Word Study vs. Spelling

Brian KissmanI recently wrote a blog about New York Academy’s implementation of the Words Their Way program – a progressive, research-based Approach to Spelling. Rather than have students learn to memorize the spelling of words, we guide them to be thinking spellers.

Memorization is not a bad thing. In fact, it strengthens our mental capacity. That said, research-evidence best practice is emphatic. When we learn to spell by knowing, understanding, and applying the basic patterns and rules for the spelling of the English Language, we learn to spell much more effectively. We exercise critical thinking!

On Wednesday, October 11, at 7PM in The Kids Center (TKC), I will be presenting a workshop on how parents can support their children at home to be “thinking” spellers. To everyone in the NYA School Community, please join us. It is the school to home partnership at New York Academy that is one of the many assets of our school that marks our excellence in education.

Essential Questions

What is word study? (as opposed to spelling) 

What are the patterns and rules for spelling the English language?

Word Study is learning the patterns and rules for the sounds and spellings of the English language.

Word study is explicit and intentional at developing phonemic awareness, phonics, and spelling. Students learn to decode as readers and encode as writers.

Word study is a progressive, logical sequence to learning the sounds associated with letters, letter combinations, affixes, syllables, and derivational roots and bases.

The following continuum presents a general progression for word study: 

1. We learn the first and last consonant sounds of simple three and four letter words.

2. We learn the short vowel sounds common within the Consonant – Vowel – Consonant (CVC) spelling pattern. (i.e., cat, red, pin, hot, sun)

3. We learn the long vowel sounds common within the Consonant – Vowel – Consonant – Silent e (CVCe) spelling pattern. (i.e., game, Pete, bike, joke, cute)

4. We learn the long vowel sounds common within the Consonant – Vowel – Vowel – Consonant (CVVC) spelling pattern. (i.e., train, bean, pies, boat, suit)

5. We learn the R-Controlled Vowel (Vr) spelling pattern. (i.e., start, fern, bird, corn, burp)

6. We learn the Consonant – Vowel (CV) spelling pattern. (i.e., cra/zy, de/pend, fi/nal, mo/bile, cu/test)

7. We learn the Consonant – l – e (Cle) spelling pattern. (i.e., sam/ple, thim/ble, bri/dle, bot/tle, bu/gle)

8. We learn that syllable patterns 2 through 7 above are the six basic syllable patterns of the English language common within multi-syllable words. (i.e., pat-tern, nine-ty, pain-ful, star-light, fla-vor, gen-tle)

9. We learn that every syllable has one and only one vowel sound, except for the Consonant – l – e (Cle) spelling pattern. (i.e., yes-ter-day; gen-tle)

10. We learn to know and hear one of the 18 vowel sounds in each syllable (short vowel sounds, long vowel sounds, vowel digraphs, and r-controlled vowels).

11. We learn to syllabicate words.

12. We learn to apply prefixes and suffixes. (i.e., predict, mountainous)

13. We learn the roots and bases. (i.e., spec – respectful, spectacles, inspection)

Research word study and you will find tons of information and strategies on how to guide learners to be thinking spellers along a continuum such as this one. Word study is about explicit and intentional instruction and learning, with the aim of knowing, understanding, and applying the Six Basic Syllable Patterns, 18 Vowel Sounds, Syllables and Affixes, and Derivational Roots and Bases.

Through engaged learning strategies such as “Making Words Games”, “Words Sorts,” and “Syllabication Exercises,” students are guided to become thinking spellers.

Students learn to identify a syllable and hear the “one and only one vowel sound” in the syllable. Teachers guide and coach students to develop their abilities as analytical spellers in the same way that spelling bee competitors train for competition.

Rubric-based formative assessments, such as the Developmental Spelling Inventory (which NYA employs), drive differentiated instruction.

Rather than memorize spelling words through rote exercises, NYA students learn to spell as analytical thinkers.

Be a thinking speller!

Be a lifelong learner!

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