A few weeks ago, I wrote about the "click and clunk" reading comprehension strategy for guided reading. With this strategy, students whisper read and end sentences by saying "click" or "clunk" to indicate their level of understanding. If I hear a student say "clunk" it is my cue to stop and help them figure out the missing link to understanding.
This method worked so well that we connected it to our writing. Before students turn in any work to me, they are asked to use the click and clunk method for writing.
It's really as simple as that. The hard work comes with supporting this fully with everything that you do in class. My students in grades 1–6 expect to do this daily and with every assignment. It's right up there with putting their name on the paper. As a result, students are more mindful about what they write, and I see fewer errors and mistakes across the board.
I have thoroughly tested a theory and am happy to report my findings. Most students can identify most of the words they misspell independently. "Now wait," you are saying. "How is that impressive?" Well, in addition to this, most students can independently correct those misspelled words with a simple strategy. And I am not talking about a dictionary or a technology tool. I am talking about students, independently, spelling the words they identified as spelled wrong moments earlier . . . correctly. I call this the "Post-it, try-it" method.
If you would like to learn more about individualizing spelling instruction for your students, please visit my class Web site to get started.
If you are interested in trying this plan with your students, I want to stress the importance of getting your parents involved. For students to start checking their work before it is turned in, they need to be held accountable, both at home and at school. You can share in a class newsletter, for example, that parents should be seeing things circled with checkmarks over the next several weeks. You can also inform parents that this is a temporary tool to help guide students toward a healthy habit of editing work they turn in. It shouldn't be hard to communicate the importance of turning in their best work and looking over work before it is turned in.
I highly recommend that you kindly return work that doesn't utilize these methods. I typically say, "Oh, it looks like you forgot to check your work. Here, let me give it back to you to check. I want to make sure what you turn in is your best work."
I have not encountered any students that simply place a checkmark next to each sentence instead of actually checking, but if that happens to you, don't despair. My students are very well aware that I am always looking at their writing for guidance on what to teach. I often say, "Now, I want to talk about compound sentences today because I am noticing in our writing . . . " With this in mind, you can pull the student who is not really checking their work aside and play up your concern for them a little. Perhaps you can be ready with a list of the skills missed (e.g., complete sentences, spelling strategies, proper nouns, commas in a series of three) and share a plan for helping that student receive extra support from a parent tutor. If the student is capable, they will quickly ask for another chance to start using the methods correctly to show you that they do, in fact, know how to use that skill correctly in their writing.
I am not envisioning a student in college circling words and placing checkmarks across their paper. This is simply a visual tool to ensure that students are going back to check their work. If they are implementing this system consistently, feel free to ask students to mentally do this work without physically placing a checkmark or circling misspelled words. If you start to see a dip in accuracy, simply ask the student to start using the methods again.
I work with students that need extra support, and even my 1st graders are not overwhelmed and are capable of checking their work. Students are going to developmentally push themselves as far as they can. You are not going to be worrying about compound sentences with your 1st graders. More than likely, you will see a pattern of not tapping out all of the sounds when they are attempting to spell words. Focus on the largest deficiency and help that student implement a strategy to correct it.
Do you have any strategies up your sleeves that you would like to share? Feel free to leave a comment below!