Ch.ch.ch.ch.changes. . . And, somehow, spelling instruction
Ok, click on it. It's funny, if admittedly not even remotely related to this post. I'm still working on the whole incorporating images thing.
So, I received a reply email from the curriculum director today. This person informed me that the l.a. curriculum is changing and is up for approval by the board in the middle of the month.
The director said that the new curriculum is based around skills and genre, and that teachers have flexibility in materials used. This sounds like a positive change to me, as writing in genres is of course important to WW. And, of course, reading via genre study is a great way to show students what it means to be a reader in the world. It can transcend "school reading," I believe. I guess only time will tell!
This person also assured me that I could use the word study approach to spelling that I had hoped to utilize this year--an approach I gleaned from one of the schools where I was an intern--in which students study roots each week, and a set of corresponding words (i.e. rupt and rupture or lum and illuminate). I believe in this approach for a few reasons. Most importantly, I do think it activates a schema students already have. No matter what the word set, students will at least have knowledge of a word or two with the root, even if they don't know how to spell it. This gives them some confidence, and the root provides at least some predictability in spelling. The process of the word study actually begins with having students generate as many words at they can that they already know from the root--activating prior knowledge from the get-go. Then, the teacher supplies the ones students missed from the set.
Further, with this approach, there is transfer across disciplines. I would hear students saying things like "I remember this from science class!" Any time there is connection to another discipline, the learning of that concept or word will of course be strengthened--the applicability of the knowledge becomes apparent to students. They understand a little better the answer to the ubiquitous question, "Why do we need to know this?"
I believe in the root approach, in a secondary way (and I say secondarily because this cannot ever be a primary reason for instruction, in my opinion), because it does strengthen students' abilities to make more educated guesses at words they may not already know--something that is of importance when tests like the PSAT and the SAT come along. They may not remember what rupture means, but they may remember that rupt means to break (ok, an admittedly simple example, but you catch my drift).
Ideally, I would like to eventually switch to a personal word study via Atwell (get right out of town--me? doing something Atwell suggests?), where students are choosing their own 5 words each week. Buuut, alas, I am a new teacher and I do foresee questions of accountability at this juncture. I'm not one to play it safe--ask permission, not forgiveness--but here I do believe I need to start with a system that is a little more of a whole-class structure and which provides more observable assessments.
Just kind of venting here, don't mind me. Feel free to discuss your opinions on spelling instruction, curriculum reform, or any other hodgepodge issue I've crammed into this post!