Review: WISE Guide Enrichment Activity Worksheets N-Z by Elizabeth FitzGerald, M.S.

Background:
We currently have students in sections N, U, and W, and a beginner in Steps 6 & 7 of Spell to Write and Read. I am also teaching a group of second and third graders using SWR methods at a homeschool co-op this year.

My Review in a Nutshell:
So far this resource is a good thing for us; it is challenging both my students and myself to a greater understanding of the English language. Our students are asking for these worksheets! I believe they like the intrigue of putting their knowledge to work. I soon plan to purchase the A-M volume for reference and review.

None of these books pictured are published with coil bindings,
I had that done after I purchased them. 
Note: I will refer to the curriculum, Spell to Write and Read, as ‘SWR,’ to its Teacher’s Manual as ‘SWR Teacher’s Manual,’ to the WISE Guide for Spelling as ‘WISE Guide,’ and to WISE Guide Enrichment Activity Worksheets N-Z as ‘Worksheets.’

The Content:
The contents of these Worksheets are well integrated with the scope and sequence of Spell to Write and Read; they are not for stand-alone use. A few times, I even opened SWR Teacher’s Manual and the WISE Guide to make sure the “why” I was thinking was correct before explaining it to my student.

Even though this is my sixth year teaching SWR, there are times that I freeze up while teaching a reference page because I feel a need to follow the script in the SWR Teacher’s Manual. I’m afraid of leaving out a step or saying something wrong. These worksheet pages reinforce what is taught on the reference pages, but without a script from which to work. For me, this relieves the pressure and allows me to use what I know (and look up what I don’t) to explain the concepts being practiced.

Students are asked to apply multiple rules that would not necessarily be matched together without spelling enrichments. Therefore, I can see the value of this resource for all types of students. Average students, struggling students, and advanced students will all

  • excel further with more practice.
  • grow with opportunities to converse about concepts outside of dictation with now familiar words they learned during dictation.
  • profit from synthesizing their knowledge to complete the tasks.
  • benefit from “real world” applications of their spelling and grammar learning.

Furthermore, I believe this resource is an excellent tool for students who naturally memorize words by sight—even advanced words. Their eyes and brain seem to glaze over while they go through the motions of dictation during which they write the words correctly so a teacher may falsely believe they are mastering the concepts. In completing these worksheets, these students will interact with their spelling words to prove and strengthen their understanding.

The Structure:
These Worksheets are a timesaver! We had previously not been doing many of the enrichments along the bottom of the WISE Guide. When we did, they were done in the students’ Everything Else Book. I would need to give not only instructions on what to do, but where to write the words on the unformatted page. Mrs. FitzGerald has streamlined this process. And now, it is even easier for visual learners since they may read the directions along with, or to, the teacher.

This is a terrific tool for multi-level teaching. The other day, three students at three different levels were ready for enrichments. We all sat at the table together. I explained the instructions to the first student and asked her to complete the first two lines while I started the next student, and so on. I went around the table checking work, encouraging, correcting, and explaining. It worked quite well. This was one instance for which the Post-It tabs mentioned below proved helpful!

I made a note to myself to read all the teachers’ notes on a particular worksheet before beginning it with a student. On page 170, the teachers’ notes say to read the spelling list U-1 in order while the student listens for the beginning sounds of the words. It’s even in bold. I did not read that before I started, and therefore chose to give the words randomly so they are in a different order than when written in the Learning Log. This created some confusion for me. I was reading them off the worksheet answer key, but didn’t want to read all of one category in a row so I was trying to randomize them. About the third word I started lightly pencil marking the words as I read them to avoid reading them again. About the fifth word, I noticed the teachers’ note to read the words as they occur in the WISE Guide. If I had taken one more moment of preparation before jumping in with my student, it would have saved me from the confusion of which words to read in which order. It also would have saved you from having to read and try to understand this paragraph. So, read the instructions for the teacher as well as those for the student—before engaging your student! (That should be a given, but apparently, some of us *ahem* need reminding.)

I appreciate that this resource is packaged as it is, with the teachers’ key being printed and bound and the students’ worksheets as a pdf. The author could have chosen to publish both editions electronically. If that were the case, I would probably have loaded the teachers’ manual on my iPad from which to teach. However, with a printed copy in my hands, I can jot down notes about things I want to remember to do the next time I use the page. For example, I drew a red star on page 170 next to the instruction to read section U-1 in order.

Making it Work Better for Us:
The Post-it tabs in my WISE Guide for the different sections we are studying are still working out magnificently. Some people choose to tab all the sections like an external, visible index. I prefer to simply tab the ones we are working on, moving the tab as a student advances. I have a different color for each student. And I used tabs of the same colors to mark the corresponding places in the Worksheets.

I put the pdf of student worksheets directly on my computer for quick and easy access. No finding and fumbling with the cd to access the file.

Questions and Recommended Improvements:
I would like to know how to guide students to form derivatives that are real words without giving away the answers. I encountered this dilemma previously, and now again with page 223 of the Worksheets. It can be disheartening to a student to fashion a page of derivatives from spelling words and prefixes and/or suffixes only to be told they aren’t real words. I tried to soften the blow by saying words such as “associator,” “resourcism,” and “architecty” could be used in very creative writing. In the “How to Use These Worksheets” pages, the author writes, “Students will need your help determining if a word they’re building is a legitimate English word.” She suggests using “a good dictionary or online resource,” but does not go into detail about how to do so. Perhaps this is a topic for an advanced seminar.

I hope in a future printing Extra Attention words might receive a footnote with a reference to where in the SWR Teacher’s Manual and/or WISE Guide an explanation may be found. For example, “starring” and “starred” on Worksheets page 34 are listed as “1-1-1 words needing extra attention” on page 158 of SWR Teacher’s Manual, which are examples of a type of advanced challenges to consider two pages back. I did not remember the particulars of those derivatives needing extra attention so my sweet student sat waiting while I found the explanation.

I would suggest splitting the one pdf into several different files to make accessing the desired section more efficient. Perhaps using the chart on page 64 of SWR Teacher’s Manual would be a good way to divide the document. If I were working with one student, this may not be a problem because my computer reopens pdfs to the same location as when closed. But with students at different levels, it is mildly annoying to scroll back and forth over one hundred pages.

I experienced some difficulty opening the cd on my computer. I think it may be a problem with the optical drive as it would spin up but not recognize the cd at all. I put it in my husband’s older computer and it worked nicely. I ended up emailing the file to myself so I could load it on my computer for more efficient access.

Keeping the cd in the pocket inside the front cover makes the front cover stiff and difficult to thumb through the early pages. But it’s a minor detail hardly worth mentioning and definitely would not keep me from purchasing the package.

Links:
LITHBTH Educational Services (swrtraining.com), Elizabeth FitzGerald's website
Back Home Industries, home of Spell to Write and Read by Wanda Sanseri
Morning Star Learning, another excellent resource for SWR information by Britta McColl



I received this publication at no cost in exchange for my published opinion, which was influenced by no one.

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