I've been following the Daily 5 book study hosted by We Read, We Blog, We Teach, anxiously waiting for discussion about Chapter 6 and specifically about Word Work.
Word Work is the one component of Daily 5 that is causing me some concern. I've always had issues with the typical spelling program (you know...the one where you give out the list of weekly spelling words to all students on Monday, assign some homework sheets for the week and then give the spelling test on Friday.) And typically, I found that students promptly 'forgot' how to spell those words, as it didn't transfer to their writing, which is really why we do spelling in the first place, isn't it??
It didn't take me long after I started teaching (many moons ago) to realize that this type of spelling format didn't work for me OR my students and so, over the past 10 odd years I have played around with spelling/word study, searching for the structure that would work for me and more importantly work for ALL my students, not just the middle of the road students (which most spelling programs seem to target).
A few years ago, I discovered Words Their Way and thought I had finally found a program that would work...well, it worked for the kids, but it didn't quite work for me...I had a heck of a time juggling the four different spelling groups and getting the kids to work independently while I was working with a spelling group. I know now, in hindsight after reading the Daily 5, that we needed to do way MORE modeling of behaviour and expectations in the class.
Last year, I implemented what I call a 'compromise spelling program' which I based on Beth Newingham's word study program. It followed the developmental phase outlined in Words Their Way, but all the students followed the same pattern of study, with the exception of challenge word lists for students who got 90% or better on the pretest. I also made up games & activities to go along with every unit of study (a lot of work on my part!) which students rotated through on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, & Thursdays and created a word study homework packet for each unit that students took home on Monday and brought back on Friday. It was a lot of work and although the kids (and the parents) liked the program, I was left feeling that:
- a) I wasn't meeting all my students needs (my lowest students found the words too challenging and my highest students didn't find the challenge words challenging!)
- b) I was working harder than my students (there was a lot of prep involved)
- a) They had a list of 5 high frequency words they needed to learn each week (based on where they were) and worked through the list, highlighting the words they spelled correctly
- b) They got to work on their spelling pattern words through games and activities regularly through the week
- c) It DID follow a developmental pattern
- d) Parents liked the program (Let's face it...half the time we do spelling to appease the parents!)
Here's what I'm wondering/thinking:
- Are teachers doing word work in addition to a more traditional spelling program?
- How can I use Words Their Way (which I really like) within the Daily 5 structure?
- Do I really need to have a Friday spelling test and how do I justify NOT doing it to parents?
- If I don't do a weekly spelling test, what will I use to assess student spelling abilities?
- Can I/should I delegate some of the Words Their Way activities for homework thereby freeing up some time for other word study activities in class (knowing that there will be some students who will not get the support they need at home?)
- How can I use Words Their Way within the Daily 5 structure (I know, I've already mentioned this one, but it's a biggy!LOL)