Intensive Spelling Introduction
Section Five of We All Can Read Program (from Teacher’s Guide)
Section Five is the intensive spelling portion of this program. Three word lists, each consisting of 800 words and composing some of the most frequently-used words in the English language, are used for spelling dictation. An Answer Key is also provided for each separate word list and consists of those same lists of words with each word divided into syllables where appropriate and with each syllable and/or word marked, using the same system that has been used throughout the preceding portions of this book.
This spelling section is an intrinsic part of the overall phonics program. However much your students may have improved up to this point in the program, they can fully expect to see a similar or increased rate of improvement as they proceed through Section Five. In fact by the time students have gone through all three word lists– A, B, and C– using the procedure about to be outlined, they can expect to see profound improvement in their decoding, fluency, comprehension, spelling, and pronunciation skills.
Up to this point in the program the focus has been upon developing both decoding skills and spelling skills. Decoding and spelling are actually opposite ends of the same process. Decoding is the process of looking at and accurately identifying a written word. Spelling, on the other hand, is the process of starting with identity of the word known and then accurately translating the known word to the letters that spell it.
The skill of reading of which spelling is a vital subpart is a hierarchical activity. An important step in becoming a good speller is to become a fluent reader. At first the person attempting to master the decoding process must look at and sound out virtually every word he encounters. But gradually as he perseveres in this process, he will begin to recognize an ever-increasing number of words instantly until at some point he is able to read almost anything he encounters instantaneously without the need to sound out large numbers of words within the selection first. This ability to recognize words instantly is referred to as decoding fluency and is the goal of everyone who desires to master the skill of reading.
Several factors work in the favor of the student to enable his degree of decoding fluency to improve rapidly as he proceeds further through this book. First is the fact that the more familiar your student becomes in working with the sounds of the language and the letter combinations that represent those sounds, then the faster that student will be able to sound out unknown words when encountered. Second is the fact that by virtue of having worked carefully through the first four sections of the book, the student has gained a thorough understanding of the phonetic basis of our language. With this knowledge as a foundation he then has the capability to look at any word and determine what that word is, never needing to guess again. Finally in normal conversation people tend to use a very limited number of vocabulary words. Thus by learning the most commonly-used words in our language, an individual learns those words which have the highest frequency of appearance in written form. Working from lists of commonly-used words provides a student with an excellent foundation upon which to build decoding proficiency over a period of time.
At this juncture in the program the teacher focuses his instructional time exclusively upon spelling. Becoming a good speller takes longer than does developing decoding proficiency. The reason that spelling requires a longer period of time to master than does decoding is because in spelling every letter in every word must be spelled correctly; there is no such thing as spelling a word almost correctly. In decoding a word, a student can use the context of surrounding words in addition to his knowledge of phonics to determine the identity of the word in print. But in spelling there are no context clues to aid the student. A word might contain ten letters, and if a speller omits even one of those letters or incorrectly uses one wrong letter to try and spell the word, then the word is counted as being spelled wrong. Spelling, therefore, requires a more demanding, disciplined approach than does decoding. Do not, however, either as an instructor or student let that fact dissuade you.
The key to mastering the skill of spelling is to understand that spelling is not primarily a process of memorizing words. Spelling, instead, is a process of segmenting the sounds embedded in words and then matching those sounds to the correct series of letters and letter teams that represent those sounds. We literally use letters to map out the individual sounds in words. Never allow or encourage your students to rely on memory alone in spelling a word. Memory is useful, but learning to segment words into their component sounds and then to associate letters with those sounds is the key to developing spelling mastery.
This practice of spelling and then marking the spelled word is very important because it serves to reinforce the phonic principles already learned and also serves as a mnemonic aid in enabling the student to learn the correct spelling of individual words. Spelling dictated words and then marking those words will require students to pay attention to every aspect of the word; first the student must mentally note the individual sounds within the word, correctly match letters with the sounds in the word, and then demonstrate an understanding of how the word is constructed phonetically by accurately marking the word using the notation system developed throughout this entire program. Even students who possess relatively strong reading and spelling skills will at times find themselves challenged when attempting to spell and mark words correctly within this portion of the program.
This marking system demonstrates the consistency of English phonics, the fact that a direct relationship exists between letters and sounds in our language. To most poor spellers the spelling system appears completely arbitrary and thus unlearnable and unfair. One of the benefits of the marking system used in this book is that through using it, the student develops an awareness that spelling and decoding in our language are activities based upon a logical and coherent system of rules; the student can then see that once he has mastered an understanding of the logic and rules, he has the capability to learn both reading and spelling skills. He realizes that he is not being asked to memorize by sight thousands of individual words, a task that for many is impossible. This realization is of very great importance. Students need to know that while the learning process upon which they are embarked entails a significant personal commitment and a great deal of time, it is not a process where no end will ever be within sight. Instead with certainty and conviction students come to the understanding that the goal of learning to read and spell is an eminently realistic and achievable one.