My daughter, who is in second grade, brought home all of the writing she did during her first unit of study, Lessons from the Masters: Improving Narrative Writing, last week Just as I would remind a fellow educator not to look at the writing from a deficit perspective, I looked past the misspelled words, missing punctuation, and different colors of ink so I could focus on the content of her writing. I looked at her writing and asked myself “What is Isabelle doing well as a writer.” As I flipped through her booklets, I discovered she wrote about a variety of topics that held meaning and value to her. I realized her process now included more detailed sketches. In addition, I noticed her volume had increased markedly since the previous school year. These are some of the wonderful things I have celebrated with my daughter since she brought home her small moment writing.
The week before the writing came home, Isabelle and I had been talking about spelling people’s names (e.g., her grandparents, her teachers, her friends) properly. I started writing down the proper spelling of names she used frequently in her at-home writing on sticky notes so she could keep it on her craft table, which is where she chooses to write. We talked about making a personal word wall at home, but we couldn’t decide on a space where it should go. (Also, I realized taking up part of her playroom with a word wall was a bit intrusive.) Therefore, I began adding the names to a portable word wall I created in a Word document on my computer.
Once the writing from the first unit of study came home from school, I noticed Isabelle needed help with more than just proper nouns. There are many words she uses frequently misspells, like because, next, and said. Therefore, I recorded the words she misspelled several times across her booklets and added them to the portable word wall I started creating on my computer.
I made a double-sided portable word wall for Isabelle with one side being the names of people and places she often writes about, while the flip side contains commonly misspelled words. I printed out a copy for her craft table and emailed another copy to her teacher, who laminated it and talked with Isabelle about how she could use the portable word wall at school.
When I was a new classroom teacher, I assigned spelling words to my students. Then, I wondered why their spelling didn’t improve in their writing. Eventually, I realized it was because they weren’t practicing the words they were misspelling. Therefore, I began giving my students personal spelling word lists, which was a game changer. The words on their lists came from misspelled words I identified in their writing, and high-frequency word lists for their grade level (or words from the previous grade level they hadn’t mastered). Doing this was a game changer since, with extra practice, I noticed my students’ spelling improve.
Having a portable word wall, like the one I created for Isabelle, is something both differentiated and up-close for students to use, which makes it more appealing than a full-class word wall that’s located on a wall away from most students’ work spaces. Also, portable word walls can be updated – if they’re kept on a computer – whenever words are mastered or (new) words to learn are added. Also, they can be used discreetly during any stage of the writing process.
Click here for a portable word wall template you can download and customize for your students.
More blog posts and spelling strategies:
- Fast Word Fixer (includes a video)
- Four Lines & Four Boxes (includes a tutorial)
- How to Use a Word Wall (from a student point of view)
- Minimal Markings Technique
- Personal Spelling Words
- Strategies to Support Spelling Perfectionists in Your Classroom
- Three Reasons Why Spelling Lessons Aren’t Transferring to Writing Workshop – And What You Can Do
I am a literacy consultant who has spent over a decade working with teachers to improve the teaching of writing in their classrooms. While I work with teachers and students in grade K-6, I'm a former fourth and fifth-grade teacher so I have a passion for working with upper elementary students.
I'm the author of Craft Moves (Stenhouse Publishers, 2016) and the co-author of Jump Into Writing (Zaner-Bloser, 2021), Welcome to Writing Workshop (Stenhouse Publishers, 2019), and Day By Day (Stenhouse, 2010).