Until I had to teach spelling myself, the spelling list to me was just that - a list. And as with all lists, you cover the items one by one, from top to bottom, and then hope that you are done. Happily - and thankfully - it is often that way. But there is also more.
The spelling list is the core of any spelling program. I prefer a phonics-based spelling routine in the early grades. Since there are many language experts around, and I am not one of them, I do not attempt to individually develop the spelling list.
In the later grades, the focus is not just on spelling but also on other vocabulary components: pronunciation (which by then becomes trickier), parts of speech, etymology, word definitions, synonyms, antonyms, and the nuances of word use. The list then becomes more challenging and more interesting.
1. Phonics. Many good spelling programs are organized along phonics rules. Simplistically, it's spell-it-as-you-say-it. The phonics rules and corresponding spelling words are simple in the early years. For example, a week's words may have the short a sound (lad, fan, map). Phonics rules become more complicated in the higher years and syllabication rules are also thrown in.
|The nuisance of nuances|
2. Sight words. I guess if one has to learn to read words that do not quite follow the rules of phonics, one also has to learn to spell them (the, some, said).
3. Grammar rules. Sometimes spelling words are based on grammar rules, such as rules on forming plurals (family, families; child, children).
4. Words from other subjects in the curriculum. Spelling words may also come from words used in other subjects, such as reading, science (especially science!), social studies (lots of proper nouns in geography), and art.
|From another part of the curriculum|
5. Everyday words. Sources of everyday words are newspapers, labels of grocery goods, names of garments and other personal effects, street signs, and even conversations.
I found out, too, that while my children will not be spelling bee champs, they know that learning to spell and having a good vocabulary may spell :-) the difference between a dry and lifeless composition and a hands-down awesome piece. Later, too, I hope that they will agree that a good vocabulary, slowly but surely built over the years, also comes in handy in the SAT, college entrance examinations, and life in general.