Saturday 14 November 2015

Activities for Using Spell-Write Online with Your Class

The essence of the Spell-Write concept is that spelling is a writing skill. We learn to spell to write, to communicate with clarity. Spelling therefore needs to be embedded into the classroom writing programme. The process is this:

  1. Students write lots anywhere and everywhere, not just online
  2. The words that give the student difficulty when they write go into their 'Words to Learn' List 
  3. The teacher needs to support and monitor this list to make sure the words are spelt correctly and are appropriate for that student (see previous blog)
  4. The student uses the online 'How to Learn a Word' tool to learn each word on their list at home and at school
  5. At the end of the week students test each other on the words from their 'Words to Learn' list
Alphabetical and Dictionary Skills.

There are lots of activities that can be part of the class reading, writing and spelling programme or just a fun and worthwhile five minutes before the bell using Spell-Write Online. These can be quick- fire activities with individuals in the class or with the class organised in small groups for a challenge. Here are some:

1. Find a word
Use the online alphabetical lists. Students find a given word. Have some words prepared in advanced that are at the reading level range of your students. Use words with different beginning sound Eg zebra, noisy, awesome, words that will challenge students to predict the order of letters in the word and the alphabet. Extend this to words that begin the same letter to learn about the order of sounds and letters within each word.

2. Print versus IT 
Groups or individuals use the book or  IT device. Challenge the students to find a given word and be the first to find the word. Record the results, Eg best to 10 or 20. Change the groups around and begin again this way everyone gets to be part of a successful group. Where are your students quickest, with the book or online?

3. Find a word that...
Find a word that begins with 'th', 'tr', 'tw' etc... Use Spell-Write Online and/or the Spell-Write book. Adapt this activity to a particular skill your students are working on. Extend this by asking "How many can you find?" or "How many are listed?" Then move to another skill.

4. Order 
This will work best when students can see the screen together. Open part of the list, Eg. pop to port. The challenge is for the students to predict the beginning letter of the word before the ones on the screen. Then the first two letters of the word, then the first three letters and finally the word itself. Now this activity is repeated with the words that come after the last visible word on the screen. Now move to another set of words.

5. Search 
Open the 'Groups of Words' section of Spell-Write Online. Have some words ready for the students to search for Eg Autumn, moment etc... Students race to find the word as individuals or in groups. Once the word is found they then have to explain why the word is in this category and the criteria for ordering the words in this list..

Keep the pace of these activities fast and achievable, but always light-hearted with success for all possible. The skill of the teacher will produce positive outcomes for everyone. Enjoy.

Tuesday 10 November 2015

How to use the 'Word to Learn' Section in Spell-Write Online

The best predictor of future success is success now. It is not the size of the success that is important, it is success itself. With this in mind what will give a child the most success and desire to continue learning their words in their ‘Word to Learn’ List, a tool in the Spell-Write Online site,

What will give them a positive start to build on?

1. Use the words a child has difficulty with when writing. 

  •    The words need to be meaningful for the child
  •      Words that have meaning are easier to learn
  •     They are more likely to use these words in the future
  •    Words they use are more likely to be remembered
2. Begin with a small number of words, three to five words.  Why?

  •       When first using the 'Words to Learn' section in  a child is figuring out the mechanics of the site
  •       The teacher needs to know that the child has completed the task correctly, that the words have been entered in correctly and that they are ready to be learnt
  •       The parent who is supporting the process at home needs to know that the child’s list is correct and the anticipated number of words are there
  •       The child needs to feel the success to want to continue the process
  •       The teacher, child and supporting adult, at home, need to feel safe, that the predicted number of words are available in the child’s list

3. Use the animation and poster available in the ‘Words to Learn’ section to inform the ‘How to Learn a Word’ process. Why? 
(If you have a mac it might not show the below video so go here )
  •         Children learn in a range of ways and different parts of this given process will have more meaning for each child
  •     We can aid the memory of words by giving prompts to the skills a child can use to recall words:

  1.          What letters did I use to make the word?
  2.           What did the word look like?
  3.           What was the shape of the word?
  4.       How did the word sound?
  5.       What sounds made up the word?
  6.       What does the word mean?

A child will need to have words entered into their 'Word to Learn' list to access the interactive ‘How to Learn a Word’ process.

Sunday 8 November 2015

Spell-Write Online/ A Long and Loving Connection

If you have been involved in education like me for a while you will know Spell-Write. It has been part of NZ classrooms since it was first published in 1983. Over the past year my company Pixelhouse, in partnership with NZCER, have worked with students and teachers to bring Spell-Write online.
 As I began this project I was intrigued to find out what it is that has made Spell-Write so successful. To get to the essence of literacy education so that Spell-Write online could continue the success of the Spell-Write books.
 It turns out the success of Spell-Write is entwined with the success of NZ Literacy Education which owes much to teachers of the past. Teachers who took risks. Teachers like Sylvia Ashton Warner and Elwyn Richardson. Teachers who found themselves away from the gazing eyes of bureaucracy, who could work closely with their students and ‘become’ the teacher their students needed them to be.
 Over my years of teaching I have had the privilege of working with teachers such as these. Teachers with passion and commitment that give new insight and wisdom. Sylvia and Elwyn recorded their experiences so we can be inspired by their experiences and understandings.
 Sylvia in her book “Teacher” talks about Key Vocabulary. The process of using words to begin to teach a child to read and write, important words that have intense meaning for the child. She conversed and listened closely to her students as the arrived for the day. She captured on a large card with a black crayon the one word that for that child had a ‘big inner picture’. These words became the basis of their spelling and writing programme. Spell-Write had its early beginnings here. Sylvia describes it as the ‘moulding together of spelling and comprehension’.
 Elwyn Richardson worked with older students, year 4 to 8 students. His students had words they knew and they could write sentences and stories. He saw his role as helping them add depth to their writing. He took his students out into their world, their environment. Elwyn saw talk as the beginning of things, talk and looking closely. From these conversations and observations came a connection, an emotional attachment to the thing being analysed and observed. Once an emotional response was captured‘ intense feelings had to be expressed’ through art, drama and writing.
 On Friday afternoons the students would share and discuss their work. When there was energy for this it had been a good week. It was a starting place too. A place to find the bits that had given difficulty and the skills that would be helpful to master. This became the content for the following week’s lessons.
 Spell-Write built on these treasured findings. NZCER research found the words students most commonly used in their writing and put them in a book, Spell-Write. Now children could find the words they needed to write, quickly. The Essential Lists narrowed these alphabetical lists down to the ‘most commonly used words’, the words that are the most useful to know since a child is likely to use them. The Essential Lists were intended as a teacher’s guide, not lists to learn.
 Now Spell-Write Online provides each word with an audio file with common NZ pronunciation. And there is more. A place to store words that have ‘a big inner picture’ and a place to write, to express their ‘intense feelings and new understandings’ and  for the teacher a place to find out the skills that would be helpful for that child to know. There is more, but that’s for next time.

Monday 11 May 2015

First Day at School, Teacher's Expectations

First Day at School,  Teacher's Expectations
 What are the signs that will let a New Entrant Teacher know that this child is ready to learn to read and write?

Self Awareness (Disposition)
1.     Able to look after themselves and their things E.g. Can hang up their bag and coat, put away their lunch box, at the end of the day can put on their coat and pack their bag ready for the journey home
1.     Shows an awareness of others E.g. Can smile, and be friendly to others, is able to wait, take turns, move around with a consideration for others and show empathy
2.     Behaves appropriately in a range of situations
3.     Perseveres at a task and overcomes obstacles
4.     Settles after the departure of a caregiver and to a given task

Knowledge of Sound
1.     Can hear and describe environmental sounds
2.     Able to identify and distinguish between common sounds
3.     Able to listen to a simple set of instructions and carry them out
4.     Can hear the beginning and end sound in a word
5.     Can give letter names to 10 sounds of the alphabet
6.     Knows the sound that his name starts with
7.     Can name the letter that makes this sound
8.     Can respond to rhythm, move to a simple beat
9.     Can hear and repeat rhymes
10.  Can hear and enjoy alliteration

Visual Knowledge
1.     Can recognise patterns, and repeat a simple pattern
2.     Can complete a simple puzzle
3.     Can sort shapes
4.     Can draw their own interpretation of their world and experiences
5.   Can recognise and name most colours: Red, blue, yellow, green, black and white.

Spatial Awareness
1.     Has an awareness of the space around themselves
2.     Understands the concept of up, down, around, under, over, out and in
3.     Developing an understanding of beside, behind, between and position, (first, second etc…)
4.     Able to find their way around a familiar environment

Book Knowledge
1.     Knows that books give pleasure
2.     Knows that books can give information
3.     Have experienced being read to lots of times
4.     Have experience of being read their favourite books lots and lots
5.     Can read their favourite book in their own words
6.     Can retell a favourite story in their own way
7.     Can discuss a book illustration and use it to predict what a story might be about
8.     Know what the cover of a book is and where to begin reading
9.     Developing sequencing skills

Print Knowledge
1.     Recognise that sounds can be written as letters for about 10 sounds e.g.  ’t’  can be written as t
2.     Can write their own name, (the letters may be quite wobbly) using a capital and lower case letters appropriately.
3.     Can write some letters
4.     Can write their own story with purposeful marks and “read”  these marks in a way that has meaning to them
5.     Recognise signs that covey meaning e.g. Stop in a stop sign

Motor Skills
1.     Is active and can move freely
2.     Enjoys running about
3.     Can sit still for small periods of time
4.     Can hold a large paint brush
5.     Can hold a pencil firmly
6.     Can use scissors
7.     Can dress themselves

Imagination and Creativity
1.     Is curious
2.     Has a desire to find out
3.     Is able to explore their understanding of their world, people and things in it through their imagination and creative expression
4.     Is able to express themselves and their understanding of things, events and situations through imaginative play, artwork, a sandpit play, storytelling, woodwork construction, a dance etc...
5.     Is able to extend their understanding and knowledge by applying it to new situations