Teaching Tips » Teacher FAQs

When you have purchased a Sourcebook and are ready to begin instruction, you may find these answers to common questions helpful.

1. How can I learn more about how to use the Sourcebook?
2. How do I decide what sections to address within a unit?
3. How do I determine a spelling grade?
4. How long does a unit take to complete?
5. How do I use the Core Words and the Priority Words?
6. How can I challenge my more capable spellers?
7. How can I modify the Cloze Story Word Test for my struggling spellers?
8. How can I learn more about Sitton Spelling and Word Skills®?
9. Can I talk to other educators who are using Sitton Spelling and Word Skills®?

 

1. How can I learn more about how to use the Sourcebook?
The Teaching Notes, located in the back of each Sourcebook after the last unit, give detailed instructions on how to implement each activity and include ideas for adapting instruction. It would be extremely helpful to read through the Teaching Notes before starting your first unit.

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2. How do I decide what sections to address within a unit?
Consider the needs of your students and use the Sourcebook to select the instruction that best suits their abilities. You decide how long it takes to move through a unit, which skills and concepts to address in certain units, and which follow up-activities are appropriate for your students. A suggestion for users new to the program is to first become comfortable with the basic parts of a unit, and then move on to incorporate the extension activities that can help to address varying student needs.

The Unit Map shows which sections are part of the core curriculum and which are optional extension activities: Sitton Spelling and Word Skills® Unit Map (PDF)

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3. How do I determine a spelling grade?
A spelling grade should be a result of the evaluation model that you feel best works for your classroom. Rather than just an average of spelling test grades, it should be made up of several different grades, from the various sections of the Sourcebook, which may be weighted differently. Remember that the focus now is not on a grade from a Friday spelling test, but on how well students’ apply spelling in their writing and on their long term learning of spelling words, skills and concepts.

See an example of a grading system: Spelling Grading Options Chart (PDF)

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4. How long does a unit take to complete?
A unit can take between 5 to 10 days to complete, but the decision is up to the teacher. Considering the needs of her class and the guidelines of the curriculum, the teacher decides which skills, concepts, and activities to address and thus determines how long each unit will take. Each Sourcebook is meant to cover one grade for one year, but sometimes the Sourcebook may not be covered in its entirety. There is no need to finish the Sourcebook before moving on to the next level at the start of a new school year, as the words, skills, and concepts taught are recycled in subsequent levels of the Sourcebook.

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5. How do I use the Core Words and the Priority Words?
Core Words are not the spelling words for the unit, as students are not assigned a weekly list of words in this program. Core Words are the twelve hundred high-frequency writing words introduced in order of frequency of use. They were compiled from various high-frequency word lists and are divided by grade levels 1–8. Though the Word Test draws from the bank of Core Words to assess spelling mastery, the Core Words are used in many other ways throughout the unit.

  • Core Words are used in the Word Preview to teach students to visualize known words and to check their ability to copy and proofread them.
  • Core Words are used in the Seeds for Sowing Skills section as a springboard to grow essential skills and concepts. The activities that grow from a single Core Word generate many more words, so that students have word experiences that lead to new understandings about their language. For example, the Core Word it's (#253) can be the starting point for a lesson about contractions, generating a much larger list of words using the contractions for have, not, will/shall, would/had, is/has, and are.
  • Core Words are also the high-frequency words that make up the bank of words from which students are tested for spelling mastery. The Core Words used in the Word Test and Sentence Dictation Test can include any previously occurring Core Word.
  • Priority Words are the words assigned to students that they are accountable for spelling correctly 100% of the time. Priority Words come from the Core Words list, being those high-use words that are also commonly misspelled, but a teacher can assign additional words as well. Using a reference (their Priority Word lists or Spell Check® Cards), students proofread their Priority Words in their daily writing, and learn that this is where spelling counts the most.
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6. How can I challenge my more capable spellers?
A student can be considered a capable speller if he or she almost always achieves 100% on the Cloze Story Word Test and the Sentence Dictation Test. What’s most important to remember is that it is your expectations that can provide the best challenge for students. The Teaching Notes contain a section called Challenging the Capable Speller, and this is a good place to start looking for challenge opportunities.

Spelling comes easy for these learners, so it is rarely effective to challenge them with “harder” words. Instead, you can look to extend their instruction with activities that guide them to strategize, analyze, hypothesize, summarize and extend their exposure to words and how they work. The Sourcebooks are full of these kinds of activities. Below are just some of the activities that can challenge students throughout a unit:

  • Exercise Express Activities. Examples include:
    • Stretch It: Calls for students to take a bare bones sentence and embellish it to make it more informative and interesting. With this activity, students can answer simple “wh” questions (what, where) to extend the sentence, or go far beyond to create an elaborate, descriptive sentence.
    • Sort It: Students are asked to compare and contrast words by their patterns and characteristics. The teacher can challenge students to find the commonality themselves, or have them sort the words in more than one way.
  • Assorted activities (numbered apples) within Seeds for Sowing Skills section
  • After the Cloze Story Word Test
  • Cloze Story Skill-Building Extensions
  • Sentence Dictation Test
  • After the Sentence Dictation Test
  • Games and Productive Practice Ideas (found after the Achievement Tests in the back of the Sourcebook)
  • Class Book Projects (found after the Achievement Tests in the back of the Sourcebook)—can be assigned to one or a group of students
In addition, you can supply them with words to add to their More Words for Super Spellers lists, and give them additional Priority Words to be responsible for in their everyday writing.
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7. How can I modify the Cloze Story Word Test for my struggling spellers?
Keep in mind that the real purpose for the Cloze Story Word Test is to provide you, your students, and their parents with information regarding which words still need to be mastered to make writing easier, more fluent, and to reflect a look of literacy. The Cloze Story Word Tests are achieving this, in a manner that truly differentiates their Spelling Words, targeting each student’s study to the words that need to be learned. And because of the systematic recycling of words, students now have more than one chance to learn a word. This is substantial progress from the old word list spelling when words were tested and graded once.

While grading is a reality and provides feedback regarding achievement, if your current system is causing some students to diminish in achievement, you may want to consider modifying the Cloze Story Word Test for these students. See the section in the Teaching Notes called Students with Spelling Challenges for a number of ideas. One common suggestion for modifying the test is to fill in the less frequently used words (higher numbered words in the sidenotes) so that students can focus on spelling the most frequently used words in writing.

This adjustment will result in fewer Spelling Words. As a result, they have fewer words to fix on their Cloze Story Word Test and fewer words to record on their Words to Learn sheet and in their Spelling Notebooks. Then they have fewer words to study and their chance of learning their words is greater.

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8. How can I learn more about Sitton Spelling and Word Skills®?
There are several training options available to learn more about the Sitton Spelling and Word Skills® methodology.

  • Professional Development
    • Open Enrollment Seminars
    • On-Site Seminar for your school or district
    Visit eps.schoolspecailty.com/pd to learn more about these Professional Development opportunities.
  • Your Local Sales Consultant
    Visit eps.schoolspecialty.com/sales to locate and contact your Sales Consultant
  • Tutor Me Training® CD-ROM
    Learn to use the Sitton Spelling program either on your own or in a small group. Each grade-level module includes an Overview DVD of the series and grade-specific training on CD-ROM to equip you to begin the program tomorrow. Invite parents to discover how their child will be learning to spell with the Parent Introduction module (sold separately).
  • E-mail any questions to our Sitton Specialist at SittonSpelling@schoolspecialty.com.
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9. Can I talk to other educators who are using Sitton Spelling and Word Skills®?
You can speak to someone from our Network of Educators, a list of teachers and administrators currently using Sitton Spelling and Word Skills® available via phone or e-mail to give an educator’s perspective. Visit eps.schoolspecialty.com/network to view the current list of educators and their contact information.
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