Spelling: Trying Before Helping

I'm Not Afraid of my Words
spelling chart
In my first year of teaching I became a little frustrated with students thinking that I was a walking dictionary. At the time I taught several classes so I wasn't able to implement strategies I had been taught about at university, such as "have-a-go" books (otherwise I would be drowning in books).

In the end I found a novel little idea on Pinterest. A chart in the classroom to get them to have a go first.

I have searched my Pinterest boards for the original pin and also on the Internet but haven't managed to find it again. The idea though may have be based on Lisa Cleaveland's idea which is featured in a book. I believe the book is entitled About the Authors: Writing Workshop and Our Youngest Writers  written by both Lisa Cleaveland and Katie Wood Ray. An excerpt featuring Chapter 4 of the book (which includes the aforementioned chart) is included and available to download for free from Heinemann's website.

The pin I saw had a paper version (but was just about identical to the one I made) - this was not going to work with me with other 250 students every week coming into the class - I would be forever making up or photocopying pages. In the end I decided to make mine on A3 paper (mine was actually two A4 sheets glued together and mounted on cardboard as I didn't have an A3 colour printer!). One glued I laminated. The students used whiteboard markers (I prefer the thin whiteboard markers available from Kmart - in the US and Australia)
Office One thin whiteboard
markers available at Kmart

I constructed three in total based on the original pin. The columns read as follows:

* Name
* Write what you HEAR, So it will be CLEAR!
* Spelling

The example to the left is from a grade 1/2 class. These three cards survived (barely) to the end of the year - yes, I got a whole school year out of these! They look quite worse for wear though. In my 2/3 class last year they only lasted 6 months before needing to be replaced. Either way it is good value for money.

I cleaned them as needed, or at the end of the day, with a cheap face washer and eucalyptus oil.

This was a good way to get the students to have a go at spelling. A lot of the time they would find another student had already had a go and could recognise the word by the way the other student had spelt it. It also encouraged a sense of pride among students once they began to spell more accurately.

Some of you may wonder about those reluctant kids - did they want to show the case they couldn't spell very well? Yes, they did. I found it took a couple of weeks (and many redirections to the chart) to get some to have a go but we did eventually get there.

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