Improving Your Existing Spelling Program
by Don McCabe
What if I don’t need another new spelling program? What can I do to make my existing spelling program work? Just as sometimes it’s more economical to fix the automobile you have than to go out and buy a new car, sometimes a teacher or parent can make the most of what they already have. Assuming the spelling program you now have has word lists, give the list of words as a pre-test. The words that are missed should be the basis for study—but NOT studied for themselves.
For example, supposing your list was this: rainy, bruise, brother, treaty, ready, county, water, pretty, again, trouble, early, circle, father, around, quiet, nothing, instead, twenty, other, bottle, dreary, country, heavy, rather, mirror. This, by the way, is an actual list from a best selling spelling series. I just opened the level 4 book at random and decided to work with it.
A good speller would know all the words except perhaps bruise, quiet, and circle. Now traditional methods would have the child write the words a number of times and then test and re-test on those words until they are memorized. The AVKO method would entail looking up these words in the index of The Patterns of English Spelling (FREE to AVKO members on the member portion of the website) and going to the respective pages indicated. For circle the page would be 611 on which the words with the ending cle pattern is found. Now, using the Sequential Spelling technique, I would give the words miracle, spectacle, obstacle, icicle, vehicle, article, particle, encircle, cycle, recycle, uncle and bicycle. Immediately after each word would be given and my student attempted the spelling, I would give the correct spelling orally and in writing. He would hear it and see it, and if necessary erase the misspelling and spell it correctly. Then, and only then would I go on to the next word. Notice I only picked an even dozen out of the seventy-five ending cle words. You could pick however many words as you want.
You could even from that same page point out the funny “u” the gets stuck between the c and l in words such as circular, spectacular, vehicular, muscular.
With bruise you are directed to page 435 where you find only bruise and cruise plus their structural endings as in bruises, bruised, bruising and bruiser. However, the homophones of brews and crews and Cruz are there for you to use or not use at your discretion. Again, we would recommend using the Sequential Spelling technique.
When we look up quiet in the index it directs to page 685. There we have diet, diets, dieted, dieting, and dietary that fit right in with quiet, quiets, quieted, quieting, and quietly.
Now if your child misses more than three of the assigned words in the lesson don’t try to teach all of them. Just pick two or three. And use The Sequential Spelling Technique. Forget the studying. Just out of the blue test and correct the misspellings. Keep reminding your children that “Mistakes are Opportunities to Learn” and that they can remember anything if they forget it enough times! Learn how to create your own Sequential Spelling Tests.