Monday, 9 September 2013

6 A+ Ideas for Spelling Homework

Ahhhh homework.  Opinions abound.  Facts remain.  If you practice something diligently, whole-heartedly, with intention to improve, you will improve.  It doesn't matter if it's basketball or piano, karate or reading.  

Or spelling. 

So spelling is my topic today.  Again, opinions abound.  Facts remain.  If you spell something wrong, you will confuse or mislead someone.  You may, in turn, be confused or misled yourself because spelling is the act of producing words, which comes after comprehending words.  It is a secondary act of showing comprehension and a possible signal that you are confused or misguided when you're reading.

Yes, spelling involves memorization.  Some people are not good at memorizing. 

Do they comprehend?  Yes. 

Can they create?  Oh yeah! 

Can they memorize specific letters in a row?  Not so much. 

Spelling is a skill like any other that comes naturally to some and takes persistent effort for others. Teachers get this.  This is why your child's mark in language is not based solely on their spelling tests.  Any English language arts mark will have several components that comprise the total mark.  A teacher's grade book will usually look something like this:

English/Language Arts:
Reading comprehension - 25%
Spelling - 25%
Writing - 25%
Oral presentations - 25%

Every assignment the teacher gives will filter into one of these categories and go towards the total mark.  The spelling category, by first report card mark, may have 10 different marks contributing to it.  The average will be taken of those 10 to make a certain percentage.  So, if little Johnny earns 100% in all his spelling quizzes, his average will be 100%.  Is that enough to guarantee a passing grade in English?  No, because that is only one quarter of the total mark.  It helps, but if he bombs reading, writing and oral, he will bomb English.  This mark breakdown may or may not be given to you as part of the teacher's year plans but I guarantee they have this and shouldn't have a problem sharing it.  It is also a really good indication of what the teacher wants to prioritize that semester or year.  For example, not every breakdown will be perfectly equal like the example above.  It may look something like this:

Reading comprehension - 50%
Spelling - 10%
Writing - 30%
Oral - 10%

In the above example, spelling is only given a weight of 10%.  Does that mean less spelling tests?  No.  But the total marks count for less towards the final grade.  First graders will not understand this (heck, most 10th graders don't understand this) but as a parent, it helps to put things in perspective. You will not always agree on a teacher's break down but at least everyone will be on the same page.

But I digress.

After a full week in the trenches we are starting to get our after school routine in place. I printed off a handy dandy PDF door hanger from Thriving Family (you have to look in the middle right of the page, under Quick Links, it's called Homework Chart and Afterschool Reminders) and put it on our door to greet her before she comes through.  It seems to help her take charge of this routine.

When it comes time to do the homework part of the checklist, she balks a bit.  The TV must certainly not be on (much to my younger sons dismay) but if we all do "homework" together, it's a bit easier for her to accept.

In case you hadn't guessed by the aforementioned ramble, our homework focus for the foreseeable future is language arts.  Reading her take-home book. Practicing sight words.  And spelling.  The first two tasks are usually pretty easy to get through.  After all, she has picked the book so it's of some interest to her.  There is always a new sight word to learn and we can manipulate the words to make funny sentences.  But spelling?  The same words day in and day out.  How can this task be fun?  I realized in the first 30 seconds, we needed help doing this.  So who do I ask when I don't know which way to go?

No, it's not MAP, it's PINTEREST, of course!

I scoured my Teaching & Learning board (which, by the way is not near as organized as it should be so don't waste your time if you're after something is however I lovely "stroll in the park" if you feel like "stopping to smell the roses") and found a few tips and inevitably got side-tracked into the deeper and deeper waters of TeachersPayTeachers and Google in general!  When I finally came up for air, I narrowed it down to these 6 ideas/sites.  To make the cut, the ideas needed to be quick and simple to set up (sometimes I'm getting home from work the same time Miss E is getting off the bus) and I had to have the materials on hand.  That being said, I do have a lot of crafty stuff on hand. You may not.  In any case, the supplies can be found for a buck at your local dollar store and whipped into use in less than 10 minutes.

If you're feeling techy:
If you have a computer or tablet the kids can use, this is a good site for younger children (ie. grades 1-3) because the games involve minimal mouse moves/clicks and you can create a free custom list free without having to sign up.  (I don't think it will save your list, but for us, I'm only going to use this as practice once a week so that's ok) is a great one too, but I find its games need more mouse control to play. 

If you're feeling science-y:
Have your child write words in "invisible ink".
We tried the lemon juice trick but realized that we actually have very few lamps in our house to see the results appear before our very eyes and the ones we do have, have the energy saving bulbs in them so that they actually don't give off enough heat to activate the secret message!  FAIL!  But I still include the list because Miss E had such fun doing it, and we may still try the white crayon/watercolor trick.  As a side note, be sure to supervise the writing because you want them to be practicing the words the right way.  If you suspect they've spelled it wrong (and of course, being invisible, it will be hard to tell unless you're watching every stroke) suggest they do it again.  Because this needs time to dry, the lesson could be lost if 10 minutes later you realize the words were spelled wrong.

If you're feeling "Michaelangelo-ey":
Roll out the playdough. Have your child write in it with a toothpick, then use a rolling pin to "clear the slate".  Or shape dough into letters. If you have letter stamps, use them to print the words out (hint: this works better than a toothpick since most playdough drags a bit and makes letters very messy). 

I loathe playdough but will tolerate it with strict supervision and an old cookie sheet as the work surface. I like this image from MrsStewartsSuperstars:

If you're feeling "confetti-ey" (ok, ok, I realize I'm struggling a bit here with my adjectives, bear with me!):
I snagged this one and a few other gems from Amanda at Kind of a Hippie Homeschooler

Re-use those magazines, catalogs and newspapers in the recycle bin by having your child snip out letters for the words and pasting them down on a piece of paper.

If you're feeling crafty:
This comes from Kelly at The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking.

Clothes Pin Words.  I like this because once you invest in making the clothes pin letters, you can use them again and again so it doesn't become such a "craft" anymore. For first graders who know their letters, let them make the clothes pins themselves (and be sure to have a few extra vowels, and common letters like R,S,T, L & N's), then manipulate them to spell their words.  This is a great "differentiated learning activity" (fancy  buzzword for something that's good for a variety of ages/levels) because you could either create cards like Kelly does or scrap them altogether for more difficulty and just let your child pin the letters to a piece of blank paper to create the word.  My four year old son will participate in this too because it can be geared down for his level, so everybody wins!

If you're feeling touchy-feely:
I know this heading sounds weird, but strangely enough, for my super tactile-"always in your bubble"-"tickle my back" kind of girl, this "finger tracing" activity is just the thing.  Plus, it's a great way to connect with your kid after a long day apart.  Simply trace a word on your child's back or arm and have them guess.  Then switch.  Today, I take it from Caitlin at Simply Second Grade but I'm sure she's not the first to suggest it.  I give her props though because it is just one of 30 - YES THIRTY! - more FREE, CHEAP, SIMPLE ideas to help me and Miss E practice spelling. I pinned this one like, yesterday, and can't wait to try them all!  (Except the handwriting one...we've got a ways to go 'til that one!) Click on this link to her free download.

How will you practice spelling next week?

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