With more elementary classrooms implementing a state-mandated 90-minute reading block, many teachers are grappling with how to appropriately integrate spelling. In Indiana, for example, the role of word study is outlined in the state’s Reading Framework, but nowhere does it mention traditional spelling lists.

So how are you supposed to teach spelling? How do you assess it? Or, is it not to be taught within the parameters of the 90-minute reading block? Yes, you can and must teach spelling. However, it will likely look different than what it used to.

There is a clear shift away from providing a list of weekly words for students to memorize. The expectation is that you are teaching spelling principles, not spelling words. With mastery of a spelling principle, a student can apply it when 1) decoding as a reader, 2) encoding as a writer, and 3) determining the meaning of unfamiliar vocabulary. This approach allows a student to read and write dozens of words with the knowledge of one spelling principle. This is a huge increase over learning to read and write one isolated word at a time.

No longer should students be writing each spelling word five times or finding them within a word search. Rather, roll out a spelling principle throughout the week.

Steps to teach & assess a spelling principle

The value of this type of word-study instruction is the ripple effect on other aspects of literacy for students. Specific lessons on how words work will improve students’ overall ability to spell words correctly in writing, impact students’ skills within decoding and comprehension, not to mention increase their motivation to read.

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