In the Primary class, we have started doing a weekly spelling test. We don’t administer many tests at Living Wisdom School, but the ability to stay calm, centered and focused during a test is an important skill. So, we start small in Primary class with a spelling test.
I started giving these tests last year because the students were struggling with their spelling. Or, rather, they weren’t struggling – they didn’t seem to notice or care how things were spelled. In my teaching, I lean much more toward encouraging free expression and I had taught writing with that as the focus. However, I had failed to emphasize the importance of spelling, and indeed, the rules of spelling are a necessary part of free expression. If no one can read your writing, you’re expressing something, but you’re not communicating anything.
So, I needed to activate the wills of the students. I needed to inspire them to find value in correctly spelled words, and thus find internal motivation to notice and fix their spelling. I decided to do spelling tests, but wanted to do tests in a different way than how I was taught.
I don’t give grades, but I do mark how many words are spelled correctly. The goal is not necessarily to spell each word correctly (though for some students, that is the goal), but rather to improve with each week. If a student spelled 6 words correctly one week, we aim for 7 words the next week. It is an activity that is shared with the whole class, but with room for individual goals.
In order to support practice at home, I sent a list of activities that students could use. The list included activities that activate the will (i.e., playing a Memory game with the spelling words), the body (i.e., making each letter in a word with their body), the intellect (i.e., using Scrabble letters to find out the “value” of each word), and the feelings (i.e., drawing a picture for each word). One mom discovered that her child loved the Will activities most.
So far, the spelling tests have inspired passionate engagement without stress. I’m watching carefully to ensure that students are working from a place of internal motivation, rather than fear of failure or a desire to please.
Any area of learning can use the four tools of maturity (physical/body, feeling, will, intellect) to engage interest and make material more relevant. Can you think of activities in these areas that would support learning in your child or student? The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.