Tag Archives: Vocabulary

Growing Strong Spellers in a TXTNG World.

by Diane Burdick, M. Ed. and Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

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Spelling is important. Now, this fact is debatable if you look at the i-gadgets of most tweens and teens (CU L8R), but CTO (that’s “check this out”): Spelling correctly is essential to proper communication and success in life. Misspelled words immediately bring a connotation of lower intelligence, leaving readers wondering if you’re TSTL. (“Too Stupid To Live”…and no, we’re not making up this netlingo.)

So, even if “Spelling Bee Champ” isn’t on a child’s radar, you can still encourage your students to become better spellers (and writers) with just a few simple tips:

1. Show them the importance of spelling.

Spelling correctly isn’t just for writing papers or acing spelling quizzes. Show students real-life (and fun) examples of how people use spelling.

For example, create a list of games or television shows where spelling is important: Scrabble, Wheel of Fortune, Boggle, Word With Friends (a popular iPhone ap game). Depending on your child’s age, you could let him or her watch a few rounds of the national competitions of spelling and geography bees, where students are expected to know (and often DO know) the spelling of obscure words and country names. Mucho impressivo.

2. Publish student writing.

Make your students’ worlds known to other people by publishing their work. Now, publishing used to mean printing and binding, but in our digital age, publishing is as fast (and free) as clicking that mouse.

Consider creating a class website or blog that features their written work. Include stories, journal entries, and graphic projects like comic-strip stories and photo essays (pictures with captions that tell a story or convey an argument or social message). To set up a class blog, just visit www.blogger.com and click through the steps: free and easy!

Writing with an audience in mind provides authentic accountability for spelling and grammar. Be sure to give children a writing/editing checklist (checking for spelling, run-ons, fragments, etc.) to help them proofread their work before hitting “publish” for the world to see!

3. Develop an interest in words.

Implement a “word of the day” segment of class to broaden your students’ vocabulary and spelling prowess. Here are some ways to spice up this idea:

  • Learn the word in a variety of languages. Translate words from English to pretty much any other language in the world (Spanish, French, Tagalog, Swahili) at translate.reference.com. Point out how many Latin-based languages use similar spellings and pronunciations.
  • Share the root word or word of origin.
  • Use a thesaurus and dictionary to find appropriate synonyms and antonyms for the word of the day.
  • Hold a “creativity contest”: the student who can correctly use the new word in the most inventive, creative, humorous or clever sentence is the Word Champ for the day.

4. Relate word spellings to other words.

Use clue words to help students spell other words. For example, if your student knows how to spell the word “telephone” but struggles writing the word “elephant” remind them that the /f/ sound is the same as in the word “telephone.”

5. Read stories aloud.

Studies show that reading aloud to students cultivates more interest in–and positive connotations with–reading and writing. Read aloud to your students, and have them read aloud to you, as well. The result? They’ll gain a better comprehension of and appreciation for the printed word.

In summary, while our world may be increasingly lazy when it comes to spelling, we can still present this necessary skill as relevant. CU L8R.

For a list of innovative spelling projects, posters, and instructional aids, check out www.schoolbox.com.

Diane Burdick, M. Ed. holds a masters in elementary education and a bachelors in history, and is currently pursuing her specialists degree with a concentration in teaching and learning. A homeschooling mother of three, she also enjoys freelancing for online publications.

Elizabeth D. Cossick, M. Ed. has a bachelors in education from The University of Georgia and a masters in curriculum and instruction from Lesley University, Cambridge. In addition to being the editor of A Learning Experience, she publishes Little Black Dress | Little Red Wagon Magazine. She resides in Atlanta with her husband, two young children, and a frisky Westie named Munson.


Filed under creative writing, grammar, Language Arts, Phonics, reading aloud, Spelling, Writing

Cookin’ Up Some Word Muffins! (creative guided reading & center ideas)


by Rachel Stepp

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If you are running out of creative ideas for working with struggling readers, it’s time to make word muffins!

With this activity, students will either work with you to practice phonemic sounds, or they will work independently with a specific list of words.

Student-Teacher Activity (or Guided Reading Lesson)


Muffin tin

Magnetic letters (ideally more than one set in various fonts)


1. Explain to your student that he or she will be combining special “letter ingredients” to create word muffins.

2. In this activity, you will be working on phonemic awareness and letter sounds. Display all of the magnetic letters so that the student can see them all at once. Then, say a word aloud and ask the student to spell it out with the letters.

3. If the student is struggling while trying to spell the word out, then help them sound it out by saying the word sound-by-sound.

4. After the student creates the word using the magnetic letters, put all of the letters for that word in one muffin cup. Yea! You have just created a word muffin!

5. Following that same procedure, allow your student to fill up the pan with words.

Student Solo Activity (or Center)

The procedure is similar if students are working independently to create word muffins.


1. First, create a list of scrambled words.

2. Prepare the word muffin tin by putting the letters for the scrambled words in each of the muffin cups. (So, each cup will hold the letters for a different word.)

3. Students will take all of the letters out of one cup at a time and try to unscramble them to form a word. If they are unaware of a word, they will need to sound it out.

4. You can ask your students to write down their unscrambled words on a piece of paper so that you can review their answers later.

TIP: You will find that it is probably necessary to have more than one set of magnetic letters to do this because sometimes letters repeat.

Another Magnetic Idea

If you simply want to work on your students’ spelling and phonemic awareness, you can use a metal cookie sheet as the base for magnetic letter work. It provides a nice solid surface on which the letters can be manipulated while still being controlled.

TIP: If your students are searching for letters to create words or to identify letter sounds, have them first organize all of the magnetic letters alphabetically. This will help them find the correct letter quickly. There is no need to waste time searching for letters! I usually do this by writing the alphabet on sentence strips and then having the students place the magnetic letters on the sentence strip before beginning their word work.

Children love the unique use of these kitchen items in the classroom. It’s a “yummy” way to encourage phonemic awareness and sight word mastery!

Looking for magnetic letters in different fonts and colors? Here’s a slew of ’em at www.schoolbox.com.

Rachel Stepp is a graduate student at The University of Georgia and a regular contributor to A Learning Experience. We appreciate her great ideas!

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Filed under Centers, Phonics, Reading, School Readiness, Spelling

Add Life to Boring Vocabulary Lessons

students thumbs upSix Easy Tips

How do you jazz up your vocabulary lessons? Share your ideas in a comment, below. The most original idea from this post and the next three posts will win a School Box gift card!

We all know that vocabulary instruction is an important aspect of any language arts program. Unfortunately, common practices such as looking up words in the dictionary or memorizing word lists simply aren’t enough to help students develop a genuine knowledge of word meaning.

And plus, they’re just plain boring.

So how do you add life to your vocabulary instruction?

You could probably come up with some really creative song and dance routines, but sometimes all you really need is a simple yet effective way to present your lessons that keeps students engaged.

With that in mind, here are six easy tips vocabulary experts recommend to integrate active participation techniques into your direct instruction:

1. Use choral responses

Ever notice how students all like to talk at the same time? Well, how about taking advantage of it for once? Next time you introduce new words, ask students to:

– Pronounce the words together.

– Read the words in a sentence together.

– Complete cloze sentences or other activities as a class.

2. Use nonverbal responses

Okay, giving the thumbs-up sign may be a little out of style, but it’s a fun way to answer simple questions. Try eliciting student responses through simple signs or signals such as pointing to a word, standing and sitting, or even clapping.

3. Use partner responses

To mix things up a bit, start your next lesson by having students practice with a partner first. Or have students pair up and work as teams while taking part in class discussions.

4. Allow thinking time before taking responses

Nobody likes being put on the spot. Give your students the time they need to think before calling on them—you may be surprised by what they come up with.

5. Randomly call on students; don’t ask for raised hands

We all love seeing those hands up in the air, but sometimes calling on students without asking for raised hands can be a good way to get those who may be reluctant to participate involved in the discussion.

6. Ask students to rephrase what a partner or other classmate said.

Asking students to rephrase answers can be a great way to support students who may be shy or unsure of what to say.

And after the lesson is over, don’t forget to model and practice new words throughout the day. Make a point of using new words in your other lessons and conversations, and find moments (like while waiting in line) for students to interact with their new words.

Try integrating these easy steps into your next vocabulary lesson and see for yourself how a few simple active participation techniques can go a long way!

* Need more help with vocabulary instruction? The tips from this article came from Evan-Moor Educational Publishers’ Daily Academic Vocabulary. Download a free sample week of instruction here and take a look at the teacher resource pages for more ideas.

How do you jazz up your vocabulary lessons? Share your ideas in a comment, below. The most original idea from this post and the next three posts will win a School Box gift card!

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Filed under Academic Success, Games