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.
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!