South Orangetown Central School District

Last week, third graders in teachers Rebecca Coatti and Kathleen Chichetti’s class were rhyming, drawing, word-searching and sentence-writing as part of their thrice-weekly spelling instruction.

“In September, we administer the Words Their Way spelling pre-assessment to our class to identify each student’s spelling stage,” Coatti explained. “We review each assessment and identify areas mastered and areas that need instruction. Once we do this for the entire class, we create differentiated groups based on specific needs.”

Based on the assessment, students were assigned to one of four spelling groups. Each group receives a new spelling pattern to focus on for a two-week period. On the first Monday, each group is taught the spelling pattern. Students then practice sorting their spelling words according to the pattern. After that initial lesson, the groups meet three times weekly for 30 minutes per session to participate in spelling activities that support spelling retention. Coatti and Chichetti rotate through the groups to facilitate activities, modify, if needed, and assess students’ progress.

“Spelling lessons are a part of our overall literacy instruction. We help our students develop a strong connection between letters and their sounds, which assists them in both their reading and writing. We start the year off slowly by teaching only a few spelling activities, which include writing sentences and stories using their assigned spelling patterns, finding words in their independent reading books that contain their assigned spelling patterns, creating word searches and pictures that contain their assigned spelling patterns and playing games such as rhyming memory,” said Chichetti. “As the year goes on, our repertoire of spelling activities greatly increases.”

Principal Karen Scarth observed last week’s lesson. “Words Their Way is a word study program that we use at Cottage Lane. The goal is to learn spelling patterns rather than memorize a list of words. As Becky and Kate shared, our students learn these rules and patterns by sorting and comparing words. When they understand the patterns and rules that are taught, they can apply them to spell words. Differentiation is an important part of this work as students are placed in groups based on what they understand so far about words and can build from there.”

Teacher facilitating spelling activity with third graders