By Louisa Moats, Ed.D.
My colleague, Dr. Bruce Rosow, and I have revised, updated, and republished our word study program for intermediate students. Teachers and kids will love this new and improved version of the original. It’s fun because it challenges kids to think about words, learn where they came from, and understand how they’re put together. We make sense of English spelling by exploring the “layer cake” of language our writing system represents – its sounds, sound-symbol correspondences, letter patterns, syllable patterns, principles for adding suffixes, morpheme structures, and history.
We’ve discarded traditional rote memorization of spelling lists. Rather, on the principle that we all remember best what we understand, we emphasize analysis of words, drawing on the idea of the language layer cake. We teach explicitly; the teacher explains each concept with the help of our main characters. Our lead narrator is an Asian Indian spelling whizz (Hari) who is trying to help his younger sister (Tara) grasp the ideas about language structure. These characters, with their dog Yogi, provide gentle humor all throughout our spelling journey.
Using Spellography, the teacher leads the students through varied exercises designed to hold their attention: simple and complex phoneme awareness tasks; phoneme-grapheme matching; word sorting; word dissection; word building; sentence completion; word list speed reads; proofreading and editing; sentence formulation and writing to dictation. Students get immediate feedback and correct their own errors, so they practice writing the words correctly.
A 5th grade class once wrote this to me: “Dr. Moats, we are now better spellers because you wrote Spellography; thank you. Your sense of humor is OUTRAGEOUS! Sometimes reading the speed read made us say funny and ridiculous words. Many of the spelling words were fun to learn, not boring like our usual spelling list. The pictures were very entertaining, and we enjoyed looking at them.”
Spellography is what so many teachers have been seeking for their intermediate students: an engaging word study program that complements typical reading and language arts programs and that promotes genuine interest in how words work. As a bonus, the insights that our structured literacy approach gives to students will carry over not just to better spelling, but to better reading and better vocabulary.
Teachers who have participated in my LETRS Professional Development or who have studied my textbook, Speech to Print, will be well prepared to teach the concepts in Spellography. Others will look forward to learning right along with their students how interesting our English language can be – and that it is NOT crazy!
Finally, I am thrilled to join the Tools4Reading team, with my colleagues Mary Dahlgren, Judi Dodson, and Antonio Fierro – professionals in the forefront of the innovation of science-aligned instructional materials. We all look forward to working together and to supporting educators across the country.
Here are some facts about Spellography: A Fun Guide to Better Spelling:
Word study for 4th and 5th grade weak spellers
4th Grade Books A and B
5th Grade Books C and D (in development)
Each book = 6 units
Each unit = 6 lessons
Each lesson = 2 weeks, 3 times per week, 30-40 minutes per lesson
Reviews for each lesson and each unit are included