Teaching Spelling: How can I help students become independently spellers?

Becoming an independent speller is a tough job for our students. After all, it is a task that requires our students to process multiple skills at one time. In my mind, they go group several “levels” as they work toward independently spelling words that follow typical spelling patterns.

I love watching my students develop their spelling skills. It’s amazing to watch them go from a high level of support and work toward independence. But, it’s a process. Below, you’ll find my outline the various levels of support your students might need from you.

The Levels of Spelling Independence

  • The First Level of Independence: Uou might be saying the sounds and students are matching the letters to your sounds. You are doing the pointing and producing the sounds. For example, the word HOT. The teacher is just asking them to match the sounds that they are saying.
  • The Second Level of Independence: The student might be able to point the first, middle, and last sound of the word, but they might still need the teacher to say the sounds that are in the word.
  • The Third Level of Independence: The student can say the sounds orally, but they might need the teacher to point to the first, middle, and last sound of the word. Some of that is just to keep them organized or help keep them in the right spot. 
  • The Fourth Level of Independence: The teacher produces the sounds two times and then the students work to match the sounds on their own. For example, “I’m going to say this two times, and then I want you to try it on your own.” Later down the road, the teacher could say, “I’m going to say it one time, then you are on your own.” 
  • The Fifth Level of Independence: Students are using the letter tiles. They are doing all of the sounds orally (or in their head), all of the pointing, all of the matching, everything on their own!
  • The Sixth Level of Independence: The last and final level of independence is where they are not using any letter tiles, the teacher is not making any sounds, they are just really able to take a true spelling test. This, to me, is truly independent spelling. 

Document this and discuss that level of independence with your students, the parents, and even the general education teachers. Documenting this progress is amazing. You can truly see how far your students have come in such a short amount of time.

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