Language Skills Series 1: Spelling is the first of what I expect might be a series of books in The Joy of Knowing How to Learn series by Joyce McPeake Robinson. However, this spelling book can be used on its own with a range of students from about grades four through eight and maybe into high school.
Rather than a typical spelling course, this book narrowly focuses on the 100 most-commonly misspelled words, words such as ache, built, cough, separate, Wednesday, and won’t. Most of these words should have been introduced to students in grades one through four, so some fourth graders might be encountering a few of the words for the first time. These are words that students should master by junior high, yet they often prove troublesome for students even up through high school.
Pre-tests help students identify which words they need to study. Pre-tests have multiple-choice questions, and students can complete these tests independently.Results might not be definitive because of the style of testing. Robinson tells parents and teachers (on page 15) that they might, instead, dictate spelling words in a more traditional fashion.
Checklists provide a place for students to transfer the results of their pre-test onto five pages so that they (as well as a parent or teacher) can see at a glance which words need attention. Assignments should be made from the checklists.
Students can then tackle the study sheets—one sheet for each of the 100 words. Each study sheet follows the same format with ten steps. The ten steps have students: read a sentence with the word, then write the word correctly, read a definition of the word, write it correctly once more, fill in missing letters for the word, complete the same sentence used in step one by filling in the spelling word, write the word again and identify the number of syllables, write the syllables (or complete word if it has only one syllable) separately, say the word carefully pronouncing each syllable, picture the word in their mind with their eyes closed, write the word three more times, and write a new sentence using the word correctly. Students should work on only those words that they missed in the pre-test unless a parent or teacher thinks working on additional words would be helpful.
As you can see, Robinson tries to focus the student’s attention in a number of ways, but writing the word correctly is the strategy used most frequently. This is not a phonetic or word-family approach as we often find in spelling courses.
The design of the book makes it easy for students to work independently for the most part, although parents should be paying attention to ensure that students don’t misspell a word at the beginning of a lesson and continue to reinforce that same error throughout the lesson.
Post-tests offer students multiple-choice groups of words from which to choose the one that is spelled correctly. While pre-tests present words within sentences, post-tests do not. For example, one post-test multiple-choice group for the spelling word coming includes the four options: coming, comig, comeing, and coming. As with the pre-tests, parents or teachers might dictate spelling words instead of using the tests.
The book is not reproducible, so you will need one for each student. Answer keys are included within the book. Because of this, I recommend removing pages from the book, and giving them to students as they need them. Pre- and post-tests are printed back-to-back on pages, so you’ll need to preserve pages if you spread out testing over a number of sessions. Similarly, study sheets are printed back-to-back, so you will need to ensure that students don’t “lose” one on the reverse side of page they have completed. Because of these issues, this is a book that should be available in PDF format, but it isn’t.
Aside from layout inconveniences, Language Skills Series 1: Spelling should be helpful for students who struggle with the correct spelling of common words. Many of the commonly-misspelled words defy phonetic rules, and an approach such as this might be the solution.