In my eight years of teaching, spelling is the area of literacy teaching that I find the most contentious. I have found that there isn’t a lot of consensus about the best way to teach our young students to spell. Teachers tend to change their preferred method of incorporating spelling into their programs and each new year brings new philosophies, programs and ideas. It can be difficult to decide what actually works best!
Some teachers like doing spelling tests every week, some prefer to teach spelling daily in their classrooms, some integrate it into their writing lessons, some adopt commercial programs, some send word lists home…and the list goes on!
M100W and M200W
At my school, we use the Magic 100 Words (M100W). It is a list of 100 of the most commonly used words. There is also the M200W list which is another 100 words. Students begin learning these words in Prep and continue learning the high frequency words through their junior primary school years. Generally, it is expected most students should be able to spell most of the M100W and M200W words by the end of Grade Two, but of course there are students who still need to work on them beyond that.
In my classroom, I test students on the M100W. If they correctly spell around 90+ words, they are then tested on the M200W. I then highlight words students spell correctly on either/both tests and send the list home for students to practise, but photocopy it for school practise too. I do not conduct weekly tests, as I believe students need regular and consistent practise before correct spelling is embedded. I re-test students on their words again later in the term. Some students are able to correctly spell the M100W and M200W, so I give them an extension spelling challenge list which Kathleen Morris developed.
Words Their Way
This year, our school has also started implementing the Words Their Way program. Students are tested on a list of around 26 words (there are three different lists depending on the age of your students). Each child’s test is analysed at length, with specific inital sounds, final sounds, blends, diagraphs etc recorded. Based on the results, each student is categorised into a stage of spelling. Teachers then provide students with word sorts, compiling of lists of words featuring spelling patterns that each child needs to work on to develop their individual skills.
I have analysed by students’ results and I’m at the stage of deciding which word sorts each child will receive. I plan to use these word sorts during the “Word Work” component of the Daily 5, which I will be implementing in my classroom soon.
I think having students working on either the M100W/M200W/Spelling Challenge lists PLUS their own Words Their Way word sorts will be challenging to manage at times, but I can see the merit of both programs. It is important students are able to spell high frequency sight words correctly, and it’s also essential students are skilled in learning about different combinations of blends, diagraphs etc. Stay tuned to see how it goes!