The Dreaded Spell Test and Cycle of Emotions

Who likes tests and exams, hunh?

Scripps national spelling bee

Scripps national spelling bee

The mere mention sends my brain into a tizzy. I still get nightmares about my high school exams but I wake up to a sense of relief – been there, done that -relief! But for my 7yr old, this is just the beginning.

Lately, the kiddo has been having trouble facing “tests” in school. Up till now, she only got smileys and stars in her notebook but for the first time she had to face a TEST and that too the queen of second grade tests – THE DREADED SPELL TEST.

To us it may seem like a mere spell test but ask a 7 year old – they will equal it to taking a deadly-walk-on-fire-kinda-test or diving into a 80 ft deep river full of crocodiles or something. Don’t scoff or smile, it is scary. Can’t you tell by his expression!

I remember feeling this way!

I remember feeling this way!

So, to counter, avoid, deny the dreaded tests, she came up with a set of excuses which I like to call the second grader’s constellation of emotions triggered by the word “TEST”:

CYCLE OF EMOTIONS

  • Denial: I am Tired and don’t want to go to school
  • Anxiety: It’s a Spell Test and I don’t like doing spell tests
  • Fear: What if I don’t pass
  • Sadness: I don’t remember the spellings ma
  • Despondence: School is bohh-ring
  • Blame: My Teacher is bohh-ring
  • Blame: Writing spellings is Bohh-ring
  • Blame: YOU are bohh-ring
  • Blame: You are forcing me to take a spell test, how can you force a 7yr old, hunh???
  • Blame: You lied to me about school being FUN! :PP
  • Vengeance: When I grow up, I’ll force you to take a spell test!!

Well, I tried to explain, reason, motivate, and even incentivize  BUT NOTHING WORKED. Finally, I had to make up a story about a girl called Nina who had trouble with her spelling and the Spelling Fairy came and taught her how spell words. Somehow, that got her enthused and I managed to send her to school. On return she told me that how the fairy helped her to give a “confident” attempt to the test. She was proud of herself. She said she found her “confidence” and was happy that she tried.

Imagine, my euphoria. My story worked!

BUT this didn’t last for more than a day. The next day, the teacher wanted to take another spell test from Lesson -2 and we would have to prepare it in less than a day! Read: expression of shock!

Kiddo made it sound like the “return of the evil dead”, like, “mom do you know it’s BACK” with sheer horror on her face!

Spelling Test

NOT the Rhythm – The Spelling Test is going to get you!

 Okay, I am exaggerating a bit but she did conjure up some interesting expressions. In other words, we went through all those emotions – all over again! <refer to above>

So, I was just wondering, how you can help your child learn to spell?

Apparently, the traditional practices don’t work. I learned that spelling is a visual skill, thus favoring the visual learner. Spelling the word out loud is good for spelling bees, but not weekly spelling tests.

spelling test

spelling test

Then how does one help the child pass those ineffective tests?

My daughter’s answer would be, “let’s not go to school, no test, no results, HA!”. *sigh* Wish there were no tests and we could just go to school for learning fun! But since that is not happening any sooner, I did snoop around for some spelling test tips online and here is what I found:

How to crack the spelling tests –

  • Mesilla Valley EEC says, say the word to your child and have them write it down. Then have them compare what they’ve written with the target word spelled correctly. If it is incorrect, have your child fold the paper, covering his/her first attempt. Write the word again. Then compare. If it is spelled correctly repeat the process, folding and covering previous attempts until your child has the word spelled correctly 5 times in a row. Then go on to the next word. It is very important for the child to make the visual comparison. This exercise will make a huge difference in your child’s ability to pass those dreaded spelling tests.
  • According to Specialed.about.co, students need to be able to spell the words they need to write. Therefore their spelling lists need to be connected to other things that are currently being taught. For instance, if you are teaching transportation, the spelling words should be those that they need to know like: fast, slow, air, ground, fly, train etc. Have your students brainstorm the list of words they need to learn on a regular basis. Everyday words should be included in their word walls. Words that have certain patterns are good to learn as well. These would be the word families and words with similar patterns like through, enough, etc. I can’t find any research to indicate that spelling texts lead to improved spelling ability or new learning.
  • Also, note that word searches, alphabetizing words, writing words out rarely leads to new learning or improved spelling ability. Applying words in authentic situations is much more worthwhile.
  • According to Allaboutlearningpress, there are 26 letters in the alphabet and a group of basic letter combinations called phonograms. Out of 17,000 English words, only 3% do not conform to the rules of the language and must be learned by rote. This means that learning spelling should be relatively painless and easy. A child simply needs to learn the basic phonograms and spelling rules to be able to work out how to spell most words correctly. This also means they will be able to read most words easily, a substantial aid to their academic development.
  • I say, once you have got the technique right, you could give them Spelling Goals or help them make a story with the words in it. That will engage them and help them visually remember the spellings.

Here are some other resources from the web, which can help you to teach spellings to your children:

While I understand taking tests is a norm in school. Personally, I don’t buy into the idea that “tests” enhance learning. What a load of #$%@. Tests spell sordid gloom. Apart from the 3-6% students who are challenged by the idea of a test, the remaining 90% of us feel like it’s a devious strategy by the teachers to make us feel bad about ourselves and highlight our mistakes and then make it into a talking point with the parents. I used to wonder in PTMs that why the hell they don’t talk about the weather or something!

On a serious note, Is the focus really on learning and assessing the gaps? I don’t think so. I think we need the schools to promote a culture of learning and not cramming and this can’t be done by banishing one test. The change has to come in the attitude and overall approach, where the child can recognize why he/she has to give a test and how it is helping. If the child feels afraid, it means somewhere it is seeding thoughts of failure and “what ifs”.

Let’s just hope you have fun coping, teaching and helping your kids endure the dreaded spell tests for now, we will rally for change in the meantime! 😉

Keep Shining!

~ KaT & Kiddo~

Spell Test

Something to think about!

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