Spelling Strategy for Writing Workshop

I'm happy to finally link up with Jessica at  Ideas by Jivey for Workshop Wednesday to share how I've gotten Writing Workshop up and running in my classroom! Her blog makes me miss my days in upper elementary- she has so many great ideas and resources!

This year my teammates and I are using the new Lucy Calkins Units of Study for Grade 1. So far I've been really pleased with this new resource- it has been aligned to the Common Core and each grade level has its own units- no more K-2 crossover and repeated lessons from year to year! I'm excited to share how it compares to the older resource, Launching the Writing Workshop & Small Moments.

We jumped right into the first unit for 1st grade which focuses on Small Moments, Writing with Focus, Detail and Dialogue. Right off the bat, I feel like this newly revised unit of study is more streamlined than its older counterpart. You jump right into the workshop and don't spend as much time going over procedures. Although... you would probably want to take that time to do so if you teach kindergarten, or students in the previous grade were not familiar with writing workshop.

Sessions 1-3 take students right through the writing process. I felt like my class needed to slow down a bit because there was SO much in one session that I found it hard to get through. I decided to spend two days per session using some of the suggested "Mid-Workshop Teaching" points as a sort of extended mini-lesson from the prior day in hopes that my students wouldn't feel rushed through each min-lesson focus.

I LOVE the anchor chart Lucy shares in the book. I think it's a great visual for kids to see the basic steps in the writing process, and it reinforces that it is a process, a cycle that continues. You know the phrase, "When you're done, you've only just begun!" Here's a photo of mine with a couple personal tweaks:

Session 4 focuses on spelling, Stretching Words to Spell Them. I adapted the lesson a little bit to include the important step of "feeling the letters." When teaching letters and sounds, or graphemes and phonemes, I have found it very helpful to prompt kids to think about the point of articulation (although I don't use that technical word with them) for that sound. To keep it simple I just ask them to feel where the sound is coming from, and what do they feel their mouths (lips, tongue, even vocal cords) doing.

Only after that, do I prompt them to focus on listening to the sound. Since letters are actually more flexible in their functions than most people think, they (both consonants AND vowels) can represent multiple sounds. I try to keep from teaching a 1:1 letter-sound correspondence to kids as it can be confusing and misleading.

For example, in the Small Moments book, it states that the <u> in <push> is like the <u> in <umbrella>, prompting kids to hear a short /u/, but it's not a short /u/. If you say the word <push> out loud (how you would normally pronounce it when you are talking) you'll notice that it's not a short /u/. The <u> in <push> represents /oo/ like in the word book. (Sorry I don't have the symbol above the double o to show that sound!) Trying to force-fit phonemes can lead to frustration!

So, I teach a strategy that students can use when they get stuck on a tricky part within a word; I explain that if they are unsure about a letter/sound that they can write a "place holder line" to show that they know there is a letter there, but they just haven't learned it yet. I also explain that spelling IS important, however, their first priority as an author is to share their ideas in a meaningful way, and if they spend all of their time struggling with spelling one word, then they will probably forget the important ideas they were trying to share in the first place! I reassure them that they will learn the correct spellings for words over time (we just started the school year, right?), and when we go back and edit their piece (in 1st grade, we pick a select few during each unit to publish- I don't make my children edit every piece). Generally, most children find this strategy to be helpful, and it really helps some less confident writers get over their fears.

All in all, I am really enjoying teaching the lessons from the new Units of Study for Grade 1, and am already looking forward to our first publishing party... but we've got a little ways to go!

How are your workshops going? Don't forget to check out the Workshop Wednesday linky for other great tips!

Thank for stopping by!
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  1. You are so right about the spelling dilemma. My 4th graders get so hung up on spelling, too, and I refuse to spell a word for them (because then I'd spend my whole writing time spelling things for them!!)- other than telling them to get a dictionary, I tell them to sound it out the best they can because, like you said, just getting the story out is most important to me!! Thanks for linking up!

  2. Thanks for posting about this. I work in a TC affiliate school, and I've been using the 5th grade narrative writing resource for my minilessonsthis fall, though not necessarily in the same order the book lays out. I love that they have gone from a 3rd-5th grade resource to thinking about the vertical progression grade by grade.
    The Wild Rumpus 

  3. You have some great info here. I have Lucy's units. And you've inspired me to go through them again.

    Grade ONEderful
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