Spelling Programs

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

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!

Do you use M100W or Words Their Way at your school?

What is your preferred method of teaching spelling?


Literacy Next Week

I thought I would share the literacy activities Kathleen Morris and I have planned for our classes (2KJ and 2KM) next week. The start of a new school year is crucial for developing routines and structures to ensure all students work to their full potential and understand our expectations.



Our whole class reading focus time will be spent on:

  • Setting up our firm expectations of appropriate behaviour during reading groups. Students are to work quietly, independently and should stay in the same spot for the session.
  • Looking at our class blog and our blogging buddies’ blogs from around the world. We will revise how to leave comments and how to navigate blogs.
  • Revising how to put words into alphabetical order.
  • Reading for understanding.


We are going to conduct running records and other literacy testing during our reading hour each day. Students will complete the following activities in mixed ability reading groups each day:


  • Name Sort – Students each get a set of cards which have all students names on them. Working through an instruction sheet, students need to sort the words into alphabetical order, group them according to how many letters in each name, how many syllables etc.
  • Spelling Scramble – We use the M100W and M200W words at our school. Students need to unscramble a series of M100W words and practise spelling them on the mini whiteboards.
  • Computers – Students spend time on the class blog and leave a comment.
  • iPod Touch – Our student teacher will sit with the iPod group each day and train them to correctly use the device. After establishing the rules, students will listen to a story on the iPod and draw a picture while listening.
  • Independent reading – Students will quietly read books from their book boxes or books they borrowed from the library.


Once our literacy assessments are complete next week, we will group students accordingly and work on reading strategies to further develop their skills. We are also currently investigating how to incorporate the Daily Five and CAFE model into our literacy sessions. Stay tuned for future blog posts about this!


Here’s a couple of examples of activities we’ve prepared




Some of our writing lessons will be spent on testing:

  • We are conducting a handwriting test.
  • We test students on writing the M100W and M200W words.
  • We are also using the Words Their Way spelling program for the first time. I will blog about this soon.


On Monday we will conduct our first journal writing lesson. We will revise the use of full stops, capital letters and reading over our work.


We will also have our students write letters to their parents, telling them what they are enjoying about being in 2KJ and 2KM. It’s a nice way for the students to reflect on the beginning of the year and helps develop the home-school relationship.


What literacy activities are you doing next week?

A new school year begins!

School begun for Victorian government schools this week. Teachers spent Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday doing professional development in schools before meeting their new grades on Friday.


Last year I took on the role of the Prep-Grade 2 Literacy Co-ordinator at my school. I will be doing this again in 2011, and my responsibilities will extend to managing the school’s literacy professional development throughout the year. On Monday afternoons staff will attend (on a rotational basis) Literacy, Numeracy and I.C.T workshops, designed to provide hands-on ideas and strategies that can be implemented in classrooms immediately.


My principal asked me at the end of last year if I would give a presentation to the whole staff at the beginning of 2011. The title of the presentation was Effective Elements of Effective Literacy Teaching. I agreed, thinking it would be a relatively straightforward task. However, once I started preparing over the holidays, I realised what a broad topic this really was. I was finding it difficult to find an approach that would suit Prep-Grade 6 teachers, as there is a huge range of literacy skills needed to teach various grade levels.


After a bit of thought, I decided to take a more practical and hands-on approach to the presentation. I decided the staff at school would be more inspired and motivated if they were given some examples of literacy activities that they could introduce into their classes straight away. The idea was to provide short and sharp explanations of things I like to do in my classroom, resources I have come across and ideas I found online. I will then go into more detail with some of the ideas in the Monday afternoon professional development sessions.


I prepared an “A-Z of Literacy” PowerPoint for the staff, which you can view below…


  What is your favourite Literacy professional development experience?

How does your school structure professional development?

What Literacy ideas would you like to learn more about?

Literacy in 2011

Welcome back!

A new school year begins in Australian schools in a few weeks. I enjoyed reading Kathleen Morris’s goals for 2011, and I have also started thinking about new goals, objectives and ideas for 2011. I look forward to sharing more of my experiences in Literacy with you this year.


I am always looking for new ideas to stimulate my students’ learning and also to keep me on my toes. Through reading other educators’ blogs, learning from Twitter, participating in professional discussions with colleagues and completing other online research, I have a few areas I wish to develop my knowledge in this year. Here are just three things I have been pondering…


1. The Daily Five

I have been teaching for seven years, and have conducted Guided Reading sessions practically every single day! I am looking to see what else is out there and what other options I could consider for my Grade Two students. Having heard about the Daily Five through overseas Twitter friends, my teaching partner, Kathleen Morris, and I have ordered the instructional books and we are looking to perhaps introduce it during the year.


2. Spelling

I have found that spelling is something taught in many different ways by different teachers. I am yet to discover the ideal method for teaching spelling. Last year in my class, students were tested on 200 high frequency words (and then more difficult words once they were ready) and given lists of words to practise based on their test results. My students all improved their test scores during the year (some more than others!) but is it crucial for students to be able to spell all of these so called “high frequency” words or should spelling be taught in a more systematic way? Some grades in my school are preparing to use the Words Their Way program this year. I may blog about this in the future!


3. Assessment records

I keep an assessment binder with students’ testing sheets, running records etc  to document my students progress throughout the year. While this system works pretty well, the huge amounts of paper can be difficult to manage! I am always trying to think of ways to further organise and compile my assessment data. I have heard about Evernote on the iPad recently, but unfortunately I don’t own an iPad so I’ll have to keep thinking!


What are you thoughts on the Daily Five, successful spelling programs and assessment records?

What are you looking to implement in your Literacy lessons in 2011?


My Literacy Highlights for 2010

With only one week to go in the school year, I thought it was a good time to reflect on my Literacy teaching practice. I am passionate about all subject areas in the primary school curriculum, but Literacy is my favourite part of the day (hence this blog!). It is difficult to narrow down all of the great literacy activities Kathleen Morris (McGeady) and I have taught our Grade Two students this year, but here are four particularly memorable experiences of 2010.

1. Blogging during Literacy.

Many of our whole class introductions were focussed on my class blog, the 2KM blog and other classroom blogs we follow around the world (in particular Mrs Yollis’ classroom blog, Mr Salsich’s class blog and the Techie Kids). It is a fantastic way to demonstrate great writing skills, particularly through reading and forming quality comments on blogs. Gone are the days where big books (that the students had often read before) are the main focus of the literacy block. In our reading introductions we learn about the world, watch educational videos, read about different cultures and learn from students teachers all around the world. Now, that is meaningful and powerful learning! Using blogs was an authentic way to teach many literacy skills and I encourage all teachers with blogs to incorporate blogging during literacy lessons!

During the second half of the year, five of my students, Millie, Skye, Jazmin, Olivia and Kealee,  earnt their own personal blogs. Their writing skills have improved enormously. A major benefit of blogging is that you are writing for a purpose and for an audience and my students have loved the blogging experience as much as I have.

2. Preparing my students for NAPLAN.

For those of you not in Australia, the NAPLAN tests are a series of literacy and numeracy standardised tests completed by Grade Three and Grade Five students in primary schools across Australia. One of our school goals and priorities is to improve our NAPLAN results, so a big focus has been preparing our Grade Two students to perform to their full potential in these tests next year.

We have completed practise tests, discussed the format of multiple choice tests and done extensive work on comprehension during reading sessions. We have explicitly taught how to make inferences by identifying key words and how to complete written answers in full sentences. I really feel that our students have dramatically improved their comprehension skills and their ability to “read between the lines” through our modelling and guidance. I look forward to seeing how their NAPLAN results fair next year.

3. Using technology to engage and enhance learning.

While I could teach without using the various technological tools at my disposal now, I wouldn’t want to. The interactive whiteboard, iPod touches and classroom computers are a significant part of every literacy lesson I have taught this year. It makes learning so much more interesting and meaningful for my students.

The IWB is used in every single lesson I teach. It is difficult to choose my favourite online resources, but I have loved using Behind The News (BTN) as an introduction to my reading lessons. It is a terrific collection of archived news stories presented in a child-friendly way and each story always creates interesting and thoughtful discussions with my students. I love that I can learn new things too!

The iPod touch is probably the most popular activity in my reading rotations each week. Whether its listening to a story, following instructions, playing literacy-based word apps, making origami, listening to songs and sequencing lyrics, watching videos or listening to podcasts…the students love it!

4. Getting back to basics…reading for fun!

After attending a literacy PD this year, I was reminded that we don’t often just allow our students to read for the joy of reading. I blogged about this here. I really enjoyed seeing my students get excited about going to the school library each week and many students also began visiting the local libraries in the community. Popular choices are Zac Power, Rainbow Magic, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Rohal Dahl books and Harry Potter. Listening to the students discuss their books and hearing that they are saving their money to purchase new books to read was a great reinforcement that reading for fun is so important.

Allowing my students to read independently just for fun, without any follow up activities, was beneficial in promoting reading as a great past time and I hope I have instilled this into them!

I could keep going, but for now, this is my list of meaningful literacy experiences for the year. I’d love to hear what you have enjoyed about your literacy lessons this year!

What are your literacy highlights for 2010?

What would you like to see me blog about in 2011?


Edublog Awards


This blog, Teaching Literacy in the Early Years has been nominated in the 2010 Edublog Awards

The blog has been nominated in the following categories:

Best New Blog


Best Teacher Blog

Click on the links above to vote! 


Voting is now open and ends on Tuesday December 14th.

Please lodge your votes!

Only one vote per IP address is allowed to keep things honest. That means, you can only vote once from any one computer.

There are lots of categories in the Edublogs Awards and you can lodge a vote in all categories.

My class blog, 2KJ @ Leopold Primary School has been nominated for Best Class Blog.

Click here to vote for our blog.



One of my grade two students, Millie, has been nominated in the Best Student Blog category. Click here to vote for Millie!


Have your say and vote today!