Spelling centers can be an easy, low-cost way for teachers to support students’ development of spelling strategies. They provide opportunities for children to spell by hearing sounds and assigning letters, by noticing and using patterns, and by seeing words in their heads.
In this post, we explore some great ideas from Stenhouse author, Mark Weakland's, Super Speller Starter Sets about how you can make spelling centers work in your classroom and how they can help your young readers and writers spell successfully.
Why Spelling Centers?
Spelling centers support strategies. Effectively designed spelling centers or workstations provide opportunities for students to use their spelling strategies, make connections to reading and writing, strengthen their orthographic processing systems, and practice their independent work habits. “In other words, a well-designed spelling center is a win-win-win-win,” (Weakland 2019).
Keep the Design Simple
Weakland’s philosophy regarding spelling centers is to keep it simple. “In the classroom, I don’t want to deal with complex centers that demand lots of attention. Nor do I want to replace old centers with new ones on a biweekly basis,” (Weakland 2019). With that in mind, each spelling center has one basic design regardless of the grade level it is used in and the content that appears in it. The teacher’s role is to rotate new content into a center at the appropriate times, regularly refresh the supplies of some basic materials, and collect and briefly scan some of the student work that is generated. The centers are fun as well as effective and are mostly low-tech!
When Do Spelling Centers Take Place?
During spelling center time, students can work independently or with a buddy at their desks or in a word study area. Center time can also be whole-group time in which each student picks (or is assigned) a center and uses it for ten to fifteen minutes, or during independent work time while you are instructing a small group in guided reading, guided writing, or a reading intervention program.
Stay on Task
As with all centers, you’ll need to explicitly and directly teach your students the purpose, routines, and expectations. Weakland suggests that you give your students guided practice time. If you do this in a whole-group setting, you can monitor the group to make sure everyone is learning the routines correctly. Weakland also suggests introducing one center at a time, which will give students multiple opportunities to practice each one to the point of mastery helping to promote on-task behavior. “Kids being kids, many have a tendency to veer off task. Thus, it’s a good idea to have some accountability options at your disposal,” (Weakland 2019).
Each Center Supports Each Student
Varying the content of the spelling centers will allow you to differentiate them to fit the needs of particular groups. In other words, multiple groups of students with various achievement levels can use the same center with individualized, differentiated lists, which nurtures a sense of community in the classroom.
To learn about the different kinds of spelling centers you can create in your classroom, pick up a copy of Weakland’s Super Speller Starter Sets.
Weakland, Mark. 2019. Super Speller Starter Sets. Portsmouth, NH: Stenhouse Publishers.