6 Options for Providing Context During Spelling Dictation

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6 OptionsYou’re teaching a new spelling word, using full spelling dictation. You present the new word, but now you need to provide context for that word so the student knows what it means.Sometimes he needs help differentiating between this word and another one that sounds like it (e.g. meat vs. meet). Following are six options for providing some variety in your spelling dictation to increase student engagement and to make your lessons more fun.

1. Use the sentences in the Wise Guide.
According to Wanda Sanseri, “The Wise Guide provides sample sentences to stimulate the mind and model excellent writing. Many selections are quotes from famous people, well-known proverbs, and excerpts from world literature.”
List L-3 example: “No one graduates from Bible study until he can meet the Author face to face” — E. Harris.

2. Make up your own simple sentences.
The sample sentences in The Wise Guide are powerful and often provide for some lively conversation. This is especially helpful when you’re teaching older students and need higher level material that challenges their minds and vocabulary and that does not talk down to them. However, these sentences can be so good, they distract attention away from the spelling lesson. Select a couple sample sentences to use but then make up your own simple sentences that provide everyday context for the rest of the words.
Example from List N-1: “I will try my best at everything I do.”

3. Have students make up sentences.
Once the students have become accustomed to your spelling routine, liven up your lesson by having the students offer their own sentences. They can take turns, or you can call on several students to each offer a sentence for the new word. This is especially helpful when working with English as a Second Language students who need more oral language practice. It also helps you assess your students’ understanding of the vocabulary and word usage.
Example from List J-6: “On my farm we raise chickens, cows, and pigs.”

4. Pick a special word to use in each sentence.
Children love taking turns giving you a “word of the day” to use in your sample sentences. Some sentences can get quite creative in the effort. With the word submarine, we might come up with the following sentences for List L-3.
“I will meet other sailors on a submarine.”
“I do not need a hiking shoe on a submarine.”
“The submarine went through a pocket of icy water.

5. Pick a Theme.
Similar to the previous idea, selecting a theme for all your sentences can be fun. Have your students take turns offering a book or movie title. You then incorporate the next word into a sentence describing a scene or a character from the book or movie they suggested.
Example from List P-4, using the book Carry On, Mr. Bowditch: “Nathaniel was curious about surveying, navigation, and astronomy.”

6. Make up a story.
This idea takes a bit of spontaneous creativity but is a lot of fun and helps your students wait expectantly for the next spelling word. Look at your list for the day and get an idea for a story. As you move through your list, each word provides the next piece of the story. Your tale doesn’t have to be extravagant or even have a great plot; it can simply be fun and keep the kids guessing what will happen next. Here’s part of one I recently told for the second half of List Q-2.

“It was a dark and stormy night, and the wind was howling. A branch scraped against the window. The primary noise that could be heard was the wind and the leaves blowing around the yard. Suddenly, a whistle from the factory down the road tooted, announcing there was a problem. A murder had occurred! The police arrived to investigate. They interviewed a gentleman, who said he knew something about the murder. He reported having been talking to himself when it occurred. He had heard a strange noise that sounded like a calf crying for its mother. Since he was in command of the night watch, he went looking. He only found a beggar at the back door asking for some food. After giving the man his sandwich, he told him he had to leave the property before the boss came back in the morning.”

Try one of these ideas this week and let me know how it went.

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