Seven Ways We Make SWR Work Better for Us

Our first year with Spell to Write and Read had me a little flustered keeping everything organized. For example, I had read one place that a student's tests should all be kept in a notebook and quizzes written on loose leaf paper. But where were we to collect original sentence drafts? And when I gave a test, hunting for little red check marks by previously missed words in the students' logs was cumbersome. And then there were the PExtra reference pages...

Year two brought some brainstorming and some routines that worked so well for us, I am repeating them in this, our third year, with SWR.

1. I contained all of the paper shuffling from year one. Besides the log, each student has a one-subject spiral bound notebook that I have titled "[Student]'s SWR Everything Else Notebook." All work not done in the log goes into this book. Tests. Quizes. Original Sentences. A copy of the "Two Twins" picture that accompanies section K-1. Written enrichments.

1.5. OK, so almost everything else went in the Everything Else Book. I purchased a "Story Journal" for each of my writers. The pages have lines below and blank space above. And pretty much their only enrichment all year long was to write a story and illustrate it with words from a list every time they finished one. After a time, I began giving requirements such as "You must use at least six words and at least three sentences." (Notes to self: for future use of these books, vary the assigned number of words and sentences for each section to keep interest level from waning. Also assign the number of words per sentence for an extra challenge. As students progress in understanding parts of speech, require certain parts of speech to be used.)

2. We added additional reference pages to the primary log so the students wouldn't need to have their three ring binders out every day next to their logs. I wrote an entire post about this here (with pictures!).

3. To keep track of missed/challenge words, I use a sticky note for each student. This note moves through the lists with the student. When it's time for a test, I move the note to the farthest page on which I'm testing that student. I list the challenge words by section, then draw two boxes next to each word. When I am testing over a section, I also re-test these words. Upon correcting a test, I write down additional missed words. If the student correctly spelled one of the challenge words, I put a check in one of the boxes. Two checks means don't test the word for a long time, if at all. If I notice that a student is repeatedly missing the challenge word, I will begin giving it on the daily quiz following dictation.

4. One of our children loved to comment on everything during dictation. I explained during this part it was very important to pay careful attention and not interrupt. I coined the phrase "no extra noises." I said it whenever there was an interruption and since I had given her an explanation already, it was a quick and easy reminder. Since more of her comments were in regard to the sentences given with the words, including making up her own if I hesitated in giving one, I allowed her to orally give me the sentences for the words as I gave them for quizzes directly after dictation. Knowing she would have an outlet helped her keep her self-control during the former.

5. I use a different Post-It Note tab to mark each student's current section in the WISE Guide. I have them arranged so that the first student of the day is toward the top of the book, the next student is farther down, and so on. (I do not have tabs marking each section. I think that would get in my way. If I want to find a section other than what we're working in, I thumb through looking at the well-placed page headings.)
I love Post-It Note tabs. I once had so many in my copy of Spell to Write and Read that I didn't know what they all marked. So I removed all but a handful (Spelling Rule cheat sheet on page 222, the Learning Log Sample pages beginning on page 208, the page that starts "How is the test scored?" in the Diagnostic Test Appendix on page 198, the page that gives a broad sequence to the entire program on page 64, and one for the reference page being taught/to be taught next).

6. Every day, for each student, I write down what we will do the next time. I find making these notes helps me "just start" the lesson with much less delay caused by trying to figure out where to start. Sometimes I jot down what I intend to do with a particular student for the next three-four lessons, but with SWR, most often it's just the next day. These notes in my planner vary from as simple as "second half of O-1" to details on what to do with the beginner still in Cursive First or which enrichment or reference page to complete.

7. Every Friday every student has a test. This brings closure to our week no matter how many days we actually "did school." It also holds our children accountable for what they learned and lets me know with which words and concepts they are struggling. Tests include phonograms, review and challenge words, and a sentence using current spelling words that I dictate (usually taken from the enrichments in the WISE Guide).

How do you make SWR work better for you? I would love to know if you implement anything above and how it works for you!


  1. I'm just starting out with SWR. This post was so very helpful to me. Thank you for your insight!

    1. How is it going? I have yet to start!


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