My spelling is Wobbly. It’s good spelling, but it Wobbles, and the letters get in the wrong places.
—A. A. Milne
[Now you can listen to the Big Fresh as a podcast!]
Be a Logophile
When my son Sam was in first grade, he lost points on a math problem because he wrote the answer as “4 dafodils.” The teacher added a big red f before the o and drew a thick red line through the whole word. Then she printed “flowers” after the correction because the word flowers was on the word wall. She added -2 in the margin of the paper.
I was still new to navigating the waters of school as a parent, but I wondered why Sam lost points, because the math was executed perfectly, and the sketched flowers on the math worksheet resembled daffodils. I was impressed that he knew to label the answer, as well as his ability to be specific about the flower shown.
Sam has always loved words and in preschool began telling people, “I am a logophile. That’s a person who loves words.” Even though he was a logophile, I was impressed that at six years old he could almost spell daffodils conventionally.
I asked him why it was wrong. He looked up at me with his blue eyes wide and innocent and said, “In school you should only write words you know how to spell.”
I often wonder about the messages we send students. If kids write only words they know how to spell, how will they grow as writers? How will they learn to spell more complicated words? How will they revel in the joy of weird spellings and unpredictable patterns? How will more logophiles be nurtured? At the same time, I understand the need for conventional spelling. There is comfort in the conventions of print, and there is power in them.
Like most things in life it is a delicate balance. Today Sam is in high school, and he is one of the most conventional spellers I know. He finds humor in the misspellings in our family text threads, and he is the go-to proofreader in the house; I trust him to catch spelling errors more than I trust myself. Somewhere along the way, the little logophile learned conventional spelling.
I think it had more to do with the fun and challenge of working with words than it did with red ink. This week we look at word work and the way it brings joy and conventions to spelling.
Editor, Choice Literacy
This month’s Featured Contributor is Matt Renwick. Matt is an elementary principal who writes at Read by Example and tweets @ReadByExample. He is a veteran public educator, working first as a classroom teacher and now serving as the school leader at Mineral Point Elementary School (Mineral Point, Wisconsin). Matt’s educational writing and consultant work focus primarily on literacy instruction, school leadership, and technology integration. This month you’ll find him on the Big Fresh podcast and offering Choice Literacy courses. Find all of Matt’s articles and videos on the site by clicking here.
On the podcast, Mandy Robek talks about word work and spelling with young students.
Many moons ago I, Ruth Ayres, wrote this article to inspire others to develop the habit of writing on a regular basis by taking a bite out of the Slice of Life Story Challenge. It is a reflection on the things I learned from writing alongside a global community.
Cathy Mere shares tried-and-true strategies for word learning with struggling young learners. (Article first published in 2016.)
Follow along with the conclusion of March Book Madness hosted by Tony Keefer and Scott Jones. Grab a bracket, pull the books into a basket, and you’re ready for your class to join in this global event.
Join the Choice Literacy Book Club! Bitsy Parks selected the picture book Little Brown by Marla Frazee for our March read. Click on the link to hear a book talk by Bitsy and to download the printable bookmarks. Join the conversation using the hashtag #ChoiceLiteracyBookClub.
New members-only content is added each week to the Choice Literacy website. If you’re not yet a member, click here to explore membership options.
In a video (recorded pre-COVID), Hayley Whitaker’s kindergartners spend their transition time learning sight words.
In an encore video, Gail Boushey leads a short small-group lesson on vocabulary. In the debrief following the lesson, Gail talks with Joan Moser about vocabulary instruction and the importance of fostering independence in students when it comes to noticing and learning new words. (Video was first published in 2012.)
In a course, Bitsy Parks takes you into her primary classroom for a close-up look at how she organizes and then gradually releases the library to students over days, weeks, and months. She provides lesson tips, strategies, and templates to help you plan and make choices about when to introduce bins and browsing skills. You end the course with the information and resources needed to integrate instruction on how to use the library into your daily minilesson and conferring routines. Free to members.
Literacy coaches Cathy Mere and Kelly Hoenie talk about the value and challenges of demonstration lessons.
In a new course, Matt Renwick guides instructional leaders to implement and strengthen instructional literacy walks. Through literacy walks, leaders seek out promising practices, note and name them during formative visits, and lead coaching conversations with teachers. The outcome is not only school improvement, especially in literacy, but also a community of learners who engage in continuous improvement as a natural stance. Free to Literacy Leader members.
Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.
That’s all for this week!