with a key knowledge of patterns word that students can use as an and generalizations to anchor to spell other words. construct a classroom List other meaningful words that resource. students suggest. Refer to during modeled writing. Daily Practice Opportunities Alongside explicit spelling instruction, students need practice time to: explore patterns on their own build words in left-to-right sequence make their own connections between what they know and what they are learning engage more than one part of the brain in learning and remembering become more automatic in recognizing and using patterns “Week at a Glance” Practice Activities Building Words Look, Say, Cover, Write, Check Partner Sorts What practice Reverse Chaining activities are not Trace, Copy, Recall Open sorts listed here? Why? Word Hunts Games What is Appropriate Practice? There are many different ways students can work with patterns and words. Reading and writing support students in learning and applying knowledge of spelling patterns. Connecting Spelling to Reading and Writing The patterns and generalizations students are learning will support them in reading and writing proficiently. Teachers can support this outcome by including explicit links between spelling, reading, and writing. Explicit Teaching At the end of a spelling lesson, clearly summarize the learning and set the expectation that students should use this information when they read and write. Model noticing and using spelling patterns and generalizations during shared reading. Explicitly state, “You can do this when you’re reading.” Think aloud during modeled/shared writing to show students how you use patterns/generalizations to spell efficiently. Explicitly remind students to do the same. What about High Frequency Words? High frequency words are embedded in the lists. Since they typically do not follow patterns, these words must be taught directly. How are HFW taught? Use the suggested or similar routine for teaching high frequency words effectively, with particular emphasis on the “tricky” part of the word. Why is this part of the routine so essential to students’ ability to recognize high frequency words? Reinforcing High Frequency Words When a high frequency word is taught, ceremoniously add it to the word wall. Engage students in daily interaction with the word wall. It gives them practice in recognizing HFW. It gives them practice in locating words they will need for writing. Refer to the Spell to Excel manual for word wall practice ideas. Rationale: The teaching of high frequency words complements the study of patterns and generalizations. Students receiving direct instruction in both develop into strong spellers. How to Know What Students Learned Weekly tests are quick checks for students and teachers. The best way to assess what students have learned about patterns, generalizations, and high frequency words is through their writing. Assessing Writing Look for evidence of learning in daily writing What does the student know and use from previous instruction? What does the student know and use from current instruction? What is the student attempting but confusing? What are the Expectations for Spelling Instruction in District 12? Teach spelling patterns and generalizations through daily, direct instruction and practice. Follow the teaching sequence in Spell to Excel. Teach high frequency words and plan daily interaction with the word wall. Explicitly link spelling instruction to reading and writing. Assess spelling in writing. Implementing the Program Remember that building the routines needed to support spelling instruction takes time. You will develop fluency with direct instruction routines and so will your students. Resources Sets of videos and CDs with clips from primary and intermediate spelling lessons were given to each school. The Spell to Excel manual contains a wealth of information. A grade-level list of spelling generalizations offers background information to support your instruction. Your literacy coach is also a resource. Just ask!
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