Teaching kids to spell in fifteen minutes a day is possible – seriously!
Spelling doesn't have to be a struggle… although I struggled to find the right approach for a few years. I was surprised to learn how many atrocious spellers arrived in my 3rd and 4th grade classrooms, and none of the standard programs were getting the necessary results.
What you see here is a an overview of the final process. It works for grades 3 to 6 and it has been very successful in my classroom.
Best of all from a teacher's perspective: once you get flowing with these spelling lesson plans, they are quick, easy and they extend kids' spelling pattern knowledge to other content areas.
You can buy this spelling program – ready to use – from my store.
What about the kids? They love it! They get to partner with another student and it's fun. Let's review the day-by-day spelling lesson plans.
1. Introduce the spelling rule or pattern of the week.
Write it on the whiteboard or present it using an interactive whiteboard lesson. An example:
- Words that contain the long “a” sound: a – ai – ay
2. As a class, brainstorm as many words as you can that match the pattern(s).
Each student who proposes a word must state why it matches the pattern:
“Rain is an ai word because it's spelled r-a-i-n.”
Write the words on the board as they come up with them, or have them write them on their own lap sized whiteboards if you have them.
3. Hand out the spelling word lists.
This single piece of paper (one piece for each set of partners) is the key to the rest of the week's spelling lesson plans. You will have to write the words of the week on a grid such as this. If you set up something in Word or Excel, it will be easy to fill in each week. After a full year, you'll be set for next year… assuming you don't change grade levels!
4. Partners go to work.
- They each copy all words twice onto a single piece of notebook paper. You must go around the classroom checking every paper to be sure they are copying correctly – don't let them practice wrong! You'll learn quickly who must be checked.
- Each must verbally use every word in a proper and meaningful sentence.
- They cut up the cards on the lines (each student does half the sheet).
- They bundle the cards with a rubber band or place the cards in a Ziploc bag; they place the bag in the spelling-word bucket (the bundles of words become community property).
- They each place their paper with the written words into their “work-in-progress” folder in their desk.
First, partners sort cards by the rule(s) of the week. Take a look at this video for an explanation of this important part of teaching spelling. (Sorry for my shaky camera skills!)
- Each partner copies all words in their categories onto a new piece of notebook paper.
- They re-bundle, bag and bucket the word cards.
- Papers go into the work-in-progress folders.
Wednesday and Thursday
On Wednesday, partners sort words into alphabetical order. Alphabetizing is a very important skill.
- They copy the words onto their papers, put the papers into their individual work-in-progress folders, then re-bundle, bag and bucket the word cards.
On Thursday, partners sort words by parts of speech – whichever ones they have been taught so far. We usually start with noun, verb and other. Eventually you can add additional parts of speech.
- Copy words, papers into folders, re-bundle, etc.
Friday: spelling test time!
Spelling lesson plans are finalized on the Friday spelling test, which includes application of the patterns of the week to non-list words.
After the Monday through Thursday spelling lesson plans, The Friday spelling test is another quick activity and an efficient assessment of whether your students have internalized the spelling patterns of the week.
To assess our students, we need to know:
- If they have learned the spelling word lists given on Monday
- If they can extend the spelling patterns (or rules) to non-list words
(All spelling test forms and sample sentences are part of my year-long spelling lesson plan.)
1. Students get their papers ready.
- “Hot-dog fold” (fold in half vertically) then flatten back out, which forms a middle-of-the-page reference line.
- Numbers 1-10 on the left, 11-20 on the fold, space at bottom for the sentence.
2. Say each word, use it in a sentence, then say it again.
- Students write down the words, 1 through 20.
3. Give them a sentence that uses non-list words that fit the spelling pattern(s).
This ensures that they must extend their thinking by applying the spelling patterns to words they have not been practicing all week. Use grade-level core words as well as words from the list of 150 most common words.
Pattern: long i sound – i-consonent-e, y, igh, ey, uy
Sentence: “We might try to fly at night.”
4. Read all the words over again while students double-check their work.
- Train them to place a check mark by each word as they confirm its spelling. Say the sentence again and have them confirm and place a check mark by it.
5. They gather all four papers from their Monday through Thursday work.
- They place the test on top, staple the papers together and turn them in.
Yes, I trust kids to staple! They have to learn that skill somewhere, don't they? Set stapler expectations:
“Top left corner only, one staple.”
My stapler is by my assignment in-box. (And yes, of course there are episodes of stapler abuse!)
Teaching spelling takes a little prep up front… mainly getting the words onto the sheets to be cut into cards. After that – and after a couple weeks of this routine – your spelling program will run smoothly.
We're done with the week-long process. There's more to spelling test success, though! Kids must learn that good spelling isn't just a spelling lesson activity if you want to see improvement in all of their writing. Be sure to check out how to practice spelling words.