Saturday, June 14, 2014

Get the Most Out of Your Spelling Tests

I love so many things about teaching… but I’ll be honest. Grading isn’t my favorite! I am constantly looking for ways to give and grade assignments more efficiently. Not only does it mean I spend less time grading, but I’m copying less papers and my students are doing less worksheets! Win-Win! : )

Making the Most of Your Spelling Tests

While I was student teaching, my cooperating teacher took two grades on her spelling test- spelling and handwriting. Simple, right? Students write the words once, but you take a grade twice. It was a genius idea- and one I still use, especially because I hate having my students spend very much time writing random words!


On my spelling test form, I simply put spaces for the two grades in the corner of the page, and then used a double-sided marker so I could grade spelling in one color and handwriting in another. This was really helpful for students and parents to see where each grade came from (although I did explain it at Open House!)


Towards the end of the year, I started using my spelling test as a sort of “exit ticket” as well. I asked the students a question- usually something simple like, “What did you learn this week?” but sometimes more specific, like “What are the three branches of government?” The students were encouraged to look at our anchor charts around the room for assistance if they needed it.

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Sometimes, I would even use the bonus space on the page to gauge my students’ interests or feelings, such as, “What are you proud of yourself for doing this week?” or “Tell me how you think you’re doing with regrouping.”

IMG_8899  IMG_8904

Finally, one of my colleagues shared the most amazing idea with me. Her spelling words were based on a phonics skill (which makes the most sense, I think!) and her students would read and write words with that phonics pattern all week. On Fridays, they would be tested on some words from the Spelling List… and a few words that were not on the list, but followed the same pattern. With these “Mystery Words,” she was able to assess not only whether they had memorized those words, but also whether the students were truly able to apply the phonics pattern in their spelling. THAT is a much more useful assessment, especially when you consider the disparity between the studying support some students receive at home and the complete lack of support others have after school.

Individually, none of these ideas might be groundbreaking… but together, they make my spelling test so much more than a spelling test! I know SO much more about my students after they take it- and isn’t that what assessment should do?

Thanks for reading!


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  1. I have always aligned my list to a phonics skill and "added" a few extra to check if they had truly learned the skill but I love the idea of assessing handwriting too. I tell them if I can't read it it's wrong but this way it will really make them focus on letter formation as well. Thanks for the great idea!

    1. I can't believe I'd never thought of that idea before. It really is great! Thank you so much for reading! :)


  2. Thanks for sharing these ideas. They are great. Giving a great for learning spelling words AND handwriting is a great idea. The mystery words are a great idea as well. I will be using all these ideas. Thanks again.

  3. How do you grade the printing? Do you have a specific rubric? What dictates a 5 versus a 12? Is there specific criteria you use?
    I love the way you incorporate both a spelling and handwriting grade.


  4. Wow, this really is getting the most out of a spelling test! I love this idea!

  5. Oh, what a great idea to add one more grade to the mix! :) Thanks!