Spelling and vocabulary instruction are built into the modules so seamlessly that as a teacher used to having twenty words to type up, memorize, write three times each and the like, I had to look for the words embedded within each lesson, and figure out what to do instead of giving a weekly “test” to see if my students memorized these twenty words or not. Memorization is an essential skill, but I rarely, if ever, saw students use the twenty spelling words they had memorized in their writing. Now I have students using academic vocabulary from the modules in their writing almost routinely, and I have not had to send home a spelling list in months! I think because I am not asking students to memorize words that seem meaningless, or are hard to know what to do with out of context, students are seeing these words in the text that they read, writing these words in the texts that they write, and are therefore taking ownership of these new words!
It seems cheesy, but spelling lists are what we grew up with, and it’s what we knew how to do with our own kids at home. We knew we could count on that list coming home, and we knew how to practice those words each night, or break out in a panic on Thursday night when you saw “the list” for the first time. Spelling is an essential part of reading and writing, a spelling list, not so much. After many go rounds with concerned parents wondering where the weekly word list was I decided to have a spelling burial. My students thought this was hysterical and my students' parents had a good chuckle as well. We spent an evening at school, mourning the loss of our twenty apple themed words (in mid-November) and it was over.
Where do you suppose this concern from parents comes from? Is it wanting to help, the parents’ experience with spelling lists, or the fact that change is hard particularly when we don’t fully understand the change. I wonder if naming the perceived concern would help others understand the change and the fact that there is a reason you are not seeing the ‘list’.
Lisa Sabella is a Grades 4/5 ELA teacher with the Ripley Central School District.