Most student spelling and grammar mistakes are common ones that persist throughout the year. We can work to correct these by implementing a “Grammar Boot Camp” and having some follow-up supports in place.
At the beginning of the year, we take two days to run through the most common spelling and grammar mistakes, one by one. We teach how to avoid them, why we make them, and how to do it right. Before our Grammar Boot Camps, I would review (and review . . . and review . . .) the same spelling and grammar mistakes with the students week after week.
For our basic Language Arts class, we cover each of the items on Worksheets 27 and 28 [pdfs]. We go over each item one at a time. We give examples, and students are given a written assignment to help them remember how to apply this concept.
Grammar Boot Camp works because:
- Direct instruction teaches and reinforces awareness of the errors that are commonly made. Because we do it at the beginning of the year, students are engaged and eager to learn. The Boot Camp format is different from my traditional Language Arts classroom and, perhaps, engages students in a different way.
- You can conduct Boot Camp whenever you want. If there’s a short week, or your group needs a different type of strategy, Boot Camp can be conducted any time during the year. You can even have shorter “mini-sessions” as follow up throughout the year, which leads to the next point…
- Boot Camp follow up is easy to do. Once we’ve completed Grammar Boot Camp, it’s easy (or at least easier) to reinforce these items with students throughout the year. “Remember how we covered that in Boot Camp?” Follow up also gives the teacher a second (or third) chance to teach the same concept, which hopefully helps students make the connection as well.
Dedicate two or three classes to teaching students how to directly avoid the spelling errors listed on Worksheets 27 and 28. The “Words That Are Close” column, for instance, lists words that are often put in the wrong context. Take each item one at a time and show the students how it is spelt and what error they should avoid. At the conclusion of direct instruction, have students write one sentence using the word correctly.
After students pass Spelling Boot Camp, the teacher and students are on common ground and know the proper spelling for each word. When students fall into bad habits and misspell the words they knew only a few weeks earlier, teachers can apply whatever supplementary work seems necessary.
Worksheets 27 and 28 can be used as student reference sheets. Once you cover these concepts (using these forms) in Grammar Boot Camp, the worksheets can provide a reminder of how each word should be used. In our multi-graded classrooms, the more we can create independent students (on all sizes of task) the more efficiently our classrooms will run.
We know that one-time Professional Development for teachers isn’t enough, and so it is with students. Once you’ve completed the Grammar Boot Camp, follow up can solidify what you covered. Focus on one follow up word per week. It will take almost the entire school year to cover this list of commonly misspelled words, which sounds like a long process. Since we have the same students year after year on a colony school, teaching a concept in May isn’t a lost cause because we’re preparing students to be more effective spellers the next year.
Caution: In the busy world of everyday teaching, it’s easy to neglect the Misspelled Word of the Week as we juggle our numerous other tasks. In order to be effective, a brief but consistent review is necessary. When my follow up is inconsistent, I pay the price down the road as students make errors we covered at Grammar Boot Camp.