Did you know you can analyze a student’s writing sample and get a lot of information on what phonics sounds she needs to work on? In this blog, I’ll take a closer look at spelling and phonics by analyzing a student’s writing sample.
Analyzing spelling samples can be incredibly useful. You can gain insight into what phonics sounds the child knows how to spell. In addition, you can think about whether these phonics gaps may be contributing to poor fluency (reading speed) or poor reading accuracy.
Since decoding skills are a foundational reading skill, if phonics gaps exist, then the other aspects of reading we seek to excel in, like reading comprehension also suffer.
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Student writing sample 1
Let’s say the teacher asks student A to write about his weekend. Student A writes:
I went to the park with dad. We plaed catch. There was a dog. I got to pet it. It was waging its tal. Then, I saw some oder kids at the park. They were playying tag. I asked if I could join them. They said shur. I am a fast runner and it was hard for them to kep up with me. I felt as fast as a real cheetah. Next, we played hide and sik. But then it was time to go. Dad and I pikt up an ice cream before we went back home. It was yummy. I had a very fun wekend!
With the spelling corrections, writing sample 1 would read as follows:
I went to the park with dad. We played catch. There was a dog. I got to pet it. It was wagging it’s tail. Then, I saw some other kids at the park. They were playing tag. I asked if I could join them. They said sure. I am a fast runner and it was hard for them to keep up with me. I felt as fast as a real cheetah. But then it was time to go. Dad and I picked up an ice cream before we went back home. It was yummy. I had a very fun weekend!
Spelling and phonics error analysis
First, list the student’s errors:
plaed –> played
waging –> wagging
oder –> other
playying –> playing
Next, label the type of vowel error.
Directly connect the spelling and phonics in the error list. To learn more about phonics sounds, see the Reading Elephant printable phonics books scope and sequence.
plaed –> played, errors: long vowel, inflectional ending
waging –> wagging errors: inflectional ending
tal–> tail errors: long vowel
oder –> other errors: sight word
playying –> playing errors: inflectional ending
shur–> sure errors: sight word
kep–> keep errors: long vowel
sik–> seek errors: long vowel
pikt–> picked errors: inflectional ending
wekend–> weekend errors: long vowel
Now tally up the errors by category.
There’s certainly a pattern in this student’s spelling errors. There almost always is a pattern in errors, which is why an error analysis can be so useful. Here are this student’s number of errors by category:
long vowels: 5 errors
inflectional endings: 4 errors
sight words: 2 errors
Spelling and phonics intervention plan
In your analysis, figure out which phonics sounds you’ll teach first. List the categories by how common they are or by how they appear in the scope and sequence you’re using. For example, given the Reading Elephant printable decodable books scope and sequence, you can teach the spelling patterns in the following order:
- long vowels (these include sounds like ee, ea, ___y, _ay, ai, igh, oa, ow)
- inflectional endings (these include sounds like /ing/ and /ed/ endings. For example, digging, hugging, playing, seeking, kicked, jumped, sailed, mailed)
- sight words
Spelling and phonics activities
Include phonemic awareness activities into your spelling lessons.
Phonemic awareness is really important for both reading and spelling. Phonemic awareness is the ability to segment, blend and manipulate the smallest units of sound (phonemes). For example, someone who is phonemically aware can segment cramp into: c-r-aaaa-mmmm-p. They can segment sleek into: ssss-llll-ee-k. Notice that the student should hold continuous sounds and clip stop sounds.
Continuous sounds are sounds you can hold for a long time without adding an /uh/. For example, s, l, m, and n are continuous sounds.
Stop sounds are sounds you have to clip, or say quickly, as not to add an /uh/. Some stop sounds include b, c, d, g.
For spelling, you can have the student segment words. There’s no text or writing necessary. Simply have a list of phonetic words like: tail, sleep, float, might…etc. and have the student segment these words into sounds.
Next, have your student spell 5 words, 2 sight word and 1 sentence.
If your student is in Kindergarten, you can start with 2 words and one sentence, like:
- Pam sat on a mat.
Have your student work up to spell 5 words, 2 sight words and 1 sentence, like:
- The kids are playing on the swings.
First, have your student segment these words. Next, have them write the word sound-by-sound. Make sure your student learns the inflectional ending rule: if the first vowel is short, double the consonant (ex. dig–> digging). You can also teach your student to drop the e in silent e words when adding ing.
Spelling and reading go together. If a child struggles in one, they usually struggle in the other. Thus, spelling activities can help kids learn to write, but they can also help kids learn to read.