How to Modify the Spelling Curriculum for Advanced Students
Wednesday, 26 April 2023

  • Tags:
  • Curriculum
  • Language Arts
  • Learning Styles
  • Planning


Like any child, an advanced student needs you to customize the curriculum to suit his particular needs. If you have a super speller on your hands, you don't need to skip levels or even lists. Instead, try using some of these ideas to adapt the curriculum to fit your child.

Cover the basics.

Our spelling books systematically work through sounds and patterns. Practice each list to ensure your advanced speller does not make mistakes with easy words.

Move through the lessons more quickly if you wish, but make sure you cover the basics. Studying the spelling patterns will be helpful as your child tackles longer, more complex words.

Opt for parent-led.

Opt for the parent-led course instead of the video course because your child will want to move faster than the video course schedule.

Parent-led courses offer more flexibility because you can shorten the amount of daily instruction and add the challenges he needs.

Start with a pretest.

Pretests help the child determine what he knows. Does that syllable have an A or an E? Is there a double letter there or not?

When your child has to commit to a spelling before he gets feedback, he will quickly find any words that need his attention. Having to guess causes the advanced student to reach for the correct answer to see if he is right or not. Although skipping this step is tempting, significant learning will happen if you start with a pretest.

Ask, don't tell.

Each of our word lists is organized by some theme. Once you've given the pretest, ask your child to review his paper and determine the theme. Usually, you would teach the student what the words have in common, but if your child is advanced, he may be able to identify the theme himself. The words might all be homophones, or they might all have variations of the long A sound. Let him look for the commonality and identify the spelling patterns.

Complete the whole workbook.

Have your child complete the workbook each week, regardless of how well he does on the pretest. Although the workbook will help him solidify these spelling patterns, it will also help him develop the meanings of the words and give him practice with dictionary skills. Your child may be able to spell a word without knowing exactly what it means.

Give context. Explore meanings and alternate meanings. Arm your child with the knowledge necessary to use those words outside of spelling class. Each spelling list will be another row of bricks cemented into the solid wall you are building.

Offer an incentive.

At one point, I made a deal with one of my boys. If he got 100% on the practice test on Wednesday, he didn't have to take the final test on Friday. This kind of challenge will motivate your advanced student and remove some work when unnecessary.

Add challenge words.

Now let's make things more interesting. Add more challenging words from other subjects to your child's weekly list. My favorite sources of challenge words were our science and heritage studies books. Not only did these words provide a spelling challenge, but they also helped my boys learn more in those content areas. Some grade levels already have lists of suggested challenge words at the back of the teacher's editions. We studied states, animals, foods, math terms, musical terms, books of the Bible, and many, many words from science and heritage studies.

Keep it fun and meaningful.

I included five challenge words on the pretest each Monday. After we corrected any mistakes, I posted the words on the wall so they could be easily seen (and remembered) all week, and my son copied the challenge words into a notebook. I used sentence strips in a pocket chart, but you could also type them up in an extra-large font for the wall. On Tuesday, my son studied the spelling patterns of the new words while doing a fun activity. He used letter stamps, laid out letter tiles to make a crossword, color-coded vowels, and consonants, wrote them with artistic handwriting, or played a game.

Sometimes I even used a free word search generator on the internet to create puzzles for him. Wednesday's practice test was another chance to check how well he knew the challenge words. On Thursday, my son wrote an original sentence for each challenge word in his notebook. Since I required him to write sentences that showed meaning, he sometimes had to dig into his other textbooks to understand the words better. And then Friday was the test unless he had gotten 100% on Wednesday's practice test. I assigned two points to each challenge word, so five words were only worth 10% of each test grade.

Use correct spelling in real life!

Because we are commanded to love God and our neighbors, BJU Press Homeschool includes writing activities that allow our students to use language (including correct spelling) to encourage and help others.

Feel free to replace any of the workbook's writing assignments with real-world assignments. Write to Grandma. Send a thank-you letter to your pastor. Encourage a friend. Copy a verse to give to someone who needs it. Use words to bless others. Give your students a purpose for learning to spell.

As my boys got older, finding words they couldn't get right the first time became increasingly challenging. They had learned basic spelling patterns well from studying the regular list words and could apply those patterns to almost any vocabulary word I threw at them. They were digging deeper into the content areas. They were learning how to study more challenging words. They were spelling correctly outside of spelling class. And they were begging for more. ("Come on, Mom; that one's too easy. Give me a harder one!")

Your child can get all the benefits of building a solid foundation and run to the edge of what he knows to learn something new. BJU Press Homeschool has plenty of resources that will keep advanced students learning.

Meet the Author


Jennifer Lont - HomeWorks by Precept Consultant
www.homeworksbyprecept.com/Jennifer-Lont