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Common Core Spelling Standards

Common Core Spelling Standards

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The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in English Language Arts provide instructional challenges for all conscientious upper elementary and middle school teachers. In addition to the Reading, Writing, Speaking & Listening Strands, teachers are expected to teach the grammar, mechanics, language application, spelling, and vocabulary Standards of the CCSS Language Strand (Standards L. 1-6). When establishing instructional priorities to address these Standards, many teachers have placed spelling (Standard L. 2) on the back-burner.

It’s not that teachers devalue spelling instruction. Instructional time and the diverse instructional needs of our students are the key instructional concerns. Teaching is reductive-spending time on this takes away from that. Instructional decision-making is largely about establishing priorities. So, curricular materials must afford teachers the choices to reflect those priorities.

Recently I attended an all-day introduction to the Common Core State Standards sponsored by my school district. As expected, the changes in the reading standards assumed the vast amount of instructional attention. Writing standards were allotted an hour and listening and speaking standards a mere ten minutes. A passing reference was given to the language standards of grammar, mechanics, and vocabulary. However, spelling (Language Standard 2.0) was not mentioned.

Perhaps our trainers were taking their cues from the minimal references to spelling in the Language Strand of the Common Core State Standards. Following are the spelling standards from Grades 4−8:Common Core

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.4.2e Spell grade-appropriate words correctly, consulting references as needed.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.5.2e Spell grade-appropriate words correctly, consulting references as needed.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.6.2b Spell correctly.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.7.2b Spell correctly.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.8.2b Spell correctly.

Hardly the specificity or attention that most parents, teachers, and administrators would desire, especially given the heavy focus on phonics, syllabication, and word analysis in the primary grades and the sound-spelling emphases of CCSS contributors to the appendices.

Indeed, those same authors would readily acknowledge that teaching explicit spelling patterns in conjunction with reading has a solid research base. The spelling-reading (encoding-decoding) connection is well-established at every stage of word study—from sound-spelling relationships in the primary grades to derivational and etymological influences from elementary through high school.

Perhaps their assumption is that all students have mastered the sound-spelling relationships, derivational, and etymological underpinnings of our language by the end of third grade. Our new standards are rigorous, but even so…

So what about students who clearly have not mastered the basic sound-spellings by, say, eighth grade? The Common Core State Standards shy away from this all-too-often reality in many schools. Here is the advice:

“The Standards set grade-specific standards but do not define the intervention methods or materials necessary to support students who are well below or well above grade-level expectations.”

My take is that teachers are going to have to flesh out meaningful spelling instruction beyond the third grade level to benefit our students. Additionally, students who have not mastered those primary grade sound-spelling patterns and sight words deserve our addition in the upper elementary, middle school, high school, and community college settings. We can help students “keep up” with grade-level instruction and “catch up” on spelling pattern deficits.

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Teaching the Language Strand Grades 4-8 programs to teach the Common Core Language Standards. Each full-year program provides 56 interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics lessons. (Check out a seventh grade teacher teaching the direct instruction and practice components of these lessons on YouTube.) The complete lessons also include sentence diagrams, error analysis, mentor texts, writing applications, and sentence dictation formative assessments with accompanying worksheets (L.1, 2). Plus, each grade-level program has weekly spelling pattern tests and accompanying spelling sort worksheets (L.2), 56 language application opener worksheets (L.3), and 56 vocabulary worksheets with multiple-meaning words, Greek and Latin word parts, figures of speech, word relationships with context clue practice, connotations, and four square academic language practice (L.4, 5, and 6). Comprehensive biweekly unit tests measure recognition, understanding, and application of all language components.tls-thumb

Teaching the Language Strand also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out PREVIEW THE TEACHER’S GUIDE AND STUDENT WORKBOOK  to see samples of these comprehensive instructional components.

The author also provides these curricular “slices” of the Teaching the Language Strand “pie”: the five Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits Grades 4−8; the five Differentiated Spelling Instruction Grades 4−8 programs (digital formats only); and the non-grade-leveled Teaching Grammar and Mechanics with engaging grammar cartoons (available in print and digital formats).

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