What is happening to spelling in primary grades?

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by TeachCafe, Oct 3, 2018.

  1. teacherintexas

    teacherintexas Maven

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    Oct 6, 2018

    I belong to a lot of Facebook teaching groups and many have posted that their districts do not teach spelling. I didn’t investigate which states those teachers were in. I’d presume it wasn’t Texas as we have spelling standards.

    I teach spelling as well as print and cursive handwriting. I’ve had to teach many of my kids how to print their own name as they were writing all letters the same size. I’ve gotten most of them to write print correctly at this point of the year.
     
  2. showmelady

    showmelady Companion

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    Oct 7, 2018

    Handwriting? I think it is pathetic that students cannot write (NOT PRINT). This means that many of the documents that are the basis of our nation are totally lost to those students! Kids cannot even write their own names in cursive. I guess we are backpeddling to the point where they will have to sign legal documents with an "X"! LOL (if it were not so sad)
     
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  3. Leaborb192

    Leaborb192 Enthusiast

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    To be honest: I write better on a whiteboard (with markers, NOT a Smartboard) than paper. I think the medium totally matters.
    :D
     
  4. Leaborb192

    Leaborb192 Enthusiast

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    Even if they have standards and teach them, it doesn't necessarily mean the students are learning to mastery or learning at all. So many of these students are taught, but don't learn, and get passed along, which leads to bigger problems down the road.

    Multiplication and division IS third grade. And yet I meet so many upper elementary into middle school students who STILL CAN'T multiply! They don't have those foundations and just struggle in everything else. I was in a 6th grade classroom the other day and they were finding LCM and GCF and had no clue what they were doing because they didn't know what any factors were other than 1 and the number. They could use calculators to help, but really didn't know how to use the calculator or to interpret the data on the screens. It was a mess.

    :(

    And for the record, I see teachers who make spelling mistakes ALL the time! I was in a teacher's room and she had a poster where she confused "its'' and "it's'' and it made me cringe. The students pick a lot of that up from their role models as well. I'm just saying if you know you're not a great speller, have someone double check your work before making a nice anchor poster and displaying it for the students to see.
     
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  5. TeachCafe

    TeachCafe Companion

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    Jan 6, 2019

    This is a good theory. I honestly, hate graphic novels and hate is a strong word. My librarian at a school years ago tried to explain the virtures of graphic novels about how they're the best for inferencing. Uh huh. The OP student loves graphic novels. I let them get them from the library but they're not allowed to read them in class. GNs are home reading. If it's out, it goes in their backpack.

    I've watched them during independent reading and 90% are just lookig at the pictures. After 10 minutes the page should be turning. Nope. Not in my room.

    I'm in Texas too and yes we have standards but spelling is squeaked over. I taught 2nd last year and had a parent get ugly over her son not having "homework" because he's bored at home. When spelling lists were sent home he just copied and spelled and bombed every single spelling test which was weekly on Fridays. They were the I read the word, you spell it. She just wanted him out of her hair but they never went over what the words were or how their pronounced. I did honesly squeak over spelling because I had admin breathing down my neck about reading and having kinder reading levels all in my room. Phonics and spelling instruction wasn't on their agenda.
     
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  6. Obadiah

    Obadiah Groupie

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    Jan 8, 2019

    In student writing, I also find the opposite problem of students selecting words they can spell in place of attempting words that best fit their prose. I find it more productive for students to attempt and learn from their nonconventional spelling. But I also recall the days when teachers were encouraged to allow the students to naturally grow into conventional spelling and to not correct any errors; research has not supported this.

    It also seems today's society is not as literate as previous generations. Laura Ingalls didn't spend her childhood hypnotized by electronic media. But even in my childhood era of the 60's through 70's, yeah, we watched TV, but we also read. Prior to opening up this thread, I'd been recalling my elementary years, finding library books that matched something we learned in class, (I recall reading the entire book about a boy who encounters a Martian after reading a short selection in the basal anthology), finding books that matched my interests such as science or magic tricks.... Right now, I'm recalling how everyone in my class borrowed the Hello Mudda, Hello Fadda, Here I Am at Camp Granada book based on the hit song at that time....Oh, and there was the Amahl and the Night Visitors book. I remember reading that book to my mother while I did my best attempt at singing the operatic parts. I visited the local library to learn how to train my pet collie, Lassie. I also read to Lassie when I was 11. (His favorite book, of course, was Timmy and Lassie. Comic books.... That was something my piano teacher gave me as a reward. That was supplemental reading, kind of like dessert after a meal, not the main course. And now that I think about it, I recall reading a Bug Bunny comic book that also included word games and such. It wasn't just look-at-the-pictures back then. Yes, I looked forward to the Sunday funnies, but my Dad encouraged me to read other articles in the newspaper, too, and I did.

    Writing....I had a pen pal, a missionary in Chad. In fact, everyone in my Sunday School wrote him and looked forward to his letters and visits. I remember writing to him on my Cap'n Crunch stationary I'd sent away for. I wrote stories, not as an assignment--for fun! I wrote plays that my brother and sister and I put on for our parents. These were about a Mexican boy named Pedro (I was fascinated with Mexico and Spanish and even had a 45 RPM record of Spanish words that I practiced--oh, and a coloring book about Mexico. OK, coloring books. They had captions or stories along with the pictures.

    Now if I might get a bit controversial, there was more to my childhood that influenced my reading, writing, and spelling. Music was a major part of my life, and not just the current rock music. I grew up with Lawrence Welk, Perry Como, hymns in church, classical music....All these added to my languaging sections in my brain. Reading, writing, and spelling are related to mathematics and music within the biological correlations of the brain. I also played outside. I didn't just sit in a corner and twiddle my thumbs on some type of gadget. Oh, and my gadgets and toys complemented reading. I had a fan that would raise a rocket ship made of a balloon into the air, allow it to float, and then safely land. I had a Slinky that would walk up and down the stairs--so did my Super Ball, a firm bouncing ball that would bounce and bounce for what seemed like forever. What am I getting at now? How does that influence languaging? Reading comprehension and writing synthesis are experienced based. In the brain, experiences, or prior learning, connects with new learning.

    It's getting late and I'm rambling. Here's my point. I fear today's children are trapped in a paradigm of sitting and viewing a media's life rather than experiencing the enrichment of actual living. This in turn is diminishing their brains' ability to use what they learn in school, plus they are not practicing outside of school what they learn in the classroom.
     
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  7. Leaborb192

    Leaborb192 Enthusiast

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    Jan 9, 2019

    This just points to a lot of issues right now.
    1. Children aren't really given sufficient time to write nor are they given adequate writing instruction based on what I've seen in the classrooms.
    2. Teachers are pressed for time or obsessed with perfection that they basically expect a polished final draft on the first attempt rather than get with the "messy'' process that is writing. Because of this students never learn to make -- or fix --mistakes. I've seen so many students dependent on the teacher for everything that they don't even attempt to make any spelling errors. They just rely too heavily on the teacher. Because of this they never go through the learning process. Additionally, this is why they'll select an "easier'' word (run vs. gallop), because it "gets the work done faster.'' Writing (as a process) shouldn't be about "getting it done as fast as we can.'' :( This is why conferencing is SO important because you can sit with students and really help move their writing forward. From what I've seen, it doesn't (or rarely) happens.
    3. Like you say, reading and writing are linked. Many students don't read, so their writing suffers. The more you read, the more words you acquire, the better your spelling-- and over all writing ability-- improves.
    4. Children CAN'T read and don't have a strong grasp of the alphabetic principle which is why they make the errors that they do. I figured this out when I gave spelling tests in third grade. I could tell which students knew their letter /sound combos and which didn't. This is a big part of it (and what drove me to return to school for literacy.)
    5. Technology DOES play a huge role. With word processing, and tools like Grammarly, it seems to send the message that there isn't a need to learn proper spelling or grammar rules. The problem is that if students never learn, they'll simply select a replacement option and never really know if it's correct or the rationale why.

    I 100% agree with your last point.
    Children just aren't experiencing childhood like we used to anymore.
     
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  8. Obadiah

    Obadiah Groupie

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    Jan 9, 2019

    I've been seeing this in the classroom, too. Also, back to actual spelling instruction and handwriting instruction, over the years since I began teaching in the 80's, I've seen a decline in time spent in actual instruction in these areas. I was even instructed by administration to begin limiting the time we spent in these areas. Spelling and writing transformed into a "complete the workbook page" during busywork time rather than an actual subject; meanwhile, busywork time became a ditto dementia disaster; pile on the photocopied papers.

    Ideally, I would rather have a pretest the first day of the lesson. A student would read the list from the spelling book, the class would attempt to write the word, and then the student would correctly write the word on the board for the class to correct as needed. First or second day would be an encoding lesson, using the rule to write words on the list and other words, using letter tiles or other manipulatives. I also had a special white board for examples in whole class lessons. I would enrich the lessons with humor, music, syllable practice, mnemonics, games, etc. The students were made aware that they were not memorizing just to pass a test; they were memorizing to use these words when they came up within their writing.

    Cursive instruction used to be, write the letter in the air, trace the letter on your desk (or in my case, use a Hot Wheels car to drive the letter on your desk), then practice in the workbook. I enriched the handwriting lesson with examples of the letter used in words or stories. We checked how to hold the pencil and how to position the paper. And when I was a kid, we had special 3-lined paper for practice. OK, yes, today we have keyboards, printers, and texting, but we still write notes. I just read a 2018 book about productivity that encouraged the use of notes on scrap paper to remind me of ideas or things to do later. Not everything can be digitized. At some point, a person needs to use a pencil. I can prove it. Walk into high tech modern Staples and you still see a whole row of pens and pencils for sale.
     
  9. Leaborb192

    Leaborb192 Enthusiast

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    Jan 9, 2019

    Facts.
     
  10. Lei286

    Lei286 Rookie

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    Jan 9, 2019

    Personally, I think that there is a lack of PD with all teachers. I'm a fairly new teacher and reading and spelling were NEVER an issue for me growing up. Math is a different story- but spelling, grammar, and reading always came easy to me.

    Now I have to teach these skills and I have NO CLUE HOW TO TEACH READING/PHONICS. There are so many strategies and approaches and trying to explain why words are spelled a certain way is HARD. I have looked up Youtube videos, listened to podcasts, read books, met with my literacy specialist for RTI tips....and I'm seeing little to no growth in a lot of my kids. I shouldn't have to piece together what is supposed to be done in a phonics lesson! It should have already been offered by the school system! If I want to go to a PD workshop, I need to pay for it upfront with my own money. I will be only partially reimbursed and that's IF the school approves the training!

    My district is very cheap IMO and just does not want to spend the money on legit PD for the staff. I have never been given the opportunity to actually TRAIN with professionals. I feel like my students are suffering because of it. My team members also do not like to share strategies. We meet for maybe 30 minutes a month to discuss ALL topics and I feel like I'm being a burden or rushed when I asked for help.
     
  11. Leaborb192

    Leaborb192 Enthusiast

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    ^ Ugh. Districts should want to recruit, train and retain the BEST. If teachers don't get their needs met, they can just go to another district that will. Additionally, I'm convinced this is why graduate programs exist. I just finished my Master's in Literacy and it basically felt like 2 and a half year PD.
    I did walk away with some nuggets of wisdom that I can use such as the plethora of assessment options and how to actually use them to guide instruction for struggling readers.

    :)
     
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  12. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    Jan 10, 2019

    I agree there is a lack of quality PD, but I feel that colleges and universities are not teaching students well. Phonics should be a part of every program for teachers who will be teaching elementary level. So, should grammar and reading. I think part of the problem is that many university and college programs have swayed so far on the pendulum where teaching these things are still seen as evil that the chance of getting them back in is close to nil.

    My post doesn't help your plight. I wish you well. Your choice is to either figure it out on your own, pay for outside PD, or change schools.
     
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  13. Leaborb192

    Leaborb192 Enthusiast

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    ^ I also agree with this. My program was more about promoting the "warm and fuzzies'' and building relationships with students rather than actually teaching us HOW TO TEACH!
    The only people who actually taught me how to teach were my science and social studies methods adjunct instructors. The rest talked about the importance of literacy and how there is a huge problem in schools... but then never actually taught us how to teach to solve those problems.
    :roll:
    (This is another reason why teachers burn out within the first few years. They weren't adequately prepared to actually DO the job.)

    But yeah they say "you teach the way you were taught.'' Well if you weren't taught well, you can't teach well. And the students suffer. With spelling I'd give a pre-test and then analyze the mistakes to see which kinds of errors the students are making and then form instruction based on that.
     
  14. ms.irene

    ms.irene Connoisseur

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    Jan 10, 2019

    For context, I went to public schools through the 1980s and 90s. I have terrible handwriting and it has gotten worse as I use it less and less! I haven't used cursive since elementary school, and when I was hired to teach at a Catholic school that still taught cursive, I literally had to ask students to "demonstrate" how to write the capital letters because I didn't know how.

    I am sure 500 years ago with the invention of the printing press there were monks bemoaning the imminent death of calligraphy. Civilization has somehow managed to survive without it. I personally think that civilization could continue without cursive, too.

    Meanwhile, I still want my high school students to capitalize "I." This is our district's fourth year with 1:1 iPads, and it's the first year when I am seeing lower-case "i" running rampant. I 100% believe it's due to their over-reliance on tech to autocorrect spelling and punctuation errors.
     
  15. vickilyn

    vickilyn Virtuoso

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    Jan 10, 2019

    For those who feel that they would benefit from PD in phonics, etc., I would like to suggest visiting PBS Teacherline. I have taken several courses with them, and feel that I was motivated enough to get the most out of them. They have three 3 credit courses that deals exactly with the lack of experience and teaching strategies this thread alludes to. The cost per course is less than $500, and there can be graduate credit earned for a little bit more money. Teacherline typically runs "special" pricing event a couple of times a year, if memory serves me well. As an AR teacher, I took the teaching reading and the phonics courses because I came into teaching without that skill set. Even though I knew that I would not be teaching itty-bitties, I was working on my MEd. in TESOL, so figured the courses were highly likely to be useful - and they have been.

    The cost of each course is a fraction of what one would pay for a similar course at most colleges or universities. If taking grad courses will move you up on the pay scale, this is a way to consider. If not, then it would strictly be up to you to decide on the worth. One of these courses is about the same price as some conferences I have attended, so the price seems fair to me.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2019
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  16. otterpop

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    I don't know... I don't think it's always that teachers don't know how to teach phonics, although it's certainly sometimes the case. I think it's one of the things that gets pushed to the wayside, along with spelling and handwriting. Sadly, I even see myself doing it as an upper elementary teacher, although I'm very confident with my ability to teach phonics. When about 15% of your students need support with digraphs, chunking, and blends, but 90% of your class needs major help with comprehension, you prioritize that 90% and tend to focus less on that 15%. I fit in phonics when I can, but there's not always time for it. I think it's one of the things that teachers hope students will just pick up along the way as their other skills improve. Clearly that is not the case. Students end up with gaps in learning that severely impact them in the future.

    I think the best solution would be more pull out instruction or after school tutoring to provide targeted intervention support. Teachers can only divide themselves up so much, and small groups and differentiation are ideal, but it's not always possible to get to everything that needs to be covered.
     
  17. miss-m

    miss-m Habitué

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    Jan 12, 2019

    My co-teacher and I are starting spelling this week because we both agree it's important... but I'm curious what those of you who regularly teach it see as benefits? How does explicit spelling instruction help your students academically in other content areas?
     
  18. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/teacherbeat/2018/10/teacher_prep_programs_reading.html

    Most think their teacher prep programs failed to teach them how to teach reading.

    You are right that it isn't always . I think it is more often the case than not. Then add to that what you described by choosing other skills rather than foundation reading skills. The difficult part is some kids that can comprehend and seem to do well without the foundation in phonics hit a wall in middle school when the complexity of the words outpace their word bank knowledge. They could be trying to read a word they actually know the meaning of and not be able to read the word due to their lack of decoding skills. It happens a lot in my district because of the lack of phonics instruction and the reliance on guessing strategies. These students then fit the "profile of the middle school kid who doesn't want to do well anymore".
     
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  19. Obadiah

    Obadiah Groupie

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    Jan 16, 2019 at 9:51 PM

    Languaging is holistic. All synthesis and analysis rely on language. Further exploration into a language, in this case written language, enhances brain development, not just within neurons used to memorize spelling but within other neurons as well, including neurons that will be called upon in non-spelling related activities. But even within spelling itself, prior experience will be called upon to learn new words, to learn foreign languages or even just a few words in a foreign language, to spell check alongside the computer's spell check (which isn't always accurate allot of times), basically any future activity that involves language calls upon neurons activated during previous spelling experiences. Also, word play during childhood, the time when the languaging sections of the brain are at their peak readiness, enhances learning of any subject.

    Just today, for example, I read a news article about the current popularity of the Baby Shark song. The article mentioned the importance of early language play within the repetition and rhythm of such a song. "Author and pediatrician Claudia Gold says simple songs with easy melodies, repetition, and wholesome themes help kids keep order in a new and confusing world. 'When you're 6 months old, or 2 or 5 years old, so many things are going on that you try to make sense of,' she says. 'A song can kind of harness that experience and be comforting in its repetition.'" I see where the same can be said for the repetition and exploration within spelling lessons.

    In a spelling lesson, word play involves not just phonemes but usage of the words, such as spelling the word within a sentence, pictures that connect to the words, definitions of words, words that sound the same or sound similar (such as in puns), dictionary usage, synonyms and antonyms, etc. The spelling rules and word examples eventually intertwine with future learning in any subject.

    Reference: https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/15/entertainment/baby-shark-pinkfong-song-trnd/index.html
     
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  20. Obadiah

    Obadiah Groupie

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    Jan 16, 2019 at 9:52 PM

    Languaging is holistic. All synthesis and analysis rely on language. Further exploration into a language, in this case written language, enhances brain development, not just within neurons used to memorize spelling but within other neurons as well, including neurons that will be called upon in non-spelling related activities. But even within spelling itself, prior experience will be called upon to learn new words, to learn foreign languages or even just a few words in a foreign language, to spell check alongside the computer's spell check (which isn't always accurate allot of times), basically any future activity that involves language calls upon neurons activated during previous spelling experiences. Also, word play during childhood, the time when the languaging sections of the brain are at their peak readiness, enhances learning of any subject.

    Just today, for example, I read a news article about the current popularity of the Baby Shark song. The article mentioned the importance of early language play within the repetition and rhythm of such a song. "Author and pediatrician Claudia Gold says simple songs with easy melodies, repetition, and wholesome themes help kids keep order in a new and confusing world. 'When you're 6 months old, or 2 or 5 years old, so many things are going on that you try to make sense of,' she says. 'A song can kind of harness that experience and be comforting in its repetition.'" I see where the same can be said for the repetition and exploration within spelling lessons.

    In a spelling lesson, word play involves not just phonemes but usage of the words, such as spelling the word within a sentence, pictures that connect to the words, definitions of words, words that sound the same or sound similar (such as in puns), dictionary usage, synonyms and antonyms, etc. The spelling rules and word examples eventually intertwine with future learning in any subject.

    Reference: https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/15/entertainment/baby-shark-pinkfong-song-trnd/index.html
     

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