What do we do with children who do really well on the Primary Spelling Inventory?

Administer the Elementary Spelling Inventory – that will give you more information about how well they understand more advanced spelling features, as well as more confidence in where to place them for word study.

How about students in the intermediate grades who “ace” the Elementary Spelling Inventory? Does that mean they’re solid Derivational Relations spellers?

Not necessarily. Administer the Upper Level Spelling Inventory, and that will give you more information about how well they understand Syllables and Affixes features as well as Derivational Relations features. You will occasionally find that those students who appear to be Derivational Relations spellers based on the Elementary Spelling Inventory, for example, are actually Syllables and Affixes spellers based on the Upper Level Spelling Inventory, so their level of word study should be Syllables and Affixes.

Another way of checking on students’ appropriate placement is through your weekly spelling checks. In addition to administering a spelling check when the students have finished working with a particular sort, administer a pre-assessment on the words in the sort. In general, students who consistently spell between 50-90% of the words correctly are working at their appropriate spelling instruction level; those who consistently score below 50% are at their spelling frustration level and should be dropped back. Students who consistently score over 90% are at their spelling independent level and should be moved forward.

If students seem to be progressing in their word study but we do not see application to their writing, does that mean they aren’t placed at their appropriate word study level?

If students are indeed moving along well in WTW in Action – and you are assessing their progress on each sort to confirm that growth – then they are appropriately placed. We then help them see how their developing word knowledge can help them with their spelling during writing (there are some students who need to be reminded that what they are learning in word study should be applied in their writing!). Have students read back over a piece of writing they have done, attending to words they think they may have misspelled, and then applying what they know about spelling to correct those misspellings.

We have some students in the intermediate grades who “aced” the Upper Level Spelling Inventory and seem to be excellent spellers already – do they need to do the sorts in Level E anyway?

At the Derivational Relations level, word study is as much about vocabulary as spelling. Many students are quite good spellers but have not learned about spelling-meaning relationships and the morphological patterns within and across words. So, we encourage you to have such students explore and extend these sorts:

  • Categorize words according to prefixes, suffixes, bases, and Greek/Latin roots;
  • Generate other words that contain the same morphological elements;
  • Be on the lookout for words in their reading that have these same elements and record these words in a vocabulary notebook;
  • Do “open sorts” in which the words are categorized according to criteria and ideas that the students come up with.

For those students at the intermediate level who are verbally gifted, additional derivational-level sorts may be found in the companion volume, Word Sorts for Derivational Relations Spellers.