Our non-tradional approac to spelling works very well with our kids.
I've never been fond of packaged spelling programs, so we've always done spelling pretty much on our own. I understand the need for sequenced lists in spelling programs, but I feel that it's much more helpful for kids to learn how to spell the words that they're using in everyday writing.
I do have the kids learn how to spell all of the words in their Wordly Wise lessons, but I also create individualized lists for them based on what I see in their writing.
Throughout the week I keep a running list going for each child. When I come across a word they've misspelled in their writing, I write it down on the list. I don't circle the word in their writing since I try not to formally evaluate their free-writing for spelling so they feel a little more free just to write. However, the words they misspell do show up on their spelling lists.
I try to write down every word they spell wrong anywhere in their work, whether it be a short simple word like can't where they forgot the apostrophe (like Jaden did this week), to longer complicated words like parliament, even to proper names like William, Isaac and Elizabeth. I usually come up with a list of about 20 or so words each week this way.
Even Jerah, who's only in third grade, occasionally gets pretty complicated words on her spelling list. I figure if she's old enough to use a word in her writing, she's old enough to know how to spell it correctly.
At the beginning of the week I give each child their list to study. They can study any way they want, as long as they learn how to spell the words properly. Giving them that freedom has helped them evaluate their own learning style to determine how best to study the words to achieve their goal. They're coming to realize that if they get a word wrong on the test, they'll have to learn it again anyway, so why not get it right the first time!
On Thursday I give a written "pre-test" over the words. I make sure that they have not looked over their spelling list for at least 15 minutes or so before the test so I can be assured that they are using their long-term memory and not their short-term memory when they spell the words.
If they get any of the words wrong, I have them work on learning those words a little more, and then on Friday I test them again, but only on the words they missed on the pre-test. I don't waste time by testing them on the words they already know how to spell. There are times when I have to write the same words on their list for more than one week when I see they're misspelling it again, but those are becoming few and fewer.
Here's an example of the kind of lists I come up with by taking words from their writing. These are what the kids will be studying this coming week:
- shipped (he always forgets to double the "p")
- decision (this is a word that's been on his list repeatedly)
- can't (yup, he forgot the apostrophe)
- exercise (he understandably spelled it "exersize")
- before (she always drops the "e")