If you are new to the Sitton spelling program Ravenscroft students use in grades 2-5, you may have some of the following questions:

  • Where are the weekly spelling lists to memorize so my child can do well on the spelling tests on Friday?
  • Why doesn’t my child have any really hard/long spelling words to memorize?
  • Why doesn’t my child  have spelling homework to complete every night?
  • What was wrong with the old spelling program and why did you change to the Sitton spelling program?

If you learned to spell as we did — getting a list of 10-15 words on Monday to memorize for a test on Friday — the Sitton program certainly is a change, and we understand why you might have questions.

Last year, the Lower School faculty and administration took a hard look at our spelling program to determine if “what” and “how” we were doing things made sense when compared to “why” we wanted our students to be proficient spellers.

When making a change or analyzing a program, it is most important to start with the “why” in order to create a community that shares common beliefs, purposes, and passions.

Why do we want our students to be good spellers and why do we ask our students to learn about how words are spelled?

WHY: Our goal is to nurture “spellers for life.” We want our students to be able to internalize the various rules and patterns in the words they use in their daily writing. We want our students to be able to effectively communicate their thoughts and ideas in writing, and correct spelling is essential in order to achieve this goal.

We recognized that it was time to re-evaluate how we were teaching spelling when we observed students scoring well on weekly tests, but then struggling to spell the very same words correctly the next day in a piece of their own writing. We were not achieving our goal of getting students to effectively communicate in written form. We were only getting students to memorize words that they could reproduce in an isolated list; there was no transfer of this knowledge to their daily writing. It was clear that our students needed a new approach that emphasized word study and daily instruction if we were going to meet our goal.

How does the Sitton spelling program prepare students to be “spellers for life?”

HOW:  During each unit, students will learn about different spelling patterns and rules, and will also work on correctly spelling Core Words (high frequency words assigned to each grade level). Each unit of study begins with students working on their visual skills in order to train their brains to internalize the patterns and rules they are studying.Students also hone their proofreading skills by self-checking their work and adding misspelled words to their Words to Learn recording sheet, and they are encouraged to practice these words at school and at home.  A student’s progress is assessed using cloze assessments, skills assessments, and by reviewing their daily writing. Assessments occur when the teacher has determined students are ready to move on to a new unit, and they are not announced in advance.There is no list of words to study because the goal of these exercises is to assess how well students have internalized the spelling of these frequently used words; assessments are not meant to be a test of short term memory.

What is the Sitton spelling program?

WHAT: The Sitton spelling program aspires to build students’ understanding of concepts and skills through systematically presented lessons and activities. These word experiences are built around spelling principles and patterns that can be applied to a variety of words. Sitton offers teachers a wide menu of interactive activities that are used to provide practice at various levels of challenge. Opportunities for teachers to differentiate instruction and for students to stretch their thinking to higher levels is a powerful advantage of the program.

At our last Lower School faculty meeting, teachers in grades 2-5 discussed how the new approach to spelling was impacting their classrooms. Every single teacher was in agreement that they were enjoying the new approach to teaching spelling and seeing the benefits in their students’ written work. Change is difficult for many, but for this initiative, starting with the “why” provided all of us with a clear understanding of our purpose, which in turn generated shared beliefs and passions.

We hope that by sharing this additional information with all of you about our approach to spelling, you too can join us in our excitement about the life-long spellers we are nurturing here at Ravenscroft.

Thank you to Marianne Stapleton, Jennifer Baccus, and Michelle Schultz for collaborating with me on this post using Goggle docs.

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