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Monday, 21 April 2014

My Spelling Approach

Stay tuned till the end for FREEBIE!

I have been perfecting my spelling approach ever since I became a teacher 5 years ago. It was my worst subject in school and I thought the main approach used by my teachers had failed me. 

I wanted to perfect my spelling approach so that it allowed the weakest students to succeed and the top students to excel. I looked at many spelling approaches and through trial and error came up with a system that is currently showing great results. Of course I will continue to perfect it as time goes on but for now here it is:

My spelling approach focuses on rote memorisation of words and is not a phonetic approach. Phonics does have a place in the classroom and sounds should be taught for the benefit of spelling and reading but I keep it separate to my spelling program as not all students are able to effectively spell using sounds. Sounds did not click with me until I became a teacher and had to learn how to teach them. I want to make sure the words my students are learning to spell are applicable to them so the list I use comprises of 1200 words that make up 89% of written English language. I arranged them in increasing complexity with some more frequently words introduced earlier. These words are broken up into 120 lists of 10 words.

Many teachers choose a spelling approach where they allow students to pick words of interest. This can be good for motivating students but should a year 3 student be able to spell tyrannosaurus over they? With a word that big and complex how long will they retain that word if they still struggle to spell they?
Other teachers choose to take words spelt incorrectly from students writing. But if a student did one trip to a random country town is it important they spend a week learning to spell it?

I send the spelling list home to parents to encourage work on the words at home and have a class set of the complete list for use by students.
I use a pre test to roughly assign students to a list. This method is not full proof but it would be a waste of time to start all students from list 1.

A typical spelling lesson in my room goes for 15-20 minutes. You want to keep it quick and fast moving.
1.Spelling instructions and recording who wants a test.
2.Test (students not having a test continue on)
3. L.S.C.W.P.C.
4.Spelling Activity
5.Early finishers task or free time
If students do not finish the activity they should be required to complete it at an alternative time.

Look, Say, Cover, Picture, Write and Check has its place in a spelling program but is not effective if students don't focus while doing it nor if it is your stand alone spelling program. It can be a complete waste of paper and can teach students to spell incorrectly if they copy their own list words into their book/journal. I have my lists laminated and students use whiteboard markers or crayons to write their words on the back. This is a great trick as it forces students to 'cover' their words. We all know most kids just copy if they are able to.

For those that don't know what Look, Say, Cover, Picture, Write, Check is: The students look (L) at each word in turn and say (S) the word as they turn the card over (C). The students picture (P) the word in their head and then they write (W) the word with a whiteboard marker or whiteboard crayon (messier but don’t dry up or stop working from pressing too hard). Finally they check (C) that they have spelt the word right.
Students then complete a spelling activity from these Spelling Activity Task Cards usually selected in advance by me.
For younger students I have activity sheets I laminate and they write over.
For older students I have Spelling Activity Grids so they can have more of a choice of the activities they do or use it for homework.

Students shouldn't be forced to stay on a list for a set amount of time. Some students learn words more slowly then others and shouldn't be rushed. I keep a track of how often students pass so that I can given them extra help, encouragement or a push if needed. 
At the beginning of the spelling lesson the teacher calls out each list in turn and records who wants a spelling test. Students then complete the test on a scrap piece of paper (precut stash by teacher) as the teacher calls out one word from each list being tested before cycling through again.
The teacher should use the name of the students rather then the list name to ensure students don’t miss any words. It may sound quite daunting to test so many different lists at once but it ensure students do not cheat and can easily be completed in 5 minutes with a quiet class and practice.
The teacher then marks the test immediately. To pass a list students must get all 10 words correct. Students should study their errors if they don’t pass.
Talk to students every few weeks about how to tell if they are ready for a test. i.e they complete L.S.C.P.W.C without errors or needing to look back.
Publicly reward students with a certificate when they pass every 10th list. 

The most important part of my spelling program is the termly test. The main problem with rote learning is that students commit the words to short term memory but it is not guaranteed that they will commit it to long term memory. To catch the words that slip, a termly test needs to be done. I find it best to test on the block of 10 lists closest to where they are at. If the student passed list 13-23 then I would test them on 11-20. Use your discretion and knowledge of the students. The students are required to repeat any lists they did not receive 100% on. To repeat means they need to practice the words and repass a normal class test.

So that's how my spelling program works. Hopefully it gave you some ideas on how to perfect your own program or inspire you to try mine. If you do like the sounds of my approach you can purchase all the resources feature above in my Complete Spelling Package:

Grab these Spelling Posters FREE right now!

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Preparing for.....dun dun dun.... NAPLAN

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It's an acronym that no Australian teacher likes to hear. But whether we like it or not, NAPLAN is going to be here soon.
I don't condone teaching to NAPLAN but I do believe in preparing my students for it and ensuring they do not suffer adversely because of it.
In term 1 I make sure I cover as much of the wide scope of the Australian Curriculum as possible when it comes to Numeracy. This includes revision of what the students should have learnt in previous years and some new information that is often included in NAPLAN.
For English I cover both persuasive and narrative writing.
I also cover a wide scope of grammar, spelling and reading concepts.
Term 1 Planner

At the end of each week I get my students to do a quick 15 minute quiz. These quizzes not only allow students to display their understanding of the concepts taught that week but also familirise students with question types. Without these practise quizzes students would get answers wrong simply because they shaded two answers in or didn't understand what to do. I begin the lesson by introducing or revising that NAPLAN strategy for that week. These strategies are used by adults all the time during tests but need to be taught to students. I use characters to make these strategies stick in the students head and make learning them more interesting.

Careful Cara - Read the question carefully
Whinging Whinnie - Don't get upset about the test
Naughty Nick - Always one answer that is obviously wrong
Diligent Dolly - Working quickly and monitoring the time
Sneaky Sarah - Two answers are usually very similar
Guessing George - If in doubt guess, but use other tricks to eliminate answers

I then give students time to complete the quiz. To help gradually build up their confidence with tests I go through the first one to two tests with the class and discuss or give hints to the answers. The next few tests I only read the questions. Then they begin doing the test independently.
As students believe they have finished the quiz I mark their answers and give them a second attempt at any they get wrong. If on the second attempt the answer is still wrong I briefly explain to them which is the correct answer. My students then go on to IPad free time. Once everyone is finished I go through all the questions with the students to make sure they understand the concepts the question was testing. Incorrect answers can be recorded for later small group activities or one-on-one help.

You can purchase the quizzes I use here:
While I used them weekly they can easily be used daily in Term 2 until NAPLAN.

I do one full practice test (Numeracy) at the conclusion of term 2 that I then analysis for topics that I need to revise in term 2 with either the whole class or small groups.

The other part of preparing students is to make them understand that NAPLAN is 4 tests that you do your best in but they are not something to stress over. I explain the format of the NAPLAN, that no one is expected to get 100% on it. That is has questions from the Year 5 and 7 NAPLAN test. I also tell them that not even I usually get 100% on the test. I tell the students that doing their best will make me proud and that is something they should strive for.

Using these strategies above I avoid having any tears or comments of 'I can't do this' during NAPLAN week.

Good luck with NAPLAN 2014!

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

First Milestone

Today I finally made $100 profit on Teachers Pay Teacher. Its been a while coming but I am glad to have made it because I am sure many give up before they achieve it.

I first signed up to sell in August 2013. That may seem like a long time to get to $100 but there are many reasons for it. My hope in sharing these reasons with you is that you will hit this milestone quicker if you decide/have decided to sell.
August is the end of the American Teacher's holidays so most are already going to have their things ready to go for the new school year. To start selling at that time of the year with classroom display items isn't going to get you much business. The first few things I put up were job charts and simple posters. I sold a few to the last minute teachers but had missed the boat.
So wrong time of the year plus wrong products meant minimal sales and a large decrease in my motivation to make more products.
Fast forward to January and I slowly got back into it and over the month I added some more products. Steady sales started coming in. My products are cheaper then what most charge as I can only justify charging what I myself would pay and I am a stooge!

So tips for people just starting:

  • Don't start your store in late August and expect sales that will motivate you.
  • Spend time making and uploading products that will sell at the time of the year you start in i.e. classroom displays in May/June, Christmas stuff in November etc. 
  • Be proud of when you do make a sale- no matter how small.
  • Read lots of the posts on the sellers forum-there is a wealth of knowledge there!
  • If you want to see a good increase in sales build up 20 (timely) resources (I only just hit 20). Make at least 5 of them freebies that will get people's attention. I found a strength in making free bulletin borders.
  • Become familiar with your dashboard and especially your statistics. Even if you aren't getting sales the statistics will show you if people are viewing your products and let you know if your freebies are getting downloaded.
I will post more tips soon. For now, check out my store as I am currently having a 10% off sale. (Ends 12/4/14)
If this post has helped your decision to start selling please consider using my referral link:

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

How I Got Started on Teacherspayteacher

While I was in uni studying to be a teacher I had a part time job. What I loved about it was that I could easily do extra hours and earn more money whenever I wanted. If I didn't feel like extra work I didn't take anything extra on. Its nice being able to earn extra money and I often miss it. I have tried a couple of online things to make extra money.

In 2012 I began making Youtube videos, an enjoyable hobby that I hoped would end up putting a little extra in the bank. A year later I had made a tiny bit of money but was frustrated with putting up what I thought was quality videos and not getting the views or subscribers. I no longer enjoyed it and looked for my next opportunity.

Late 2012 I joined a host of survey sites online and spent countless hours (multi-tasking while being a couch potato) filling in surveys. Again I made a little bit of money but became frustrated at the constant time spent doing a survey only to have "this survey is not right for you" appear 20 minutes in and get no rewards for it. It quickly became repetitious and while I still receive the emails I don't do the surveys. I made a little more then Youtube but it took up more time and was less enjoyable.

In July last year I finally got on board the Pinterest train and quickly got addicted. It wasn't long before a pin lead me to Teacherspayteachers. Like so many other teachers I make a lot of my own resources and thought "I could do that." A little umming and arrhing later I had uploaded my first product!

Check back soon for the next part of my journey. Check out my store here: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Mrs-Amy123 

If you are interested in signing up and selling your own products on TeacherspayTeachers going through the link below will benefit both of us and I am happy to provide support for anyone that needs help getting started that uses the link.