Logic of English does not generally promote spelling tests. The lists given in each lesson in Essentials are for spelling analysis, a learning activity in which students build fluency applying the phonograms and spelling rules in words, not for spelling tests. The lessons focus on learning how to spell first and individual word mastery second, and spelling mastery is assessed through dictation sentences and other spelling activities that measure students' knowledge of the phonograms and rules and how they work in words.
However, we know that some teachers want to or are required to give a traditional spelling test and wonder how to incorporate that into their Essentials instruction effectively.
If you really want to give a weekly spelling test, this is fine. It’s not a very helpful assessment of actual spelling ability or an effective way to build students’ long-term mastery, but it’s not going to hurt them as long as you do the following:
- Only include words you have taught through spelling analysis and practiced in class activities. If you have certain additional words you want to include that aren’t in Essentials, that’s doable. Teach any additional phonograms/rules used that students haven’t learned already, teach the word through spelling analysis, and make sure to include it in spelling games and dictation activities throughout the week.
- If possible, always make your quiz a group of dictation phrases, rather than individual words, and continue to reuse words from past lessons. It will be a better assessment of students’ actual ability, and have a greater impact on students’ long-term mastery of words they are learning. [However, hint … this is already what you are doing in the Essentials Check Your Understanding section.]
- Give partial credit for words that are misspelled in a way that correctly applies all phonograms and rules (like ’tradicion’ or ’sinceer’). Make sure that your measure of success rewards the progress they have made and reflects understanding they have gained, rather than giving zero credit for a word that reflects a lot of understanding and does many things right.
- Make sure the spelling test is a small factor in students’ spelling grade for your class, since it’s a much worse indicator of their ability than whether they are mastering the phonograms, understanding the rules, and successfully learning to apply them in words. So, for example, phonogram drills, dictation sentences, in-class spelling activities in the Essentials lessons, and the spelling rule sections in the Essentials assessments should all factor heavily in their spelling grades.
This matters because if you wanted students to only memorize strings of letters for one week and not focus on actually learning to spell, understanding why, and mastering concepts that will help with other spelling words, a great way to ensure that happens would be to grade your class so that what matters most is memorized strings of letters. Students care a lot about grades and will feel a lot of pressure to focus on what you are grading them on. Research suggests that traditional spelling tests do not help most students retain the spelling of these words or help them implement them in their independent writing.
Learn more about Spelling Analysis.