Spelling isn’t just the ABC’s anymore - at least for the 10 elementary schools in a new spelling program designed to improve Spokane School District 81’s low spelling scores.
Students in the program concentrate on learning objectives, such as dropping a silent “e” before adding “ed,” rather than memorizing a certain list of words.
“The concern about the old program is that it was too easy for some kids and way too hard for others,” said Frances Mester, coordinator of language arts and social studies for the district.
Scores haven’t yet reflected any program changes because the new course only started the second week of school, Mester told the school board Wednesday.
The schools involved in the program are Finch, Hamblen, Jefferson, Lidgerwood, Linwood, Ridgeview, Roosevelt, Sheridan, Westview and Wilson.
A teachers’ committee helped design the spelling program, and 25 third-grade teachers are using it. The program is modeled on the daily oral language plus program used in the district.
For the past two years, district fourth-graders have scored in the 36th percentile in spelling on the standardized test. This means that 64 percent of students in a national comparison group scored better than the average Spokane district fourth-grader.
Teachers can now customdesign their spelling lists for their students’ level. The normal word list might include words such as “used” and “liked,” and additional tougher words would include “fused” and “sequenced.”
Teachers focus on teaching phonetic patterns, spelling generalizations and high-frequency words.
The program also connects spelling to writing. Students not only spell words but also use the words in sentences, complete with capital letters and punctuation.
Students will also learn to form plurals and subject/verb agreements.
The district plans to evaluate the program in April by comparing tests taken throughout the year at the schools using the program with tests from students in the district who didn’t participate in the program.