Spelling Tests:
Experience Testing Success
Week After Week!

Wondering what a page about spelling tests is doing on a website about homework? Studying for weekly spelling tests is a huge part of our children's homework -especially during the elementary school years.

Can you relate to this
typical week of spelling homework?

Monday at School: Receive week's spelling words.

Monday's Homework: Copy each word three times (yes, even the ones you already know how to spell). Use each spelling word in a sentence (yes, even the ones you don't know the meaning of).

Tuesday's Homework: Complete a spelling worksheet (or three).

Wednesday's Homework: Read this week's story. When you come across a spelling word in the story, note the page number and copy the sentence in which it is used.

Thursday's Homework: Ask a family member to give you a practice spelling test.

Friday Morning:Review spelling words at breakfast.

Friday at School: Take spelling test.

Friday at Recess: Despite knowing every single word a few hours ago, you missed five. Stay in at recess and write each word three times.

Obviously, I think a lot of spelling homework is silly. Why ask kids to write and re-write words they already know how to spell? Kids hate busy work as much as adults!

I also think that it is useless to ask a student to use a word in a sentence when they don't know what it means! Oh, the rivers of tears that have been shed by students unable to think of a sentence for a word they don't understand! And, parents- tired of the tears, wanting to see homework finished- end up giving their kids a sentence, anyway. What a waste of time!

Actually, I LOVE spelling! Some people feel that with the advent of spellcheck and IM (instant messaging), it is no longer important to be able to spell.

I strongly disagree.

Why Spelling Is Still Important

First of all, most school work is done with old-fashioned pencil and paper. Please don't get me started about the ice-cold computers sitting in classrooms. 30 students sharing 5 computers; you do the math.

Secondly, students must write essays on college-admission standardized tests such as the SAT. We have even reached the point where elementary students are being asked to writing long and short essays on standardized tests.

Finally, it is an unfortunate-but-true fact of life that good spellers are considered smarter than poor spellers. I know plenty of smart people that aren't great spellers, so I know spelling does not equal smarts, but that is the common perception. Even teachers believe it- and they are the ones giving out grades!

We all must be able to clearly express ourselves without the benefit of a computer program. Who is going to drag a dictionary around with them at all times? Being a good speller is a useful skill.

How to Become A Good Speller

The best way to become a good speller is by doing lots and lots of reading. And, the best way to learn this week's spelling word is to study them in context of the book or story the class is reading.

For example, if the class is reading Worth by A. LaFaye, they will come across this sentence:

He winced and even yowled once, but John let me clean him up because he had his mind on better things.

on page 103. The class could spend a few incredibly useful minutes discussing the words 'wince' and 'yowl'- their definitions, how to spell them, using the words in the past/present/ future tenses, why the author chose those words instead of 'grimaced' or 'hollered.' The teacher might write 'wince' and 'yowl' on the board, refer to them a couple of times during the week, ask the students to try to use them in their own writing...

Believe me, those kids will know the definitions and spelling of both 'wince' and 'yowl' on Friday's test and even after the test- imagine that!

They will understand the words when they read them in other books; they will use them in their own writing; they will know them on this spring's standardized tests.

The Best Games for Spelling Mastery

Playing the following games with your kids is not only a lot of fun, your child become a better speller: Scrabble One of my all-time favorite games of any kind! As a child, I loved playing this game with my parents and watching my parents play with each other. As an adult, I play with my own kids and husband.

Boggle There are loads of online spelling games, of course. But, sometimes it's nice to sit around the table or on the floor and have some family interaction. The fact that they are becoming better spellers is a BONUS!

Hangman - Kids adore this game, and you can play it anywhere! All you need is a piece of paper and a pencil. Parents, sometimes it's your turn to guess!

How Parents Can Help with Spelling Tests

You know that the more children read, the better they will spell, but what about Friday's test?

  • Give your child the practice test on Monday.
  • Now you both know which words she needs to study. Why spend time studying words you already know? Tell your child's teacher that you are trying a new way to study for spelling tests- is it really necessary to complete the homework assignment where students must write every words over and over again? If the teacher agrees- great, forget about that assignment. If the teacher does not agree- well, you have to decide which battles to fight.

  • Make two sets of flash cards on 3 X 5 cards.
  • Post words around the house where your child will see them often (i.e. on the microwave). Play Memory. (Check out my article on flash cards for more ideas.)

  • Use the words in conversation throughout the week.
  • Be silly, have fun. ("This dinner makes me wince!") When anyone does manage to use a spelling word, your child must spell it. By the end of the week, your child will easily be able to use the words in a sentence.

  • Give your child a quick practice test the night before- or morning of- the spelling test.
  • Do NOT make a big deal about this. In fact, if your child feels confident about the test, you can completely skip this step. If your child sees that you are relaxed, she will be, too.

  • Applaud any improvement!
  • If she misses a word you KNOW she knew, you can say, "I know you are frustrated that you missed that word because I saw and heard you spell it! Don't worry- you're getting better every day at taking tests!"

    Want some homework peace?

    How to Study for Spelling Tests & More

    How to Deal with Test Anxiety!

    How to Get Your Kids to Turn In Their Homework

Reading Together:
How to Find & Share Books with Your Child
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