Spelling and the Writing Portfolio
Tired of those pesky, endless spelling mistakes? Begin by celebrating writing—cuddling up with your child on the couch and happily reviewing last year’s writing . . .
Each home school year, my children engaged in weekly freewriting and some type of written narration (on either history, literature or science). Each month, we had a writing project that was taken through full editing.
Also each month, all of their writing was shared and individual pieces were selected (by my kids) to go in their writing portfolio. These selections included favorite freewrites, drawings, cartoons and fully edited projects. The history narrations went into a history portfolio, as well. Science tended to remain as separate projects.
Each fall, we began our school year by sitting in our pajamas watching the neighbors head for the bus. We were usually excited because we traditionally spent that first week doing three things:
Going on local field trips
Creating photo albums of summer memories
Reviewing our writing portfolios from the prior year
While reviewing our writing portfolios, we discussed what we liked about the prior year’s work, and what we wanted to repeat or change. Inevitably, we would come upon some wonderful piece of writing that was a favorite, albeit messy, sloppy, or poorly spelled. Inevitably, a child would frown over a piece because it wasn’t “good enough.” Of course, I would express why I liked the writing piece (content appreciation), but I would also explore why they did not like it anymore. Usually each child would express these concerns: sloppy penmanship, misspelled words, or some organizational flaw.
In these moments, I would pull out a notepad and together we would set some goals for the school year. We would make note of writing strengths to build on. Or writing ideas to explore. (My kids were always suggesting projects!) But also, we would decide on those handful of words that needed to be spelled correctly, and then we would select which word was going to be the priority spelling target for the month. Typical words might include: went, when, they, come, coming, some, because, sure, write, were, where, etc.
I would save the list (made by them and in their own handwriting!) and we would review progress and set new goals as the year progressed. What could be better than that?
Spelling confusions are difficult habits to break. Personal ownership is a difficult attitude to instill in our kids. The more we encourage our children to assess (and appreciate) their own skills, and set goals for themselves each year, the better their attitude and success, overall. Parents get to move from being a drill sergeant to becoming a coach, and maybe even a cheerleader.
If you don’t have a formal writing portfolio from last year, dig out all those papers and spend your first week creating one. You can reminisce about the things everyone learned, what they liked, and what they didn’t. Your kids will get to have a voice in their school year, and you can help them create personal achievement goals—encouraging them to think big, but create small steps they can obtain.