Spelling includes how well students use word patterns, structural analysis, and word origins to correctly spell unfamiliar
words. This is referred to as orthography, which has three layers: alphabet, pattern, and meaning. Spelling
also develops in stages: emergent, letter-name, within-word, syllables and affixes, and derivational relations. Most third
grade students transition from the within-word to syllables and affixes stage.
At third grade, these skills include:
· spelling most blends, silent e,
vowel teams, r-controlled, past tense, and plural endings correctly
· spelling grade-appropriate high-frequency
· spelling common homophones correctly
through five developmental stages of spelling (emergent, letter-name, within-word, syllables and affixes, and derivational
relations). Accurately assessing students' current developmental levels is an important first step toward building better
spellers. By meeting students where they are developmentally, teachers can provide spelling instruction that will truly make
students better spellers (instead of merely memorizing weekly lists to be forgotten the following week).
I use Words Their Way inventories for this assessment. All
students are given a basic list of words in the form of a spelling test. Then, I use the recording sheet to assess students'
spelling. I circle portions of the words spelled incorrectly across rows of the sheet. Then, the errors in columns for
each developmental stage are totaled. Finally, the number of feature parts (word parts) and the number of words spelled
correctly are added together to create an overall score. This score can be used to compare progress over time.
The teacher determines a student's spelling stage by finding the first column
with three or more errors; this is the student's starting stage for spelling instruction.
View descriptions of the five spelling stages, an individual scored inventory, or a classroom composite sheet.
Students must be
able to use conventional spelling in all writing, not just during spelling instruction. To ensure students are attending
to spelling across the curriculum, teachers can assess random writing samples. Each week, a teacher selects one or two
different pieces of writing. First, all words are checked for accuracy. Next, the teacher calculates the percentage
of correctly spelled words (errors divided by total words). Third graders should spell approximately 90% of these words
correctly. Finally, teachers may choose to examine spelling errors more closely for those students who are not approaching
A Spelling Application Grid is helpful to more
closely assess independent spelling mistakes. Teachers select five mistakes from random writing samples to analyze.
Selected words should be within the child's spelling ability rather than words that are obviously beyond his development.
By charting mistakes, teachers can more clearly see common patterns of errors in order to apply targeted intervention.
These forms also show growth over time.
View a sample Spelling Application Grid.
people think that spelling is "caught," not taught, or that children learn to spell by reading, but research tells us that
is not the case... Assessment does matter, and instruction that is based on careful assessment and observation
of where children are developmentally is particularly effective (Biggam 236). The following interventions can help students
who struggled with spelling.
students appear "stuck" in the late letter-name stage and struggle with phonemic awareness, Phoneme-Grapheme Mapping (by Kathryn
Grace) may make a difference. Teachers use a grid to help children learn phonemes one at a time. This helps students
learn that different letters and/or letter combinations (graphemes) represent sounds (phonemes). Students are taught
to slowly pronounce phonemes. This skill can transfer to spelling.
Read more about Mapping in Grace's book, Phonics and Spelling Through Phoneme-Grapheme Mapping.
students who still struggle with conventional spelling, Adult Underwriting can make a big difference. After a student
writes, the teacher sits with the student and corrects spelling. The teacher models letter formation, concept of the
word, and conventional spelling. The goal isn't to point out how many words the student misspelled, but instead to point
out the correct features the student is currently using (vowel teams or diphthongs for example). Finally, the student
rereads her piece using the correct spelling.
Visit Spelling City for more spelling ideas!