What To Do When Spelling Rules Don't Stick

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So we know that teaching students spelling rules in a systematic and cumulative (organized and building on itself) approach is the best way to make meaningful spelling gains. However, even with the best instruction we often see skills fall apart when they need to be applied at a higher level.

Often, even when using OG-based intervention, a student can spell the word perfectly in isolation (like on a weekly spelling test) but then fail to consistently apply that knowledge in his or her writing. So what do we do about it?

  1. Make sure that you are having the student practice applied spelling. So instead of just giving weekly spelling tests (or weekly spelling drills), have them practice using the rules in "real-world" writing. What is "real-world" writing you ask? It's writing that the student comes up with independently. Writing to which they can connect their own meaning and background knowledge. Most often we provide sentences we want the student to use through dictation because we want to control the writing and make sure the student is spelling words in which he or she has previously been instructed. However, what we really want is for the student to produce their own meaningful and engaging stories in which they can apply the rule. We do this by providing pictures and silly sentence activities that allow the student to focus on the rule application all while still taking ownership over their writing and the content they are producing.

  2. Make sure that you are consistently circling back to the rule that is causing struggles. We caution against staying in a specific lesson too long for students who aren't getting a specific rule because you need to be able to move forward in order to provide more background knowledge and patterns that a child may be able to use to spell more words correctly. Furthermore, sometimes a rule just won't stick no matter what you do - and in that case, it's better to have moved onward before losing the interest and engagement of the student. However, just because you move forward in the progression of systematic phonics based instruction does not mean that you just let go of that rule forever. Continue to bring it up every single week in a review group of words.

We are always looking for fun ways to add home practice components or other activities. This is a fun sample of our additional practice we might use to solidify the -ck spelling rule.

How does spelling go for your students? Are they consistently applying? If so, we would love to hear your strategies in the comments below.

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Corey PollardComment