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SWR Spelling Rules – Part Two

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Did you miss Part 1 in the SWR Spelling Rules series? Read it now.

Let’s continue by discussing the learning process for the SWR Spelling Rules. Some teachers make the mistake of handing the student the list of the rules, having him memorize them, and then calling the learning process “done.” This is not how true learning takes place, and it certainly won’t translate into proper usage of the rules during the writing process.
 
“Knowing” the rules is a process of learning.

  • There are different meanings to “know the rules.” Initially the student is asked to merely recite the rule. Next, he learns to use our special marking system to identify the rule in a word, thus building the connection between the rule and the word’s spelling. Your ultimate goal is for him to be able to instinctively use the rule when writing a word in the flow of putting thoughts on paper. All of these require increasingly deeper “knowledge” of a rule. For both the teacher and the student, this is a process of moving from rote knowledge (repeating and reciting a rule) to automaticity during while writing. It takes a lot of work with the SWR process and moving through the Wise List to get to the automatic level.
  • When you have introduced a rule one or two times, don’t expect your student to be able to say them back to you, how to mark them, or even how to apply them. He needs lots of practice and exposure to the rules before he can do this for himself. You’re his guide, slowly releasing more and more of the dialogue to him as he gains autonomy in the process. See our blog post on Scaffolding with SWR for more on this topic.

The order for learning the rules varies.

  • Neither the teacher nor the student need to know all the rules before starting. Just to ease your mind, it’s very likely you already know five of them if you have any handle on how English works.
  • As you progress through the Wise List, you and your student will learn the rules as they are needed for new vocabulary. The order in which these rules come up will completely depend on where you’re starting in the Wise List. The handout on our site called “An SWR Road Map” helps explain how this works.

Many of the rules are first learned by teaching a Reference Page.

  • The SWR book gives you instructions for how to introduce the rules to a Beginning student and then adds information for teaching an Advanced student.
  • Some of the Reference Pages introduce several rules all at once. For example, the student is exposed to eight different rules when you teach the Consonant/Vowel Page.
  • It’s important for you to have worked your way through the instructions and have built the Reference Page in your own Master Teacher’s Log so that you’re better equipped to teach these. How are you doing on building your Master Teacher’s Log? See Tip #7 on our Getting Started Series for more on building your own log.

The pages with multiple ideas on them are also what we call “Fixed” Reference Pages.

  • These are called “fixed” in that you teach the page and other than referring back to it during the year for review, you will not add anything to them. The “fixed pages” include the Consonant/Vowel, Silent Final E, and AEIOU Pages. Wanda Sanseri, the author of SWR, has even provided dialogue for your teaching on these pages. These are key concepts so you want to learn them well yourself.
  • You need to allow for more time to teach the “Fixed” Reference Pages, but remember that your initial goal when teaching these pages is EXPOSURE, not that the student will have mastered the material by the time you’re done. Mastery comes by experiencing the rules as work over and over and over again as you work your way through the Wise List.

Most of the Reference Pages are what we call “Collections” Reference Pages.

  • The first lesson for introducing a Collections Reference Page is typically simple and short. The E’s Dropping or Y’s Exchanging Pages are examples of Collections Pages.
  • As you continue to work through the Wise lists, you “collect” words to add to the reference page in order to practice the rules. You’ll come back to these page over and over, as directed by the Wise Guide, to reinforce the rule. This allows the student to gain understanding of the rules. Don’t you find there are lessons in life that you need to return to often before it finally “sticks?” The same holds true with the phonograms and spelling rules. Repeated exposure as you move up in vocabulary solidifies these concepts.

Sometimes a rule is merely introduced in the context of a new spelling list rather than with a Reference Page.

  • For example, Rule 17 (the FF, LL, SS rule) is introduced to a Beginning student when you teach the word “all” in List A.
  • You simply introduce the rule when you’re analyzing it together and then move on to the next word. You’ll continue to reinforce it verbally and with the rule cards whenever it comes up.

You want to learn the rules word-perfect, you and the student.

  • Learning the rules word-perfect helps the brain retain them better and helps your student quickly retrieve the information from his memory when needed. Let’s say you’ve asked him to explain a marking. Having it word-perfect in his memory helps him access that information quickly when you give him a prompt. For example, you say, “AEOU usually…” and he finishes with “…say AEOU at the end of a syllable!” [R4]
  • Learning the rules word-perfect also helps you and/or your student NOT “rewrite” the rules. If you ask him to “explain” the rule in his own words, it is highly likely he’ll change the meaning of the rule. The wording of the rules is very precise. You do not want to change them to mean something they don’t. Learn them they way they’re written so you’ll be able to use them more accurately.
  • Learning the rules word-perfect also helps a group or a class stay together when practicing them. It’s very difficult to hear whether they’ve “got it” when they’re all saying it differently.

You can read Part Three here.

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