Our Fifth Grade Curriculum: Spelling

PhonicsI couldn’t find a lot out there on How to Teach Spelling and How to Spell, so hopefully if someone is searching, this will help!  I just like this program.  Nobody asked me to review it.  If you want a logical and progressive spelling curriculum which answers “Why?”–then this may be for you and your students.

How to Teach Spelling

How to Teach Spelling (by Laura Toby Rudginsky and Elizabeth C. Haskell) is not your typical spelling curriculum.  I suggest it for teaching in-depth English spelling and phonics with an emphasis on understanding.  Most kids don’t need this program, although struggling readers and spellers may benefit from it greatly.  If your child is progressing fine in reading and spelling and you’re content with your child being able to spell good enough so that spell check gets them by (and there is NOT a thing wrong with that), this is not your curriculum.  Spend your time and energy elsewhere.  I chose it probably for myself and my own curiosity in understanding our language.  Plus, I had a late reader and wanted to make sure we were proactive in her spelling and phonics foundation.

Early on in elementary school we tried other spelling and phonics curriculums; I just didn’t like any of them.  So I have put together a core of texts that I like and I circulate among them, using them to complement How to Teach Spelling and its workbooks called How to Spell.

Parent Prep Time Minimal But Participation Essential

How to Teach Spelling doesn’t require much teacher preparation at all.  One can even read the lesson on the spot and teach it adequately.  However, it requires a lot of teacher participation (but not necessarily much time), and I do not recommend it for teachers who cannot devote interactive time together with the student.  With a child who is not reading and spelling challenged, it doesn’t take much time, maybe 15 minutes on average, but it requires the teacher to at least orally quiz and assess knowledge.  Because I am one-on-one with my learner, I can move more quickly and don’t require lots of the writing the text recommends.

Tell Me What You Bought

  • The main manual where topics and concepts are presented in an orderly, linear fashion:  How to Teach Spelling  This is not a manual for the students.  It is written for the teacher.  There are 49 chapters, and they progress forward sequentially, with the most complex, difficult topics at the end.  For example, letter sounds and syllables come at the beginning, and more complex suffix rules and letter combinations come at the end.  How to Teach Spelling is based on, and meant to be piggy-backed with, an intensive reading and spelling program called Orton-Gillingham.  I am not trained in the Orton-Gillingham method, but I have still found How to Teach Spelling to be great.  It succinctly marches out all the topics needed to master English spelling and phonics in ONE text.  I don’t have to buy a new one each year!  There are many recommendations for drills, flashcards, and writing exercises.  My girls seem to catch on quickly to the rules and patterns, so I have not needed to do the intensive writing and memorization drills that How to Teach Spelling recommends.
  • The four workbooks:  How to Spell  There are four workbooks.  Workbook 1 is intended for grade one.  Workbook 2 is intended for grade two and three.  Workbook 3 for grades 4-6.  Workbook 4 is for grades 7-12.  My daughter started Workbook 3 last year, and we continued with it through much of this year.  Near the end of the year, we moved into Workbook 4.  The workbooks repeat themselves, as is customary for cumulative type materials, but the higher the level, the more that is expected with each topic.  In addition, more topics are covered.  The workbooks are black and white and pretty dry.  They do a great job listing the “rules” of our English spelling and phonics system, and they expect the students to learn them.  Then, practice work is provided.  Some of the work pages are just phenomenal, and others are just average.  Sometimes, I have to go on-line and find some extra practice pages.  There is a lot of writing required if the student does the workbook thoroughly.  I have found that we can escape the writing if I am willing to sit and quiz my child, only having her write what she doesn’t understand.  In this way, we also avoid “tests.”

Pros and Cons:

1.  It is not expensive.

2.  I can buy one text and four fairly short workbooks, and they will last me through all the years of teaching spelling.

3.  It is black and white.

4.  It requires lots of teacher participation and assessment.

5.  If the teacher cannot sit and assess, the curriculum will require lots of physical handwriting.

6.  It relies on learning rules for the English language (Yes, we do have rules.) and does not rely on simple memorization of word lists.  (For example, a student will understand when to use -ck versus -k at the end of a word.)

7.  It does supply sight words for those naughty, non-compliant words.

8.  All phonics and spelling topics are laid out in an orderly fashion in the How to Teach Spelling manual.  They are not arranged by difficulty level–but by topic.  However,  the manual tells you what is appropriate to teach to each grade level.  You have to pay attention as you teach from the manual.  However, the workbooks are by levels, and do not present more than is appropriate for each level of learner.

9.  The workbooks are succinct.

10.  I cannot find the answers to the workbooks anywhere.  Usually I know the answers, but I’ve had to look up a few.  I’m sure there must be answers somewhere!

Closing

Due to the new addition of a baby to our home this year, spelling occurred in cyclical fashion.  We’d do it for a few months on and then a few months off.  Most of it was by oral assessment based on the sequence laid out in the How to Spell workbooks, which my daughter completed on her own.  We pretty much just stuck to this curriculum for this past year.  However, near the end of the year, I assigned supplemental reading from Uncovering the Logic of English (I love this book.)

Please see last year’s spelling and phonics write-up for more!

Terri

 

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