TOP TEN TIPS for getting started with SWR

9. Get started teaching SWR, not just reading about it.

All too often we hear about teachers who have been faithfully reading and studying, but their fear of mistakes or their perfectionism keeps them from jumping in. Be prepared to learn along with your students and to make a few mistakes along the way. SWR is very forgiving! You cannot bless your children if you don’t start.

Starting with a K-1 Student

Download and read our handout Developmental Considerations to determine if your youngster is ready to start SWR, or whether you need to do some more reading readiness with him. When he is demonstrating readiness and interest, work your way step by step through the Scope & Sequence Steps #1-11. To view the one-page Scope & Sequence, see the inside front cover of your SWR book and/or page 12.

  • Step #1 – For the teacher
  • Step #2 – An important place to spend time with a beginner. See our SWR and Preschoolers video for tips about teaching a young student, especially video #2 in this series.
  • Step #3 – An on-going step; start to read aloud regularly if you haven’t already.
  • Step #4 – Skip this for a K-1 student. The Wise Guide will remind you to do it after you’ve taught 140 spelling words.
  • Steps #5 & #6 – These steps go together when teaching a beginner the phonograms and penmanship; start Cursive First here if you’re using it. See our SWR Phonograms and Teaching Penmanship videos.
  • Step #7 – Being able to write the first few numerals is necessary for our marking system; Cursive First includes tips and helps.
  • Step #8 – This is a quick step when using the Primary Learning Log.
  • Step #9 – This may be taught in two lessons to a young student. If the student’s penmanship is not ready for this page, teach this on the board with the student dialoguing with you rather than having him write in his book. Come back later and re-teach this with the student now entering it in his log. NEVER write this for the student in his log. Do you have an SWR book that was printed before 2016? Look at your copyright page. If you don’t see “printed 2016,” you’ll want to download a revised copy of pp. 48-58 for Step #9.
  • Step #10 – You’re about to transition to The Wise Guide. See the bottom of SWR p. 59 and the top of The Wise Guide p. 2 for a list of the first five multi-letter phonograms that you’ll introduce to your student. Use Cursive First for penmanship practice as you teach the multi-letter phonograms.
  • Step #11 – Skip this step for a K-1 student; he will start at Wise List A.
  • Step #12 – Start spelling with Wise List A in The Wise Guide.
  • Continue – Follow the instructions in The Wise Guide for the rest of your teaching; it will refer you back to SWR when necessary and guide you through the rest of the steps.

Teacher Sitting with student

Starting with a Student 2nd grade or above (Advanced)

Work your way through Steps #1-11 every year with your student.Spell to Write and Read text

  • Step #1 – For the teacher
  • Step #2 – Don’t skip this step if you’re new to SWR. Some remedial reading students need the skills covered right here. See video #2 about Phonemic Awareness in our SWR and Preschoolers series.
  • Step #3 – An on-going step; start to read aloud regularly if you haven’t already.
  • Step #4 – Read carefully and complete the appropriate assessments (see Tip 5). The results of this test will work together with Step #11. See our SWR Diagnostic Spelling Test videos.70 Basic Phonogram Cards
  • Step #5 – Introduce the A-Z phonograms quickly. Mastery will come with review. See our SWR Phonograms videos.
  • Step #6 – If the student needs to work on penmanship, this will be handled as a separate subject. Cursive First can help you transition a student to cursive.
  • Step #7 – Work on numeral writing, only if necessary for this student.
  • Step #8 – This step can be done in less than 5 minutes if you’re using the new formatted Black Learning Log! If so, only complete items a. and e. on p. 46. Everything else has already been done for you.Black Learning Log
  • Step #9 – Teach this page to the student, understanding that the material covered is an introduction to ideas and concepts that will be mastered as you work your way through the Wise List. Do you have an SWR book that was printed before 2016? Look at your copyright page. If you don’t see “printed 2016,” you’ll want to download a revised copy of pp. 48-58 for Step #9.
  • Step #10 – Review all the multi-letter phonograms to find out which ones your student knows and which will need more work. Add them all to the Reference Page. Use Cursive First for penmanship practice as you teach the multi-letter phonograms. Mastery will come with daily review.
  • Step #11 – Work with the information you gathered at Step #4 to determine your starting place in the Wise List. See SWR pp. 63-65. Video #4 in the SWR Diagnostic Spelling Test video series is especially helpful for this step.
  • Before starting Step #12 – Look at the preliminaries for the Wise List where you have determined to start your student. Are there any other Reference Pages you need to introduce before you can start this list? Do those first. Videos 3 and 4 in our Sorting Out the Two Levels video series will explain this to you.
  • Step #12 – Start teaching spelling in The Wise Guide at your starting point.
  • Continue – Follow the instructions in The Wise Guide for the rest of your teaching. It will refer you back to SWR when necessary and guide you through the rest of the steps.


Words of Encouragement as You Start

I’ve heard it said that “The hardest part of any job is getting started.” Once you’ve begun, things do get easier. Hopefully this is an encouragement to those of you who have jitters about starting SWR.
Bowl Of Soup
I can remember being about three years old. My mom put a bowl of soup in front of me and gave me a spoon. I looked at the bowl, and I looked at the spoon, and thought, “There’s no way I’m going to be able to eat all of this soup with this little spoon–it’s going to take forever!!!” My mom coached me and spoonful after spoonful, I kept at it. Sure enough, I got down to the bottom of the bowl, and while I was impatient to go back to play, I was amazed that a little spoon could indeed make a big bowl of soup go away, a little at a time.

So it is with SWR. You can’t imagine finishing it when you see the whole big thing at first–especially with these preparatory steps, which seem rather like a small spoon in the face of a big bowl–but, little by little, you make progress. This progress helps encourage you to keep at it until you surprise yourself that you can do it, after all!

Life seems to abound with opportunities to try new and difficult things. They seem difficult at first, but get better with practice, patience, and persistence. The hardest part of any job is getting started. Take heart, you learn as you go!

Also, don’t look for shortcuts! They make more trouble in the long run than they’re worth! Trust Wanda Sanseri’s wisdom and expertise. She knows what she’s doing and is a capable guide. Take it from those of us so cocky we had to learn it the hard way… like me  — Veronica, Yahoo Group Member