Example title that would appear for post: Blog Entry #3: The Right Spelling
Today during our weekly spelling test, I noticed that Mark, who is an ELL student, rushed through his work. When he handed me his test, I noticed that all of the words were spelled incorrectly. When I asked my mentor teacher about this, she said that he hates spelling and never studies. When I looked at the rest of the spelling tests, the overall scores were very low.
This classroom moment made me very frustrated since it is apparent to me that Mark, like many of his classmates, is not learning. Although my mentor teacher may be right that Mark hates spelling and never studies, I feel that it is her job to try and reach him and find a way to try and make him interested. She, however, having worked with kids longer, may feel that “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink”. In other words, maybe she thinks it’s not her job to make him care. I also worry that she may be assuming that he is lazy rather than uninterested or simply confused. But then again, maybe I am making assumptions as well. Maybe she feels that there is not enough time to teach spelling another way.
Since, according to O’Flahavan and Blassberg (1992), spelling instruction is most effective when it is embedded in writing, I wonder how things might be different if Mark was able to select words from his own writing to study and be tested on. Perhaps this would motivate him because they are words he has shown an interest in using? Additionally, I wonder if moving away from “studying” and “memorization” and instead integrating word study time into language arts instruction would make it easier for Mark to learn the words without feeling like he is studying. A downside to both of these alternatives, however, is that both require more time, something that it seems there is precious little of in a school day. What would we have to give up in exchange for time to create word lists and run word study cycles?
Despite time constraints, I think it is unacceptable to continue with an instructional strategy that is not working for students. If this were my classroom, I would build word study groups based on spelling ability and carve out word study time once a week during language arts instruction, possibly creating a station students can rotate in and out of with their groups during independent writing. This situation reveals that teaching involves much more than simply administering tests. Although teaching is about learning, motivation is part of what makes learning possible and so part of a teacher’s responsibility is to make sure that learning is both accessible and relevant.
Having reflected on this moment, I feel confident that although spelling tests are easy and time-efficient, if they are not successful in helping the students learn, they are not worthwhile. This re-affirms my belief that teachers need to be flexible and responsive to the needs of their students. In other words, when teachers design learning activities that are relevant and rooted in the needs of students, all students can learn to spell developmentally appropriate words.