Do you create personalized dictionaries with your students? Thinking back, I remember creating my own personalized dictionaries when I was a student in school. (I always loved studying my teacher’s perfectly formed letters – is that weird? I’m still not happy with my printing, but I digress!) I recall searching for my desired word and if I couldn’t find it, I would approach my teacher to add it to my dictionary. But not, as a teacher, I DREAD the September filled with “How do I spell…..How do I spell….”. It haunts me!
Why Create Personalized Dictionaries?
As I have mentioned in previous posts, we need to give our students the opportunity to attempt a problem before asking us for help. Especially as students prepare to leave the soft fluffy world of Primary, it is important to help them build their independence. This helps them to problem solve, apply their prior knowledge to find a solution and take responsibility for their learning. This should happen in all areas of learning, including spelling!
When we encourage our students to ‘try it first’ we are building their capacity and resiliency and seeing where their misconceptions are. Small ‘failures’ are the building blocks to learning! These small tasks add up and help your students to take responsibility for their learning. Something as simple as when you encourage them to be responsible for finding a desired word in their dictionaries and acknowledging when a new word needs to be added, is helping them build important self-help and executive functioning skills. So let’s talk about a super easy way to build some spelling independence.
Give This a Try…
My FREE “I can try Word Book” encourages students to try a word before asking for help. It gives students the opportunity to use the skills and devices they have learnt at school, to attempt spelling the word correctly. They present their attempt to their teacher who will assist if it is needed and acknowledge if it is correct. The student then has the opportunity to write the correct version of the word in order to practice it.
I cannot stress enough the importance of your students writing the words again in their own handwriting. Their hand and brain need to form that connection and association when writing the word again correctly. The more your students write the word correctly, the faster it is etched into their brains. Even more importantly, it also provides a super quick opportunity for a teachable moment when a kiddo approaches you with a misspelled word, you can easily point out any misconceptions as you model the correct spelling in a jiffy!
Strategies to Help Your Students Use Personalized Dictionaries:
Preparing your students is key. There are various strategies we can give our students to help them to ‘give their best try’.
Phonics teaches children how to listen for each sound in a word. They then use their knowledge of letters and sounds to write the word using a combination of those sounds and letters.
Learning how to segment a word, will assist your students in ‘trying’ to spell the word themselves. Segmenting involves breaking the word down into individual sounds and syllables. When a student is able to segment the word into smaller parts, they have a better chance of giving their best try when attempting a new word.
Encourage your students to listen carefully to the sounds in the words when they are trying to write their desired words.
Check out this post on how I organize word work in my classroom for tips and ideas.
Even though there are many words that can be spelled phonetically, you should equip your students with spelling rules, such as Silent E. These will benefit them when ‘trying’ to spell a word. Other rules that will benefit your young writers include:
- Every word must contain a vowel. This rule will help your student to look for and identify the vowel sound in the word, or make them think of vowel teams they learnt about to make specific sounds.
- Q is always followed by a u.
- Some letters can make different sounds, like C can be /k/ or /s/ and G can have the sounds /g/ and /j/.
These are just a few examples of the rules needed to assist students to ‘give their best try’. I have a big set of long vowel sounds activities in my word work materials on TPT.
Some tricky word topics may need ome visual reminders. Things like homophones (words that sound the same but have different meanings) can be a real headache! Making these words available as posters on your classroom walls may reduce the headaches in some cases. Word walls for vocabulary in a new unit, class lists with student names and calendar words are also handy to have around.
Personalized Word Book: A Variety of Options
This free word book comes in two versions.
The first version is the most popular as it is designed be used as an ongoing book throughout the year. The book is arranged alphabetically so students find the words easily (A half page for each letter). Frequently used common words (you know those tricky words that catch your kiddos out on a regular basis) are also included in the book, as well as handy words such as Days of the week, Months in the year and Number words.
The second version is a plain page. It can be used for short term use and students can fill in words as they go in any order (non-alphabetized).
Grab this FREE Word Book and let your students hold themselves accountable for their writing and don’t forget to check out my Word Work blog post and TPT materials to help you students build their spelling and word skills in a fun and easy way!