January 21, 2018


Spelling is an interesting topic. There are many self-proclaimed “horrible spellers.” My dad couldn’t spell for the life of him. (No offense, Dad). My mom is a high school librarian. Enough said. There are those that can easily compete at the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Much like any elementary classroom, our class consists of a wide range of spellers. To be perfectly honest with you, I don’t expect my students to spell every single word that they ever write correctly. Nor do I expect them to compete in Washington, D.C. at the national spelling bee. What I do expect my students to do is use their skills as readers and writers to do their absolute best when spelling both known and unknown words. The English language is like a puzzle, but just like any puzzle, it takes time and effort to solve it.

Each student is given a specific set of words that is designed to challenge them at their own level. In our classroom of spellers, we have 13 different sets of words being “studied” each week. I use quotation marks because not all of the students have been studying consistently. It’s easy to tell every Tuesday who studied and who didn’t study after I grade their spelling quizzes. This past week I asked students to raise their hand if they studied their words over the past week in preparation for the spelling quiz. Roughly six students raised their hand. In a weak attempt, another four raised their elbows.

Here are some tips for helping your child study their words on a more consistent basis and develop strong studying skills:

  1. The first step is to make sure they have the content they’re suppose to study. Words are sent home every Tuesday. Look for them. If your child forgot them, hold them accountable and remind them to bring them home on Wednesday.
    1. Unfortunately, the list of words are not digitally saved in my computer so I can’t email them to you. If your child comes up to me the next day and says, “I lost them. May I have another please?”, then I will gladly give him or her an extra copy. That’s being responsible.
  2. Verbally quiz them at random times of the day. Out of nowhere ask them to spell one of their words aloud to you.
    1. It might help to make sure you know what the words are.
  3. Have them write the words down. Simple enough.
    1. Students in my class have access to portable whiteboards and love just writing the words down. They do it every Tuesday. A piece of paper works just fine. So does a chalkboard if you’ve got one of those at home.
  4. Take ten minutes out of every night to spend with your child. Pit them against another member of the household in a mock spelling bee. Preferrably, not your cat. Play some crazy music in the background like the theme from Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Do your best Regis Philbin impersonation while you’re at it. Go nuts.
  5. Designate time on the calendar for your child to study their words. If your family uses a calendar to budget all your activities and time, put “study spelling words” on there! If you do so, check in with them to see that they’re really spelling.

We all spell at different levels. But the words we spell are the same words we read as readers. I attached a photo of a list of spelling words look like before their cut up in class. With this specific set of words, this student would be working on spelling words that have the long and short I sounds. It includes the letter y which also makes the same sound at times. This would be at their spelling development.

This week marked the end of the first trimester. Believe it or not, 13 weeks of school are over with another 24 coming up. Whoa. If you’re a bit surprised that 33% of the school year is over, then look at your car in the morning. The frost should be all the indication you need that we’re far from summer, no matter which way you look at it. Some housekeeping items:

  • I sent home a book order form last week. If you’re interested in ordering any books, please fill this out before Wednesday, November 27th. If you want to order something but you don’t want your child to know about it, order online. The directions to do so are attached on the book order.
  • Progress reports will be sent home the first week of December. I’ll give you a head’s up when they’re on their way so you can be on the lookout for them.
  • The holidays are coming up. If you know of plans that will affect attending school, please let me know.
  • If anybody is interested in donating popcorn for our viewing on Holes this Wednesday, it would be greatly appreciated and rapidly consumed.
  • A new list of spelling words will be sent home on Tuesday to study over Thanksgiving weekend. However, spelling words will not be sent home over Winter Break.
  • I will not be writing a post next week. Enjoy Thanksgiving!

photo (39)

I recorded some videos of the students studying their spelling words. I planned on attaching them to this post for you to watch. Unfortunately, the videos came out very hard to hear with all the background noise.


Dan Barnard About Dan Barnard

Dan Barnard hails from the Green Mountain State of Vermont where he grew up skiing, biking, and exploring the nooks and crannies of the woods. He learned to drive on his parents' station wagons, learned to ski at Smugglers' Notch, and developed a love for traveling by participating in school trips to France and New York City. He worked in many jobs ranging from ski instructing to babysitting to an after-school program that helped him decide he wanted to be a teacher.

He enrolled in Wheelock College in Boston, Massachusetts and earned a BA in Humanities with a focus on history and a concentration in Elementary Education. After working for two years in a suburban Boston community as a fifth grade teacher, he decided to move west to discover the beauty and bounty of Oregon. He worked for four years as a third, fourth, fifth, and sixth grade teacher in Mosier, Oregon. While working in Mosier he enrolled in graduate school at Portland State University and earned a MS in Curriculum and Instruction from Portland State University.