Children come home from school with spelling lists, often lamenting the fact they must learn these seemingly arbitrary words by the end of the week. But, educators are not simply writing down whatever words come to mind. Instead, they take their cues from a variety of sources pertinent to the learning processes of the children they are teaching.
Spelling is an important skill in the understanding of language conventions and structures. The International Reading Association and National Council of Teachers of English considers spelling important enough that it is included in the 12 Standards that are meant to guide educators.
A large number of spelling word lists are created based upon current reading materials or literature. Words important to the comprehension of reading material are used as spelling words in middle and upper elementary classrooms, while lower elementary lists often consist of everyday words or simpler words used in beginner readers.
Spelling lists may also be generated from commonly known spelling rules. These rules, such as "i before e except after c," often follow a logical pattern. The rules, patterns, and exceptions may all be used within the same word list to reinforce the concept. Creating a spelling list using suffixes or prefixes is another example of a pattern-based list. See lists of rules at Reading from Scratch Spelling Rules and A Few Spelling Rules from Whitman College for additional information.
Word lists may be generated by the students' writing itself. As a teacher notices commonly misspelled words, he or she may take note and either add currently misspelled words to an existing list or create a new spelling lesson.
Spelling words can be generated from other subjects, such as science, sociology, philosophy, or health. Integration of subjects enhances both educational areas, as students are immersed in the topic at hand.
Finally, spelling word lists may come from a program or curriculum. Spelling books and workbooks, CD-Rom software, or web-based spelling programs may be used to help teach students grade-level appropriate spelling words. Each program will have its own set of criteria upon which words are chosen for lessons. Educators often evaluate the program before adding it to the current curriculum.
To help educators and concerned parents, spelling word lists are often exchanged online. For example:
Learning spelling words can be difficult for students who have trouble memorizing rules. Online spelling games, classroom games, and printable worksheets can help reinforce the words. Writing out the words multiple times can also help students memorize difficult words.
Comprehension of rules may be more difficult for parents to teach students at home, so speak with an educator (teacher or tutor) to figure out the best way to help your child. If you wish to purchase a tutorial program for your home computer, get recommendations from your child's teacher to find one that meets the learning needs of your child.