Thursday, January 29, 2015

Mini-Inquiry for Spelling Language Standards

 Overarching Inquiry

  Our inquiry group is the Weavers and our beautiful question is "How do we integrate, or weave, the standards into inquiry?"  All the members on our team are fully immersing ourselves into inquiry with our students.  We are searching for more information from each other, observing other teachers, researching literature, and relying on our students as our teachers.  Our formal work right now...
1. Being mindful of the standards we are weaving throughout our work and create a list
2. Teaching to the standards side by side with our inquiry "process" lessons
3. Exploring different ways for students to share their learning that broaden the authentic learning and will hold everyone accountable for understanding
4. Continuing to pursue inquiry as an integrated process of learning concepts versus inquiry as a project
5. Wondering, "What skills do kids need to be READY for inquiry?"
6. Continuing to bring inquiry work to discuss and reflect upon
7. Using
8. Planning a visit to Logan with the lens of standards woven throughout a practice of inquiry

Case Study: Personal Exploration

of Spelling Inquiry with Students

   At Friday's PLC, I brought my mini-inquiry of word endings (beyond Words Their Way).  It is nerve-wracking because I've never used inquiry directly with spelling, but I am also infinitely discouraged by my current practice of spelling instruction that yields very little transfer into daily writing/spelling.  Therefore, I am completely willing to try inquiry to see if the spelling rules will "stick".

The standard is CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.3.2.F Use spelling patterns and generalizations (e.g., word families, position-based spellings, syllable patterns, ending rules, meaningful word parts) in writing words.

My question (I know it is supposed to be theirs):
In concert, my students immediately changed my question to their own... "How do word endings affect words?"  Of course, their question is much more to the point!
As we embarked upon our journey of discovery, I struggled with how much to give them, how much to guide/facilitate, and how tangential their wonderings should be "allowed" to run.
I wanted my students to notice patterns of word endings that we could translate into rules for future spelling.  This is a glimpse what they discovered on their own within the first 20 minutes...
But then, we had more questions.....
Then this happened....
-ly, -less, -er, -ness, -s, -ies, -or, -ful..... and many many many more....

AHHH!! Back to teacher directed! Our immersion and wonderings were out of control!  How would we coalesce and understand what we were diving into?  

So, I focused our attention onto JUST the -ed and -ing.  I am hoping for them to discover the doubling rule, the add rule, and the drop the -e rule.  

In the end, we will coalesce our understandings with these reflective pieces:
  1. What are the key (important) understandings/strategies/points to remember and use?
  2. How can I use these ideas in the future?
  3. How did my understanding change?  (I use to think… now I think…)
  4. What did I find most interesting, confusing or difficult?
I am still unsure how we will "Go Public" other than writing stories with exceptional spelling that can be shared and celebrated.

PUZZLE: I know that my students are gaining a deeper understanding of word endings.  I know that my students will authentically write everyday using that understanding in a classroom of raised spelling expectations.  BUT, I am afraid that I will just end this whole spelling inquiry with worksheets to practice the rules that I already know I want them to know. Rules that require a lot of practice to master.  Will the inquiry have been in vain?  So,  I search for inspiration...

EXPLORE:  When I think about this quote, I recognize my love of inquiry AND my need for "control".  Control of the process, control of the outcome, control of the standards/skills taught, etc.  My personal goal is to embrace my need for control, create systems of inquiry that I am comfortable with and then allow the natural process of inquiry to further develop my students' understandings.


  1. LOVE this, Val! And TOTALLY get the need for control! As I have been given the opportunity to work with Deb Havens, we are both struggling with the idea of "letting go" and "trusting the process." I think as teachers, it is REAL struggle to let go of guiding, and just become a facilitator.

    I also love your Inquiry Topic. You inspired me to try a mini with one of my intervention groups!! WooHoo! Just started yesterday, and our beautiful question has started out as: What are vowel teams and what do they do? Ha! Who knew we could take something SOOOO boring and make it interesting! My greatest hope is that in digging in to such a BORING topic, these little strugglers will have a better understanding of what these important letters do, and how they impact decoding and encoding in both reading and writing. And, most of all will this help them in their reading struggles?

    1. That topic could sound really boring... but I am encouraged by the stories that I hear of kids' renewed enthusiasm, simply because they are empowered by their questions?

    2. I also struggle with the control aspect and letting go. I worry that the students are not "getting" what I want/need them to "get." Once the inquiry project has ended I always am amazed by their learning.....but when I am in the thick of it I always freak out and worry that the students are not learning!! :)

    3. I also struggle with the control aspect and letting go. I worry that the students are not "getting" what I want/need them to "get." Once the inquiry project has ended I always am amazed by their learning.....but when I am in the thick of it I always freak out and worry that the students are not learning!! :)

  2. Val,
    I absolutely love your Fischer quote. I am going to keep that in my mind and I struggle through this messy process of inquiry. I am having such a hard time with letting go and allowing the students to form inquiry questions on their own. I feel like I need to guide each step or they won't learn what the district and state say they need to learn. This quote will be my inspiration!

  3. Val,
    I love your connection to spelling. I have always done this with my kids. They need to explore spelling rules to really internalize them. I am posting here because I saw another post of yours that I could not add a comment to. For my students that can't see it, we form our own group and name it. We start by boxing or highlighting the rule. I then have them inquire as to what words actually fit that rule...and what may be rule breakers.
    I also love to have kids dig deeper. So they understand that the ending is ing or ed and the e may drop. Now have them remove the ending...what can they discover about the root word (doubling or not). I find that there are times that kids have to be given the starting point and then dig deeper. We tend to latch on to what we are first drawn to and have a hard time reaching out of that box once we have stepped in.