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Parkway e-News Story

Teaching Communication Arts in 2010

In 2010-11, elementary school teachers are placing more emphasis than ever before on improving students’ abilities in reading, writing and spelling. They are using a type of instruction called word study. Following is information for parents, including resources for working with children at home.

The word study system of teaching has been included in the Parkway elementary communication arts curriculum since 2006. However, teachers now have some additional tools to bring consistency and clarity to their instruction. Since this might be new information for some parents, below are answers to some frequently asked questions.

What is word study?
Word study is a research-based, systematic method of instruction to teach children to read and write better by understanding how words work. Students are expected to memorize a core group of high frequency words, but go further by identifying patterns and combinations of letters and sounds in words. This combination enables students to become more effective at figuring out new words.

Why is word study important?
Word study helps children to become better, more confident communicators. When students learn sound and spelling patterns, they are better able to learn, read and write words in their everyday work.

How is word study taught?
Word study is taught based on where individual students stand in their own stage of development, which is directly related to what kinds of things they are reading.
Students at different stages attend to and use different features in their spelling.

In word study, teachers encourage students to compare and contrast features. One common method is having students sort words. They learn to separate examples that go together from those that don't. Through these activities, students develop a sense of patterns and rules to help in identifying and writing words they encounter.

How do we know students are becoming proficient spellers?
Some degree of spelling ability can be indicated by mastery of words in isolation--such as on a weekly quiz. However, teachers observe students often spell words correctly on a test but do not spell the same words correctly in daily work.

A better indicator is whether students can use correct spelling in their everyday work. Using word study, teachers can assess students' spelling each day through writing in all subject areas. Word study allows more individualized student learning and accountability rather than relying on a “one size fits all” approach. It is a more rigorous, comprehensive approach to teaching students how to spell and use words.

How can parents help their children be good spellers?
Parents can learn more about the value of word study, and help students practice at home. Click here for a list of suggestions for working with children at home and links to computer games.