A Spelling Inquiry Sample
During our introduction to the Writing Process at the Editing stage, following the proofing reading marks, I encouraged students to circle words that needed spelling to be checked. I explained that they will use only 2 of 3 reason to place a circle around a word:
So as part of the Editing stage, we pause for a Spelling Inquiry. This also needed an introduction. I had planned to model how to inquire into your own spelling but stopped myself once I was standing in front of my students, I felt that the first step I took would set the direction, tone and importance of what we were learning about and I thought, “Why was this important enough to teach and learn?” So that is where we began. We had an open discussion, sharing our thoughts, feelings, experiences, understanding and knowledge of spelling.
- “You don’t know how to spell the word until you are told that you got it right or wrong, and then you still don’t know HOW to spell the word.”
- “I was in the bottom spelling group and given the easy words but I really wanted to spell the hard words.”
- “I am confident and good at spelling but I want to spell my own words.”
I found myself within a rich bank of information, so one technique I have used to capture student input, understanding or opinion is to use Graffiti Posters. I drafted 6 questions that I felt reflected our discussion:
- What is spelling?
- How do you spell?
- How have you been learning to spell?
- Can you spell?
- How do you feel about spelling?
- What strategies do you use to spell?
A summary of my student's feedback:
Spelling is writing, learning, remembering words. I use it in writing. It is to write a word I don’t know. It is writing each letter of the word and knowing how. I spell by writing down the word, sounding out, looking at a dictionary, using your brain and knowledge, looking at it, trying first and then having the teacher check. I have learned to spell by going to school and being given a list of words to study for a test and write out the words I get wrong three times. I learned to spell by looking at a list or in the dictionary. I learned how to spell from my Kindergarten teacher. I learned to spell by practicing the words and knowing the meaning. Yes I can spell. I can spell most of the time but if I write too fast without thinking I get it wrong. I can spell a bit, kind of, not really or some of the time. I’m not that good. No I cannot spell. I feel confident, ok, great, good and happy. I feel scared and frustrated. I sound out the word. I look, cover, write, check. I say it and think about it. I write it and see if it looks right. I use the dictionary. I don’t know what I do.
Student’s history with spelling has shaped their self-concept and self-efficacy. In other words, their understanding of how they learn, their level of confidence and how they view themselves. Also accepted labels or self-labeling is already present with a full range of beliefs and feelings about spelling with the more negative responses from those who feel that are “bad at spelling”. It seems that developing, a range and an awareness of, strategies is key. Also target an understanding of what a useful strategy is when encoding. The feedback is very similar, in range, type, cause and effect, as when I ask students about Mathematics.
For further reading about this you can read my previous posts:
Alternatively you can get a read a great booklet by Steve Peha called All's Well That Spells Well from Teaching That Makes Sense at http://www.ttms.org/ Also the Inquiry Cycle Picture is from http://www.flickr.com/photos/istlibrary/2304444220/ and inspired by Kath Murdoch.