‘Random’ spellings, year 3(17 Posts)
DD’s class has a weekly spelling test of around 10 words. The list of words is sent out termly, with spellings grouped by week so the children know which ones to learn.
Recently, a few of the children (the more advanced spellers) have started being tested on ‘random’ words, rather than those from the list, so there is no opportunity to practise these spellings.
The ‘normal’ list is themed each week, eg words containing particular prefixes/suffixes, but my DD says the ‘random’ list is alphabetical (they’ve got to ‘B’), and not based on any particular learning they have been doing in class.
While my DD is happy enough to do this, I’m struggling to spot the benefit for the children. It feels like they are testing them on their natural knowledge/ability, rather than teaching them something and then testing whether they’ve retained it, which is what the others are getting.
Is this approach common? Can anyone explain how this is helping these children to improve their spelling?
It’s parents’ evening after half term so I will have a chance to ask the teacher, but I wanted to know whether I was missing something obvious first…
rather than teaching them something and then testing whether they’ve retained it
Spelling isn't actually done by memorising how to spell the hundreds of thousands of possible English words. So it could be actually more useful than testing words they've actually practiced (as that's not testing spelling but testing either spelling or memorising) since the knowledge of which ones the individual fails to spell could inform what spelling strategies would be useful to learn.
Learning 10 spellings for a test and regurgitating them on Friday is not particularly helpful for retaining knowledge of spelling.
Testing the children on random words to see what they can spell gives the teacher more of an idea of what areas they need to focus on.
SirFred: "Spelling isn't actually done by memorising how to spell the hundreds of thousands of possible English words."
Absolutely. It would, therefore, be sensible for the whole class to be asked to spell 'any' 10 words using the suffix "'ment" after being taught this suffix in class. This National Curriculum Appendix 1: Spelling appears to support this approach.
Why, then, do most school send home specific lists at all?
SirFred: "the knowledge of which ones the individual fails to spell could inform what spelling strategies would be useful to learn"
I agree with this as a concept, but when it is a small number of 'outliers' that are being tested in this manner, it's going to take months to get some useful data on common mistakes and turn it into something useful. I'd be very surprised indeed if many teachers had the time/energy for this.
RedSky, so why are children in most classes across the country learning 10 spellings for a weekly test, instead of being tested on random words - and why, in my DD's class, are the majority being tested in the former manner and a select few in the latter?
I've no idea why your school is doing it the way they are - why don't you ask someone at the school?
Your child shouldn't be learning 10 spellings for a test - they should be learning and understanding when to apply a particular spelling pattern. Unfortunately most children just blindly learn the words, which means they are unable to spell them, or a word using the same pattern. So it is useful for (say) a spelling pattern that they learnt 3 months ago to make an appearance on a "Random" test - because it helps the teacher understand whether the child has fully understood the spelling pattern, or just learn the word blindly.
(My DC's school stopped having spelling tests at all, because they acknowledged that it didn't actually help the DC learn).
RedSky: I will ask the teacher at parents’ evening in a couple of weeks’ time, but wanted to get views here first.
I agree with you that learning for a test doesn’t seem the most helpful way to learn how to spell, and that ‘spot checks’ at various intervals would tell the teacher more about how the children are doing.
However, given that most of DD’s class are expected to learn 10 spellings for a test, I’d like to understand why DD’s subgroup aren’t.
Bit odd. I think it would be better to test some new words and some repetitions each week so this kids relearn each of the spellings at regular intervals. I assume the full list of spellings is too long for the kids to practise them all each week in case they randomly come up.
That said I would just tell DD to try her best and not worry about whether or not she gets them right.
I take it that your dd is similar to my ds, really good at spelling.
My ds never practise spelling list, he just knows, I think from extensive reading. Maybe list of words are meaningless to children like them.
The spelling curriculum for each year group covers a series of "rules" to follow with associated words ( so tion words, ch as K words, suffixes, etc) and then a list of alphabetically sorted words that don't follow the patterns but are expected to be known. I would think that , having learnt the year group "rules" the more proficient spellers are now working their way through the alphabetical words. ( see page 16 of the link below).
Spaniel, the general class spelling lists seem to be a combination of words using those ‘rules’ and words from the alphabetical list. I don’t think the class have been taught all the rules yet (which are for Y3-4 and this is Y3, and it’s not a pushy school / bright cohort), and I think any teaching of spelling rules is done as a whole class activity, therefore the advanced spellers haven’t been taught the rules ahead of the rest.
DD is indeed an advanced reader who is naturally good at spelling and not worried by the tests at all. It just seems a shame if children like her aren’t really learning from this process. I guess a lot of school is like that though. At parents’ evening I will ask the teacher what the plan is.
You can still use the list to extend her vocabulary. Let her look up the meaning. Find synonyms/antonyms, write sentence using those words, etc.
There was a new spelling list bought in for yrs 3/4 and 5/6 when the curriculum was changed. You can see them online if you google. What we do in my school is 6 words following the weekly spelling pattern and then two words off this list
That’s very true, Irvine. I would like to make sure she’s learning/challenged a little at home if there’s not much of it going on in class, but it’s about finding a balance.
She gets very little homework: one worksheet per week, alternating between English and maths, which takes about 10 mins. Spellings we only glance at, and the school reading books are a bit random/pointless but she reads loads, mostly to herself but a bit out loud to us each day.
I encourage her to spend about 15 minutes most days on online learning (Times Tables Rockstars and IXL). She does extra-curricular activities too, so has music practice to do.
We are quite a ‘wordy’ family and often talk about the meanings of words when they come up in books/conversation, suggest alternative words, spot patterns in words, test spellings when we meet unusual words, play Boggle etc and she enjoys all this.
I therefore think she gets a reasonable amount of incidental learning at home. I worry that if I take a systematic approach to spellings, she really will be bored during those lessons! She needs her playtime as well.
Do they spend a lot of times learning spelling in the lessons at school? Then maybe you need to find the way for her to use that time not getting bored.
I actually don't care about my ds's homework, he does it, I don't even look at it. Spelling, he get the list, and write the sentences(part of the homework), and that's it. I don't check it.
If he come across a new word when he is reading to me, I ask the meaning/synonyms. If he sounds unsure, I ask him to look it up. It's easy because he uses electronic dictionary, has thesaurus function as well.
I have had same attitude since he started ks2, and now in yr6. He is still doing totally fine.
Schools send home lists of specific spellings because most parents like them and complain if you don’t. Random spellings are more useful because they test if children have learned spelling patterns and are able to use and apply them in different contexts.
The best way to improve spelling is read read read.
Don't worry about it. It sounds like your daughter is in the advanced group to be getting random tests. If she's happy and learning well stop stressing about it.
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