REAL-LIFE Spelling

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I had a hard time spelling when I was a child. It was hard. Red marks plagued my weekly tests. 

Though I understand the reasoning behind word families and traditional methods--I learned the pedagogy as an educator--I've been reminded that theory and practice are not always instant friends. Like any teaching means or method, nothing works for every child. 

It didn't work for me. It hasn't worked for all my children. 

Several of my children and I learned to spell by seeing correctly spelled words--and using the correctly spelled words in written context--over and over.

In other words,

repetition in real-life context returned the greatest retention. 

Perhaps you have a child who learns best by experiencing the written word in real life, in context in the environment.This post is for YOU! 

Yesterday as I prepared to visit the grocery store, a young learner asked to make my shopping list. I accepted the offer. She made the list and later spelled a few several times in her spelling book. The list provided access and practice to high-frequency (used often), real-life words, words which would be used over and over in her lifetime. The result? Spelling for the day. And, it mattered. 

Learning wasn't just a list, it was life! 

Today my daughter asked for more grocery words. I stopped what I was doing and quickly looked for a grocery ad to help us develop a list of words she thought were important. Her perception of what words mattered or would be helpful to her later in life fueled her desire to learn. Ultimately, she realized the words would one day help her make lists for shopping visits and the correct spelling would be important. She had taken ownership of her learning. 

A desire to help + real-life need = learning with purpose

Grocery words may not interest your child. Instead, words of interest may be might be tied to simple machines, clothing, computers, or art. Start with an interest to discover learning with purpose. 

If food words are of interest to your learner, here's a leveled list we created. 

Grocery spelling for beginning spellers

  • pie
  • tea
  • bag
  • pea
  • ham
  • nuts
  • can
  • corn
  • apple
  • fish
  • leek
  • beef
  • beet
  • salt
  • ice
  • rice
  • pork
  • meat
  • milk
  • beans
  • pita
  • cake
  • roll
  • egg
  • oil
  • dip

Grocery spelling for intermediate spellers

  • blueberry
  • strawberry
  • banana
  • pumpkin
  • ketchup
  • sushi
  • fruit
  • water
  • yogurt
  • celery
  • peanut
  • dairy
  • butter
  • cream
  • juice
  • sauce
  • pasta
  • grain
  • cereal
  • olive
  • carrot
  • apple
  • squash
  • grapes
  • orange
  • juice
  • lemon
  • pepper
  • coffee
  • muffin
  • cookie
  • cheese
  • bacon
  • steak
  • roast
  • mango
  • salad
  • lettuce
  • crackers
  • onion
  • pudding
  • pizza
  • biscuit
  • turkey
  • chicken
  • lentil

Grocery spelling for advanced spellers

  • fillet
  • burrito
  • lasagna
  • mushroom
  • cucumber
  • pierogi
  • detergent
  • charcoal
  • sandwich
  • pastry
  • salami
  • cheesecake
  • mozzarella
  • grapefruit
  • asparagus
  • raspberry, raspberries
  • avocado
  • pineapple
  • potato, potatoes
  • tomato, potatoes
  • broccoli
  • sausage
  • salmon
  • tilapia
  • shrimp
  • tenderloin
  • margarine
  • edamame
  • vegetables
  • batteries
  • sirloin
  • bakery
  • expresso
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Extended Learning

  • Use a weekly grocery ad to make a list of foods needed for three meals a day, for seven days. 
  • Write words on index cards. Choose ten of greatest interest and copy those on a white or chalkboard, twice a day. Younger learners may enjoy writing the words with chalk on the driveway or with a finger in a sand tray. 
  • Make a word search. There are word search generators online. 
  • Play grocery Scrabble. Only food or grocery words are eligible for play and the weekly grocery ad may be used during play. 
  • Take a behind the scenes tour of your local grocery store. 
  • Take a factory tour of a milk product processing plant near you. Our local grocery store has a processing plant an hour and a half from our home. It is amazing! 
  • Visit a U-Pick farm. 

Read Grocery-Related Picture and Non-Fiction Books

Hearing grocery-related words spoken and used in context--builds knowledge of vocabulary and sentence structure as well as provides a means by which math, science, and history content can be gained in a relaxed setting. Hearing content in context often keeps curiosity engaged and wonder active. 

  • Milk: From Cow to Carton, Aliki
  • From Milk to Cheese, Roberta Basel
  • From Tomato to Ketchup, Roberta Basel
  • Eating the Alphabet, Lois Ehlert
  • Growing Vegetable Soup, Lois Ehlert
  • The Fruits We Eat, Gail Gibbons
  • The Milk Makers, Gail Gibbons
  • The Vegetables We Eat, Gail Gibbons
  • From Seed to Plant, Gail Gibbons
  • Bread and Jam for Frances, Russell Hoban
  • Blueberries for Sal, Robert McCloskey
  • The Vegetable Alphabet Book, Jerry Pallotta 
  • Tops and Bottoms, Janet Stevens

If the interest in everyday food words grows to an interest in farming, check out this post on our favorite farm books

Spelling can be real, relational, and intentional.

It matters! 

What About Spelling?

As we sat around the evaluation table with homeschooling families this summer, great questions surfaced.

"What about spelling?"

A common question with several potential right answers dependent upon educational philosophy, age, ability, and learning style.

In other words, as evaluators, we have seen many methods and curricula produce excellent spellers.

There is no right answer to this question. 

There are options.

  • Purchase a traditional, grade-leveled spelling curriculum. This is the first answer which comes to mind for most parents. Easy-peasy. Buy the curriculum. Done. Works well for some children and parents, alike.
  • Choose high-interest or frequently used words. This method takes a bit more work, but is pleasantly effective. It works well for active, hands-on learners as well as learners with interests which saturate their days (like the fisherman who sees a need to spell the words bait, tackle, license, trout, shrimp, brackish, hook, sinker, shore, catch, freshwater, captain, salmon, carp, permit, marsh, or wade).  Words of interest often return the greatest reward because there is a motivation to spelling--an email to Grandma, a note to the bait-n-tackle owner, a request to write an article for publication. 
  • Use objects of interest. Another wonderful option for hands-on, engrossed-in-an-interest learner. Using Dolch words, commonly misspelled words, or interest-based words, learners can use objects (think acorns, Matchbox cars, cereal and sand boxes) to spell. Stickers and foam letters make great teaching tools as well. 

Sometimes we have used objects of interest to learn spelling. One of our most unusual items have been acorns and cerealStickers and foam letters make great teaching tools as well.

 

  • Play a game. My children enjoy engaging games. Games add spark to learning. When there is a less-than-favorite subject to learn--spelling is one in our house--I pull out Scrabble or Banana Grams. Making games can be fun, too!

  • Compile a "I want to learn these!" list. Where there is intrinsic motivation, retention is not far behind. Whether learning a new skill or reading a book with intriguing vocabulary there are likely words the child wants to know. Use the words of interest to compile a "I want to learn these!" list, place it in a notebook, and whittle away at it each week.

Though cliche, it is often true of learning

variety is the spice of life.  

The truth is, classroom and home educators have used a combination of the above possibilities and been highly successful at teaching children this often dreaded and difficult skill: SPELLING. 

There is not a tried-and-true method. Each child receives, stores, and retrieves information differently, especially with spelling.

Hence a individualized path is often necessary for the greatest retention.

And often, spelling which is intentional, real and relational is remembered.

Make. Every. Moment. Matter.

 

SIMPLE Prepositions for Little Learners

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"Mom, what is a preposition?"

A great question to start the day. Impromptu language arts lesson.

Curious minds are ripe for learning!

A preposition is a word that connects or shows the relationship between two nouns or a noun and pronoun. Prepositions are always with an object or person.

We reviewed nouns and pronouns. Then, I gave examples of each and used them in a sentence.

Together, my little learners and I looked around the room and chose two nouns for our preposition play, mice and cars.

Paper mice were made from 3x5 cards, each child coloring a mouse family. I found some Duplo cars from our collection of blocks.

Once all the mice were colored and decorated, tails in place, our preposition discovery began.

For our play we would act out sentences, stating the relationship between the mice and the cars. I demonstrated by placing the mice on the cars while stating,"The mice are on the cars." I wrote "on" on a 3x5 card and placed it near the cars.

Then, I asked each of the child to place their mice in some relation to the cars, stating the position in relation to one another.

The mice are under the cars.

The mice are on the cars.

The mice are aside of the cars.

The mice are behind the cars.

As the children placed the mice and verbally expressed their position, I wrote the preposition on a card. Before long we had a handful of preposition cards. By the end of a few hours, we used our creative thinking, worked on spatial relationships, applied artistic uniqueness, and UNDERSTOOD prepositions and how to use them in sentences.

Int he end, we also had a handful of spelling cards to use for other lessons.

Learning started with a question.

"Mom, what is a preposition?"

SIMPLE.

Click to download your FREE PDF printable!

Sticker Spelling

Our youngest, a budding emergent reader, beginning speller happened upon large sheets of 2-inch peel-off, brightly-colored sticky letters.

A gold mine!

Within 40 minutes she had completed the equivalent of a month's worth of spelling lessons, without tears, without coercion. Best of all, she remembered the words she spelled, days later. A win-win-win situation.

Learning, fun, retention.

That is what I call a productive day!

Spelling Cereal

Two weeks after an incredible "buy one get one free" cereal sale and an impromptu breakfast spelling lesson, Dad was home, watching the young ones while I met a friend for coffee. 

Dad asked the little learners,

"What would you like for breakfast?" 

The four year old promptly answered, 

"Dad, could I have some of that spelling cereal?"

Dad wasn't quite sure whether spelling cereal was a breakfast choice or one of our educational games. 

Upon further questioning, the four year old commanded,

"Dad, just open the pantry."

He did and quickly found out that spelling cereal was indeed a breakfast choice. It was letter-shaped cereal we had used for spelling a few days prior.

When I arrived home, my husband quipped,

"Will you quit having so much fun with the kids!"

I snickered.

It was real and it was relational. It was remembered. 

Fall Spelling Fun

This week my daughter had a wonderful impromptu idea.

"Remember those acorns I collected--all 224 of them? I used them to spell words!"

Brilliant idea.

A subject often relegated to long lists of unrelated words.

I walked to the kitchen to see her masterpieces.

Indeed creative. Indeed reinforcing learning.

After discussion, it was determined that gluing the words to cardboard would make festive Thanksgiving decorations. 

And so goes the day when acorns become spelling practice.

(Just one day after the burstingbaggie of acorns were the place value and counting lesson. Simple, available, and intriguing equal many days and ways of learning.)