Just as McDonald’s continues to innovate the fast food market with automations, I’ve discovered automating my 2nd grade spelling tests will really help make a difference this year. By having my spelling tests on autopilot, students can test as they need to and not because it is Friday and test day.
After being in school less than a month I feel like there is a revolving door between absent students and students required to quarantine. Some days I can’t keep up. Having my tests stored on a computer makes it super easy to assign and test kids.
This post is the last in a series about teaching and assessing sight words in the classroom. Click on the titles below to read the previous posts.
Making Your Spelling Assessment Easy
The first step to automating your spelling assessment is to decide what sequence you will be teaching spelling. Will you be following a set program, using specific phonics patterns, word study, or simply using high frequency words?
Personally I like to use a mix of word study patterns inspired from Words Their Way using a product by Lanesha Tabb and high frequency words from the Dolch list. Currently I have only automated the high frequency words and will be trial running the word study component this year.
Since it can take awhile to get a good system in place, do not feel the need to do everything immediately. Take time to automate one or two lists before working on the whole year. Make sure it will work for you.
Step 2 - Recording the Spelling Assessment
Once you have your spelling lists figured out the next step is to record yourself giving the tests. I recommend making each spelling list a separate recording. This way you can assign just that list to a specific student.
While it is not necessary to invest in a microphone, you will want to make sure that you record in a quiet room and your current system picks up the sound okay. I like to record a quick test and check it before committing to several minutes before finding out it didn’t work.
I found the easiest way to create the recordings was to make a PowerPoint slide for each word and record as I played the slideshow. This way my recording becomes embedded into the presentation. If you have a Mac you can also record using Quicktime. Quicktime is how I recorded all my lessons during distance learning last year. I simply presented my screen and used Quicktime to record my voice as I clicked through the presentations.
For PC users you can use Loom similar to Quicktime but I believe it limits your minutes if using the free version. This article has a variety of ways to record screens using different systems.
Step 3 - How to Test Spelling
Now that you have your lists and the recordings, how do you test spelling? When it comes to easy spelling assessments, I recommend that the simplest way is the best. I have found that one of the simplest ways is to have a dedicated device for spelling assessment if in the classroom. Uploading the videos onto the device whether a tablet or desktop is an easy way to have students used to using the same device and being able to pull up the video needed.
My second graders find it fairly easy after some practice to take their tests by finding the correct file. To help this, I label the assessments in files that make sense. For instance, just calling folders by the month and placing the assessment inside the monthly folder wouldn’t make sense if you allow students to be self-paced for spelling. I like to number my lists. Students know if they are on list 3 they will find the file called list 3 to take their test.
Having the video files available means it is also easy to add them to Google Classroom or Canvas to assign tests to students online. Within my spelling product I have detailed video instructions on how to do this if you want to purchase a done-for-you system. Even when not teaching online I find it very easy to add spelling tests to a Google Classroom for specific students to test.
I also have an answer key for each spelling test so I can have a classroom volunteer (when I have one) grade tests for me. To see how I decide which students receive which test please read this post. After students take their test I either pass out the next list or have them take the same list home to keep practicing and try again.
In my classroom I have a file box with hanging files labeled by list number and copies ready to go so I just need to grab the correct paper to pass out to students as they test. Having the copies and videos ready really makes the whole process go very smoothly. Recording the tests and deciding on the order of the spelling lists was time consuming at first but worth putting in the work. Now I can just reuse these pieces each year making the whole process automated much like how McDonald’s runs their business.