Lesson Plans

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Improving Your Spelling with the VT

Lesson Question:

How can playing the Visual Thesaurus Spelling Bee help students improve their spelling?

Applicable Grades:

3­-12

Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, students will play the Visual Thesaurus Spelling Bee to assess their spelling ability and to learn the spellings of some new words. After they play the bee individually, they will join small groups of students to deductively reason and share some common spelling rules that apply to a set list of words.

Length of Lesson:

one hour

Instructional Objectives:

Students will:
  • assess their own spelling abilities by playing the VT Spelling Bee
  • use deductive reasoning to infer spelling rules that apply to a set list of words
  • share spelling rules and how they derived such patterns
  • synthesize their knowledge of spelling rules by trying to apply such rules to newly encountered words on the VT Spelling Bee

Materials:

  • white board
  • computers with Internet access
  • "Reasoning Spelling Rules by Deduction" sheet [click here to download] and corresponding Answer Key

Warm-up:

Playing the Visual Thesaurus Spelling Bee:

  • Invite students to play the Visual Thesaurus Spelling Bee. Once they click on the "Start the Spelling Bee!" box, they will be taken to an individual word page where they will hear a recording of a word (prompted by hitting the "Play Word" button) and where they can also read the multiple meanings of the that word on the right side of the screen.
  • Inform students that they will get three tries to guess the spelling of each word in the "Guess the Spelling" box before getting the option to hit the "I Surrender" button in order to reveal the correct spelling.
  • Explain to students that the more words they get right, the harder the words will become. And after a few rounds of playing, the Spelling Bee will begin to determine each student's spelling score (from the 200 to 800) and send them words that are more appropriate to that particular level.

Instruction:

Brainstorming strategies to help confused spellers:

  • After about five to seven minutes of Spelling Bee "play," ask students to start recording in their notebooks a list of words they have misspelled.
  • Once students have compiled a short list of misspelled words, have them stop playing and talk about their experience of playing the VT Spelling Bee. .
  • Begin the reflective discussion by simply eliciting a list of students' misspelled words and writing them on the board. As you write each word on the board, ask the other students in the room for any tips, strategies, or rules they could offer to help other students master the correct spelling of that particular word.
  • Emphasize throughout the discussion that becoming a good speller does not entail memorizing every word in the English language! Good spellers learn to recognize that a word's spelling can sometimes be figured out by following phonetic patterns, by applying rules or by digging deeper into the word's meaning. For example, if a speller misspells "president" as "presadent" because it "sounds that way," he should trace the word back to the verb "to preside" for a clue to its proper spelling.

Using Deductive Reasoning to Infer Common Spelling Rules:

  • Explain to the class that although spelling rules and patterns in the English language have exceptions, it is helpful to learn a few of the more common rules as guidelines to fall back on when wondering how to spell a word. When students struggle with spelling a word, they may be able to apply a spelling rule in order to determine its proper spelling or they may need to come up with a visual or mnemonic device to help them spell that word correctly when they re-encounter it in another setting.
  • Organize the class in six small groups and assign each group a list of spelling words (labeled A-F on the "Reasoning Spelling Rules by Deduction" list) [click here to download].
  • Inform students that it will be their job to figure out or deduce a spelling rule that applies to each word in their group's assigned list. Groups should write the spelling rule that they come up with in the space below their list of assigned words on the "Reasoning Spelling Rules by Deduction" sheet. Reassure students that the rule they write on the sheet need only apply to the words on their assigned list, and that there are always words that will act as exceptions to each rule.
  • Read aloud or list on the board the following questions that may help students in their deductive process: What do the words on your list have in common? How are the roots of these words spelled? How were root words changed when adding either a prefix or a suffix? Do you detect any patterns involving vowels or consonants among your words?
  • Give groups about ten minutes to think about how their words relate to one another and to deduce a common spelling rule that would apply to all of their words. Allow students to use the VT as a reference in this deductive process. For example, if the group assigned to the word list containing the word "compliance" is unsure of how its root word is spelled, they could consult the VT to learn that "compliance" is derived from the word "comply" (as indicated by the dashed "derived from" line connecting "compliance" to "comply" on the word web display for "compliance").

Sharing spelling rules through a jigsaw approach:

  • Reconfigure the small groups in the class so that each new group is formed with a "expert speller" representative from each of the prior groups.
  • Direct students to each present his or her spelling rule from his or her previous group's work and to describe the process by which the spelling rule was deduced or inferred.
  • While individual students are presenting their group's spelling rule, their new fellow group members should take notes on their "Reasoning Spelling Rules by Deduction" sheet. By the end of the class period, the entire class should be familiar with each of the six spelling rules (see the "Answer Key" form of the "Reasoning Spelling Rules by Deduction," click here to download).

Wrap-up:

Reviewing spelling rules and pointing out the patterns:

  • Conduct a brief review of the spelling rules listed on the "Answer Key" form of the "Reasoning Spelling Rules by Deduction" and then elicit from students additional words that would follow each of the six spelling rules (and words that would serve as exceptions to the rules). You could use the VT as a reference as you test out each word that a student suggests.
  • If time permits, challenge students to return to the Visual Thesaurus Spelling Bee to improve their scores. As they play the bee, have them point out words that they recognize as following one of spelling rules reviewed in class.

Extending the Lesson:

  • Another fun way to use the VT Spelling Bee would be to have students team up with one another to collaborate on playing the Bee. This team-approach to using the bee could encourage students to share their spelling strategies and tips with one another in a small-group setting and it could also give students an opportunity to compete against one another in teams (as opposed to individual students competing for the "high scorer" award).

Assessment:

  • Each group's spelling rule should be assessed to determine its validity and that it contains the proper vocabulary to describe its components (e.g., vowel, consonant, suffix, prefix, etc.).
  • Students' mastery of the six spelling rules reviewed in this lesson could be easily assessed by giving the class a "spelling quiz" featuring words that are spelled according to each of the six rules (but were not already presented on the "Reasoning Spelling Rules by Deduction" sheet).

Educational Standards:

Language Arts

Standard 1. Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process

Level II (Grade: 3-5)

3. Editing and Publishing: Uses strategies to edit and publish written work (e.g., edits for grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling at a developmentally appropriate level; uses reference materials; considers page format [paragraphs, margins, indentations, titles]; selects presentation format according to purpose; incorporates photos, illustrations, charts, and graphs; uses available technology to compose and publish work)

Level III (Grade: 6-8)

3. Editing and Publishing: Uses a variety of strategies to edit and publish written work (e.g., eliminates slang; edits for grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling at a developmentally appropriate level; proofreads using reference materials, word processor, and other resources; edits for clarity, word choice, and language usage; uses a word processor or other technology to publish written work)

Level IV (Grade: 9-12)

3. Editing and Publishing: Uses a variety of strategies to edit and publish written work (e.g., uses a checklist to guide proofreading; edits for grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling at a developmentally appropriate level; refines selected pieces to publish for general and specific audiences; uses available technology, such as publishing software or graphics programs, to publish written work)

Standard 3. Uses grammatical and mechanical conventions in written compositions

Level II (Grade: 3-5)

9. Uses conventions of spelling in written compositions (e.g., spells high frequency, commonly misspelled words from appropriate grade-level list; uses a dictionary and other resources to spell words; uses initial consonant substitution to spell related words; uses vowel combinations for correct spelling; uses contractions, compounds, roots, suffixes, prefixes, and syllable constructions to spell words)

Level III (Grade: 6-8)

8. Uses conventions of spelling in written compositions (e.g., spells high frequency, commonly misspelled words from appropriate grade-level list; uses a dictionary and other resources to spell words; uses common prefixes and suffixes as aids to spelling; applies rules for irregular structural changes)

Level IV (Grade: 9-12)

7. Uses conventions of spelling in written compositions (e.g., spells high frequency, commonly misspelled words from appropriate grade-level list; uses a dictionary and other resources to spell words)

Standard 5. Uses the general skills and strategies of the reading process

Level II (Grades 3-5)

4. Uses phonetic and structural analysis techniques, syntactic structure, and semantic context to decode unknown words (e.g., vowel patterns, complex word families, syllabication, root words, affixes)

6. Uses word reference materials (e.g., glossary, dictionary, thesaurus) to determine the meaning, pronunciation, and derivations of unknown words

Standard 8. Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes

Level II (Grades 3-5)

7. Makes basic oral presentations to class (e.g., uses subject-related information and vocabulary; includes content appropriate to the audience; relates ideas and observations; incorporates visual aids or props; incorporates several sources of information)

Level III (Grades 6-8)

1. Plays a variety of roles in group discussions (e.g., active listener, discussion leader, facilitator)

6. Makes oral presentations to the class (e.g., uses notes and outlines; uses organizational pattern that includes preview, introduction, body, transitions, conclusion; uses a clear point of view; uses evidence and arguments to support opinions; uses visual media)

Level IV (Grades 9-12)

5. Makes formal presentations to the class (e.g., includes definitions for clarity; supports main ideas using anecdotes, examples, statistics, analogies, and other evidence; uses visual aids or technology, such as transparencies, slides, electronic media; cites information sources)


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