Should I give my beginning reader spelling tests?

Little children love to show that they are growing up.  If they have older siblings, they have probably watched them write their spelling words and have heard you pretest them on those words.  Since the whole idea of testing is new and “grown-up,” of course they want to be part of it.

Young child writing C-A-T.

Click on the picture to enlarge it.

Rudolph Flesch, the proponent of teaching a phonics-based reading system in the mid-20th century, advocated teaching spelling at the same time as reading.  His position was, if the child can read a word, he can spell it.

But how to test?  Here is one way to make spelling tests games.

  • Cut out little pictures of words to be tested—cat, hat, bat—and paste them on a sheet of paper with a number next to each picture.  Five to ten pictures per page is plenty.  Then have the child spell the word orally to you, or if the child can write her letters, have the child write the answers on a separate piece of paper.
  • Start by using all rhyming words—bat, cat, fat, hat, mat, pat, rat, sat; can, fan, man, pan, ran, tan, van; big, dig, pig, wig, for example.  Then, when you are sure the child had mastered the rhyming words, mix up words of the same vowel sound.  If the child is successful, then mix various CVC words on the test.  This method ensures success for the child and gives her confidence before she faces words with varying vowels.
  • If the child is writing the spelling words, you do not need to be nearby—a plus for the child’s independence.
  • Or you can go online to have a similar experience using a computer.
  • At , you can see photos of another type of spelling test.  A picture of a CVC word is glued on an index card.  Below the picture are three squares where the child can spell the word with letter tiles.  Several index cards are joined together with a ring to form a single test.  You would need to use this idea as a pattern to create the test yourself.

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