Wednesday, February 28, 2007

September 15, 2000 - Spelling/Correcting Writing

Hello Everyone!

A question came up today about spelling and correcting writing. When someone asks a question that pertains to how others might implement A World of Adventure, I always try to address it with the whole group. I realize that MANY of you will already know some of the things that come up, but with a group this size and with so many different backgrounds and situations, I want to make sure that there are no questions left unanswered. Some of you are super-confident in what you are doing and others want more guidance, so I will err on the side of giving you "more" instead of "less."

Regarding spelling words:
Yes! Add words to each child's individual list that he/she spells wrong - in any subject - or however you may want to do it. These are really the words your child needs to work on learning to spell. The lists I provide only pertain to that one rule each time and, while it is important to know, understand, and then USE the rule in their own writing, the words that they continue to spell wrong should be the ones they have on their individual lists. You will have to use your best judgment here. Some children will spell SO many words wrong that you will completely discourage them by giving them 40 (or more!) words for their spelling list each week. The idea of adding words with the same letter and sound pattern is EXCELLENT - the very BEST way to teach spelling! Just make sure that the words you add really apply in letter and sound. For example, if a child gets the word COUGH wrong and is having trouble with the GH ending saying the F sound.

Good words to add to his list would be ROUGH, TOUGH, or LAUGH. Do NOT use the word THROUGH, because even though it has the GH spelling at the end, the GH does not make the F sound in this case and does not apply to the sound/spelling pattern. This is a rather obvious example so that you will all see what I mean, but as you add words with similar patterns, please be aware of this. When your child has tested correctly on a word, you may cross it out until he spells it wrong again (hopefully he won't, but don't hold your breath), or you may make a check by it on his master list so that you can review it again orally on an informal basis. That will be up to you. If your child is a very poor speller be careful not to burn him out with too many spelling words each week. It is better for him to conquer some of the rules and patterns with confidence than it is to spread him too thin and not learn any well at all. Spelling is SO INDIVIDUAL with kids - and adults! We all have our own little hang-ups when it comes to remembering the correct spellings of words. That is why I SO FAVOR individualized lists. I am a very good speller by nature, but I always have to stop and think when I come to the word ATTACH. I always want to spell it ATTATCH, which makes so much more sense to me! So, I wonder if we ever REALLY conquer spelling completely. We just have to keep reading a lot, writing a lot, and doing our best to be accurate and keep on learning the rest of our lives.

Regarding correcting errors in writing assignments:
Yes, for the most part, you should always correct punctuation, capitals, etc. in their writing. If you do not correct them, they will not be aware that it is wrong and will continue to write things inaccurately. There are a couple of different theories on how to do this. One is to mention to them that they have a punctuation error in the first sentence -see if they can find it and correct it on their own. Go through the whole assignment this way, letting them find their own errors. I really favor this method because it teaches them to LOOK for their own errors, and eventually prompts them to watch that they don't make those errors in the first place! However, this method is VERY time consuming, unless you can come up with a method or code for letting them know what kind of error is lurking in each of their sentences and mark it accordingly. Otherwise, you have to wait for them to find it and correct it before you can let them know about the next error they have to find. This may not be practical for all of you, but I still think it is the most effective way to correct a child's paper. The other way is the traditional method of correcting their work by marking their papers in some way the errors that need to be corrected. By the way, NEVER mark anything wrong, unless it is your intent to have your child correct it. There is really no point to that - no learning takes place. If you do mark the errors for your child, please try not to use a big, fat, red pen! Schools are really good at this, and it is really discouraging to a child to see red marks all over his paper. Try to find a gentler way of letting him know he has made a mistake and must correct it. Once again, this is why I HIGHLY favor typing, as these corrections can be made with little trouble (and few tears!)

The only time I would NOT correct a paper is when the mistakes are minor and the child has worked with his whole heart on something that will not really be shown as a part of a notebook or portfolio (try not to include writing papers with lots of errors in a portfolio that will be shown to school officials). A personal journal is another example of something you may not want to correct in detail because your focus is to get your child to just write about themselves and their feelings without any inhibitions about spelling and punctuation. There are no journaling assignments in A World of Adventure, but there is a unit on journaling in the next book, so you will each have to decide how you will handle this with your own children. The point of both of these examples is that it IS discouraging to ALWAYS be told that your work is "not good enough" (even though we don't say those words, that is basically the message that our children receive). It IS our job to correct our children's work - for their own good - but we also want to build their confidence levels, so once in a while we have to make exceptions to the "correct EVERYTHING" rule.

Try to ALWAYS point out the good in what they wrote when you also must point out errors. Bringing up the rule that goes with the error is another good teaching method. "I really like how you told about Queen Elizabeth's childhood, but it looks like you forgot to add a capital letter to her title - remember, all proper nouns and titles of royalty have to be capitalized."

Hope these ideas help!


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