Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Spelling Lessons with Explode the Code

DSC01684A couple of people have been asking on the boards, as I was at this time last year, how to transition from phonics to spelling. 
The assumption out there in education-land seems to be that phonics is baby stuff and spelling is how big kids learn.  Maybe they’re thinking of BOB Books and their ilk.  Since our disappointing experience with Spelling Workout earlier this year, and our return to Explode the Code, I have realize that this popular perception is not necessarily the case.  Why would they make Explode the Code books all the way up to level 8 and beyond – at least to a Grade Four level – if phonics becomes irrelevant (or less important) the minute a child is reading somewhat successfully?
In fact, it’s only now that Naomi’s reading fairly well that the phonics rules are starting to make sense, and Explode the Code guides her gently through understanding and navigating the maze that is spelling in English.
The only thing I really liked about Spelling Workout was the idea of a spelling LIST, and spelling TESTS that would check to make sure that she was absorbing the material.  And then I realized, a couple of months ago, that there’s no reason I can’t use Explode the Code lesson words as a spelling list in just the same way.   So I’ve developed a technique that works extremely well for us, offering (kinda) rigourous spelling review along with a thorough, rules-based phonics curriculum.
Here’s what I do:
  • Before we start phonics, I give her a sheet of paper to number 1-6 in the margin.  NOTE:  I only do this if her current work is a continuation of a previous day's activity.  I would never "cold-test" a child with words she hadn't worked with before!!!
  • I remind her of the “lesson rule.”  Today’s rule was that the “oh” sound is more often seen as “oa” INSIDE a word and “ow” at the END of a word.
  • Then, I hold the phonics lesson pages and choose 6 words from the current lesson to dictate.  I number them so I don’t forget which words I picked.  Today, she asked me to quiz her on “February” as well, because we did this in First Language Lessons last time, so I added it in as #2.  Why 6 words?  I felt like 8 was too many; 6 gives me some idea of whether she’s mastered the current rule and the “lesson words.”
  • Then, I mark her spelling test.  She loves seeing her mark, no matter what it is!  Today, she drew in the fraction, leaving the numerator blank so I could fill in her mark out of 7 (which was 7).
  • If she’s gotten a word wrong (100% is rare, because her spelling is still kind of random!), I give her the phonics pages and have her correct it right away based on the correct spelling.
  • THEN, if the current lesson doesn’t contain a “test” – the wrap-up page at the end of a lesson – I do another test at the end of our phonics time.  She usually manages to get 100% the second time around.  Today, I didn’t make her do it a second time because she got 100% the first time.  I don’t see any point, never have, in testing kids on words they know well already.
(In today’s lesson, she decided the “toad” looked too much like a frog – so she’s written in her own choice at the top of the page, then circled it and written it neatly on the line below.  Hurrah for independent thinkers!)
As with everything else, this is what works for us… I’d love to hear what you’re doing to adapt the programs you love as your kids get older and more capable!