Book Study #1- Word List after 1 semester

Sample #2 student word list

Sample #2 student word list

It’s been one year since our small group of EBHS teachers started our first ever book study: When Kids Can’t Read, What Teachers Can Do,  by Kylene Beers.  It is now the end of the first semester that we put our collaborative “School Wide Spelling List” into use.  Class sets of cardstock lists in plastic page protectors were distributed to about 5 of the teachers who had participated in our book study. These teachers are being invited to add comments to this post about how they used the sheets in their own classes this semester, so be sure to check out the comments!

I distributed sets of the word list to 2 of my classes: English 20-2 and Social 30-2.  For Social 30-2, I did a terrible job of inviting/ reminding the students to use the lists when we did writing assignments.  In fact, they were so poorly used, I had the students hand them back to me at the end of the semester, especially if they would not be having English next semester. Even though I kept a copy of the list up front on my white board to help remind myself to remind the students to use it, I still forgot. I failed with implementation in this class!

Fortunately, my English 20-2 class was more of a model of how the word lists could become a successful tool at our school.  In this class, I already have an established routine where students record all returned writing assignments on a “Writing Draft Portfolio” chart, and then on the back of the chart keep a running list of the errors or commendations I’ve identified in their writing.  They generally seem to buy into my theory that this personalized list will help them identify and correct their most commonly repeated writing errors, thus helping them become better writers.

Sample #1 student word list

Sample #1 student word list

Because I’d already established this routine, it was easy to add the “Word List” at this point.  I started to use a rectangle when assessing their written work to identify words that students needed to add to their “My list” column of the word list.  I chose misspelled words that were fairly commonly used, or that they commonly spelled incorrectly.  Any “rectangles” need to be accounted for on their word list.  Although it didn’t start this way, students would add their incorrect version of the word and the corrected version.  While there were some students who really did not want to bother, most saw the value in the procedure, especially once they knew they would get to use their personalized word list for the final exam as well.

Next semester,  I will refine how I use the rectangle system. A single rectangle will indicate a word that already exists on the list that they need to highlight or circle. This will be especially useful for the “Commonly Confused Words” side of the word list.  A double rectangle around a word will indicate a word that they need to add to the personal “my list” column of the word list.

So while the “my list” part of the procedure worked well, I still forgot to prompt them to take out their word list about half the time that we did writing assignments!  I’m hoping I get better at this next semester, although I dream of a day when the EBHS word list is such a part of what we do in ALL classes at EBHS that students will automatically take the list out and set it on their desk any time they write!  If nothing else, the dream fits with the Literacy Focus of our school division.

OK, now it’s time to be connected as learners!  All are welcome to leave a comment— scroll way down — but to those colleagues who have been a part of this pilot experiment, your methods, successes and failures shared here will be an important part of the next step!






5 thoughts on “Book Study #1- Word List after 1 semester

  1. Obviously would have been a valuable tool for my English 10-1 class, if I’d actually implemented it, which I didn’t…I simply handed it out part way through the semester, we went over the basis of it and how to use it, and then we all promptly forgot about it. I have a sort-of-valid excuse….2 months away from my class due to an unexpected eye surgery, and it slipped my mind to include it – as I had planned – in my sub plans. However, next year I hope to use the lists for “pre”, “during”, and “post” essay writing, especially during the self and peer editing process.

    • The turning point for many kids Was the opportunity to use these lists during the exams. I think one of my goals will be to get students in the habit of using these lists during every day English,Social and (Psychology) class, even if it just for short answer writing. I answer many questions each day on how to spell words that are probably on their lists. My response should be ” let’s have a look at your word list” instead of just providing the correct spelling for them. This should help them develop the habit.
      Decision making for personal responses, visual responses and essay topics is a problem for many students; I’d like to see a few suggestions added to the word list similar to the ideas on the “Say Something” sheet, only a condensed version. Just a couple of ideas to help them get started quicker. These could be just the most basic of suggestions they could apply to any writing assignment to help build their confidence in their own decision making and writing skills. If it’s all on one sheet they can develop the habit of getting it ready for class just like they should be doing for loose leaf and a pen.

      • Thanks, Sandy. I like your suggestion about the starter ideas for the English writing prompts. When we designed the sheets, we talked at length about other important things/lists that might go on them, so your suggestion will be a consideration when we revise. I guess we’ll see if the sheets end up being an “English” tool, or whether they need to stay more general because they are indeed being used in ALL classes.

  2. Several of the students in my English 10-2 class were more attentive to these word lists that I was. During the review days for the final exam, I was emphasizing for students how to prepare for the writing and the reading comprehension parts of the final exam. Two students asked if they would be allowed to use the word list during the written exam. My thought at the time was “Gee, why didn’t I think of that?” I see value in the word list, but it has not become a habit of mine yet. My goal this semester is to make the word list sheet a truly valued writing tool and for it to become a habit – for me and for the students.

    • I hear ya, Janay…much of my semester was, “Oh, I forgot to use the spelling lists….”. But, I hope that as some of us get into the habit, the kids will realize the benefit and help us work the habit, both in our classes and from year to year.

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