To Spell or Not to Spell?

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As my students were filling in their agendas today and looking over their nightly words, a student raised his hand and questioned, “What does the word choicest mean, and how would you use it in a sentence?” Together we looked up the definition, and struggled to come up with a sentence. It led me to question what is the purpose of learning new words and giving weekly spelling tests?

At my school, we use the SRA Spelling Mastery Program, and it has great benefits for teaching students phonetics and spelling rules, however, at times the word choices boggle my mind. When would a student ever use the word choicest in a sentence? Furthermore, when would I ever use it?

I began to question the reasons for spelling tests and teaching words, and have come to the conclusion that the words must be meaningful in order for them to serve a purpose. As I thought further though, I began to wonder if the implication for teaching spelling words still exists in a technology driven society. We have computers that spell check, and smart phones and tablets that self correct. Is there a place for spelling? Is there a reason to teach words when the answer is given to you with the click of a button?

As I began to look further into this issue, I came across a scholar named Sugata Mitra. He has made the headlines several times it the UK for his controversial belief that lessons in spelling do not have a place in the 21st century, and that phones have made teaching grammar and spelling unnecessary. The man makes a valid point and of course there are highly opinionated views on both sides of the topic, but it is something to think about. Will we continue to teach spelling in the future or are we moving towards a society that does not value it anymore? Is there even a need for it?

Sugata Mitra has an interesting Ted Talk about where the future of schools are heading, and his ideal “School in the Cloud.” Watch the video below and share your thoughts. It might seem unrealistic, but then again who would have thought we would be where we are today with technology? Maybe he isn’t so far off.

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Once Upon a Time in the Land of Student Writing…

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Thinking back on my time in school one of my passions was story writing. In fact, I remember spending weekends writing stories about The Black Stallion. There were two benefits to it for me: First, I could spend quality time with my parents on the computer, and second, I could use the perforated holey sides of the paper for toilet paper for my barbies. It was a win-win situation.

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As in any classroom, I have an immense mixture of students; personalities, abilities, strengths, and characters. My class is composed of 60% ELL students who may lack the vocabulary that allows them to be great writers. This, however, does not change my image of them or the expectations that I hold for them. As a teacher I believe that challenging students is the best way to help them improve and succeed.

During the last few months we have been working away at our big project of writing a fiction story. My school uses the narrative writing format as designed by Barbara Mariconda. It provides students with a structure to follow, but still allows for creativity to flow. The process has been long and tedious, but the final projects have blown me away! These are nine year olds writing, and when I think about what I was writing at nine, well they do not even compare. However, the one thing that I found especially fascinating was the fact that I could not tell the difference between an ELL learner and a non-ELL learner. Maybe you can? See for yourself. Below are two examples of my students’ final masterpieces.

Student #1 Story
Student #2 Story

Each day the capabilities and determination of my students amazes me. This was another proof to me that when students are challenged, held to high expectations, supported, and loved their capabilities are endless!