School Name: Nakusp Elementary
School District: SD#10 Arrow Lakes
Inquiry Team Members: firstname.lastname@example.org
Inquiry Team Contact Email: email@example.com
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Intermediate (4-7)
Curricular Area(s): Language Arts – Literacy
Focus Addressed: Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), Differentiated instruction
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? How can you improve spelling with intermediate students that is transferable to their writing?
Scanning: We noticed a lack of confidence in spelling with a Grade 5 group of students; they had been exposed to traditional spelling programs in previous grades, but had not retained words taught. We started with an interview to determine the importance they placed on spelling and how they viewed themselves as spellers. This was an important step towards motivating students and helping build reflective learners. The First People’s Principle of Learning that we used to guide us was that learning is holistic, reflexive, reflective, experiential, and relational (focused on connectedness, on reciprocal relationships, and a sense of place).
Focus: We selected this area because we noticed gaps in spelling knowledge that were hindering their ability to accurately communicate their thoughts in writing. We were hoping to improve their spelling by teaching phonemic strategies and spelling rules.
Hunch: Our concern was that students had experienced spelling programs that focused on rote memorization, rather than teaching students to “think to spell” using phonemic rules.
New Professional Learning: Spell to Write and Read was useful, as it provided rules for each of the words in the spelling lists. It also provided a means of differentiating instruction using a word assessment to determine the spelling level of each student. They were then grouped according to need. We also used Words their Way to reinforce daily practice and sorting of words by phonograms.
Taking Action: We initially started with the Spell to Write and Read spelling lists, but soon discovered that structured word sorts were also important to reinforce learning.
Checking: We noticed that students were more conscious of their spelling and had less errors. They enjoyed “thinking to spell” and we identified this as an effective strategy to promote change. At 4 month intervals, we gave students the same paragraph dictation to monitor their growth and provide any information for further instruction. We believe the students gained confidence as spellers and were able to use strategies to sort out unknown words.
Reflections/Advice: We learned that you can build confidence in grade 5 students, and spelling should be intentionally taught in intermediate classrooms. However, traditional spelling programs do not help students retain information. They need to interact more with the words by identifying spelling rules and patterns, and then applying it to their writing. Next steps would be to introduce a sound wall as a visual support in the classroom.