Angela and I have been planning a spelling course today. I always think of spelling as a bit of a Pandora’s box. Once you have lifted that lid, it is almost impossible to close it again and all that is left is hope!.
Every teacher has their own favourite games, activities and ideas and I am no different. I have several activities that I use over and over again, adapting them to fit the children/adults that I am working with.
The first one is most useful with Yrs 3/4 and is based around suffixes and prefixes. This idea comes from Melvyn Ramsden and is a simple grid that allows children to add suffixes and prefixes to root words. From the grid, they can read and write a whole list of words that, if you can spell the affixes, are available to you. It reminds me of ‘facts for free’ in maths.
Image from http://web.mac.com/peterbowers1/Site_38_Visitors/Melvyn_Ramsden.html
I love these grids – I get children to read them, write them and create their own. If you can spell sign, how many other words can you spell? I am at present investigating signet and cygnet. I know that a signet was used instead of a signature so belongs to that family of words but I am not sure about cygnet. Try to create a grid around <velop>.
Another of my favourite activities is to create a word web, one that links words to each other. Start with develop and move out from that: what other words have the prefix de- and what other words have velop in them. You may end up with envelope and from this, enveloping, enveloped, envelops. My dictionary tells me that the prefix en- means inside. This would then lead me off on the trail of encapsulate etc.
This curiosity about words is an essential part of the ethos of a spelling classroom and is obviously not something that can be represented in a spelling programme but miss it out at your peril.
My third favourite spelling activity is the use of a have-a-go sheet. These are used to support children at the point of writing. Every day, whenever you write across the curriculum, pretend that you can’t spell a word. Move over to your have-a-go sheet and try out various spellings until you can get the one that is most like the correct spelling to you. Use that in your writing and if you are still not sure about it draw a line under the word. This signifies that you know you need to come back to it and work on it a bit more. This way of working means that children take the responsibility for spelling words, do not follow you around saying ‘how do you spell…’ and generally get on with writing. It doesn’t slow them down and there is no need to ‘think enormous and write big’ as Pie Corbett would say. You need to model a range of strategies at this point, some of them being:
- sounding out and using phonic knowledge to represent every sound that you can hear
- analogy – likening with other letter strings that you know, e.g. light, fright
- use of patterns of meaning and families, e.g. medic, medicine, medical
- clapping out the syllables and then recording something for every syllable
- visual patterns including ‘does it look right?’
- mnemonics (for a very few words that you continually mis-spell)
Ahh! The joys of spelling. What are your favourite activities?