Monday, September 9, 2013

Spelling and Phonics for English Learners

Exciting title, right?  But, if you're like me, you probably have students in your room who are really poor spellers.  My class is made up almost entirely of English Learners, so they naturally struggle with spelling and phonics.  I started the year using the word study book provided by our district, but it only took two weeks for me to discover that it wasn't the best fit for my students.  I got my hands on a copy of Words Their Way, a book I had been introduced to a couple of years ago and read most of it in one weekend.  While I understood the premise of the book, with  24 students and only one of me, I wasn't sure how I was going to fit in time to meet with my five reading groups and an unknown number of spelling groups.  I didn't know what my next step was going to be.

So, I did what every person in the Western world does when they have a question.  I Googled!  (Seriously, what did we do before Google?)  I searched for "words their way for second grade", and this post from Second Story Window came up first!  What a life saver!  It describes how to use "chunk spelling" to help students generalize spelling patterns and use them in their everyday writing.  Every week, the students work with a different chunk.  We started with the -at family.  On the blog page, there's a link to a Beginning Sound Board the students use to make words.  We did this on Friday.  (And I forgot to take pics.  Darn.)  It was fabulous to watch my kids.  My higher kids were able to put the words together mentally, while my lower readers were having an extended practice time in sounding out words.  (Something they really struggle with.)  Then, we tried to create some big words.  While that didn't work as well as I hoped, I think we'll get better as we go on.  (I was trying to come up with big words with -at in them, and all I could come up with was catastrophe.)  I let the students pick the ten words for their lists, and I was so impressed with how good their choices were.  The students who were my better spellers chose the more difficult words, and my weaker spellers chose the easier words.  I'm hoping that when we test on Friday, I'll see a lot of improvement!

I'm also going to start doing some making words lessons from Pat Cunningham this week.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I'll have my students plus about five other EL students in my class for 45 minutes along with our lead ESOL teacher.  I've been debating what to do with those students, since it's during my writing time, and I think this is the best plan.  While the other students are there, we'll do about 20 minutes of writing and then another 20 minutes of word study.  On Tuesdays, we'll do a making words lesson, and then, hopefully, on Thursdays, we'll be able to do a Rounding Up the Rhymes lesson or a Guess the Covered Word lesson.

I'm excited about my new plan!  While I'm sure it will need some tweaking, I can't wait to see how my students improve this year!  I'll be sure to let you know how it goes!

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