If you are like me, then one of the most dreaded things you can hear during Writer’s Workshop is “How do you spell _____________?” What is the answer to “How do you spell _____?” at your grade level? Really. You have to know the answer to that and you have to teach it to your students. Do you want them to sound out what they hear? YES! That is always step one in spelling. As time progresses there may be other things you teach (using the word wall, spelling dictionaries, circling words you know you sounded out to get help with later in the editing process, thinking about how words look in books etc.), but in the beginning I hope it is sound it out and write what you hear.
When you see the anchor chart, you can see what time of year this is- Chocolate, Halloween, Excited?! October! It is the time of year that my kids need to sound out and stretch things just a little bit more than they have been. We are ready to hear sounds in the middle of words too. In my Leach’s Literacy Trainings I have a video to show this lesson being done WITH REAL LIVE KIDS, but alas, I will try and explain it to you instead.
The key to making this work is to give kids time to chew their gum. (IMAGINARY GUM people) They have to chew it, and blow bubbles with it, and pop the bubbles, and then pull it out of their mouth and put it back in etc. Once they have played, they are ready to use it for writing.
Begin teaching now…
“Boys and girls, I want to teach you how writers use their writer’s gum! It’s a tool that writers use when they are writing and they get to a hard word that they don’t know how to spell. They might stop writing, but then they remember they have Writer’s Gum. And Writer’s Gum you can stretch out of your mouth as you say the word- and it helps you to hear all the sounds.”
“Let me show you what I mean.”
So I demonstrate. I stretch my gum out just a little and I hear a “Ch” so I write it on the chart. Then I stretch more and I hear an “O” and I write it… followed by the other sounds until I have chocolate written the best I can with the use of my gum. Students help me use my gum and they practice using theirs with me in the mini-lesson for the other words: Halloween and excited
Is it “right?” No. Is it right with Writer’s Gum? Yes! And THAT is good enough.
Ta-Da. Writer’s Gum. I can refer to this later in the year, I can have Writing Partners work on it together. I can speak it in a conference, I can remind a kid about it from across the room by just pulling my gum out of my mouth as a non-verbal cue!
I think it is pretty brilliant! I even thought this was my original idea until a few years ago when I was thumbing through THIS book! The book has become one of my favorites and is full of other great ideas like this one.
Come to find out she wrote a counterpart for grades 4-6 too!
I’ve loved using Writer’s Gum in my classroom and maybe you will too.