WORD STUDY IN THE ISSAQUAH SCHOOL DISTRICT
As we strive to ensure that all ISD students are capable, curious, and confident learners, we continually seek the most current research-supported approaches to instruction. We would like to provide clarity about Issaquah’s K-5 Word Study curriculum.
In the past, spelling was taught through the memorization of a weekly spelling list. On Monday, students were given a list of words to take home to memorize. A test was usually given on Friday. While many students successfully memorized the list of words each week, others were not yet ready for the challenge. Still others already knew the words and therefore, no new learning occurred. Most importantly, this method did little to improve transfer from the memorized words to the students’ daily writing, which is the end goal.
ISD has moved to a Word Study spelling curriculum in which we recommend teachers use a more flexible approach that gives students time to practice concepts in depth so they have skills and strategies that will stick with them for life.
At the primary level (K-2), students are encouraged to spell phonetically, while always moving towards conventional spelling. This is critical as we want children to hear the sounds in words and map those sounds to letters, which supports children in reading and writing. Students study words in many ways including, but not limited to rhyming words, using magnetic letters to make words, participating in sound sorts and word sorts. Students study the parts of words, learning beginnings (onsets) and endings (rimes). The students are encouraged to use many strategies for word study.
At the intermediate level when students are engaged in the writing process, they are encouraged to focus on the content of their writing, and use an assortment of strategies to address correct spelling. Strategies include: asking someone, using word walls posted around the classroom, using a dictionary, applying word study patterns, and others. Teachers use professional judgment to integrate word study and develop spelling skills that will stick with students for life. Intermediate teachers support students with spelling individually when they confer during writing workshop. Some word work may be addressed whole class and at other times with a small group of students. This is where teachers’ professional judgment comes into play to meet the needs of all spellers. You are not likely to see teachers marking corrections on students’ writing. This practice is considered counterproductive to encouraging students to want to write. Instead teachers are encouraging writers to “fancy-up” their final drafts for writing celebrations, correct as many spelling errors as possible when final drafts are going to be presented, posted or shared publicly. Spelling is assessed in conjunction with other conventions of writing based on a continuum across grade levels.
Parents and teachers want students to care about their spelling and to use the resources available. At the same time, word work needs to be fun if we want young writers to be engaged in their learning. Here are some suggested ways that might make it fun at home.
Nona Wright, Instructional Coach
Suggested Ideas for Parent Support with Word Study
- Encourage your child to write at home for a variety of purposes-lists, letters, stories, messages, notes, etc.
- Encourage your child to read a variety of texts that will introduce him/her to new words
- For younger children, play with language through word games, songs, rhymes and poetry
- Search for examples of contractions, homophones, apostrophes, words that end with silent e, prefixes, suffixes, etc.
- Reinforce the strategic work done at school. When a child asks, “How do I spell the word _______?” parents may reply:
- Say it slowly.
- What sounds do you hear?
- What chunks/parts do you hear?
- Try writing it two ways and pick the way that looks right.
- Do you know another word that sounds like that word?
- Do you know another word that looks like that word?
Explore words with your child through the following activities:
- Write any smaller words you can see in the word.
- Write any other words that have the same spelling pattern.
- Can you add/delete/change a letter to make a new word?
- Can you make a chain of words by changing one letter at a time?
- Can you make a compound word with any of your words?
- Can you change any words to plurals?
- Can you add any prefixes or suffixes to any of your words to create other words?
Play a family game!
- Scrabble, Bananagrams, Boggle Seek, Wheel of Fortune, Crossword Puzzles