Jul 24, 2014

Spelling in the Dual Language Classroom

Spelling...oh spelling. Some teachers really emphasize spelling, others not so much. Many claim that words that are studied one week, go down the drain the following week - in other words no retention.

So what do I do or use for spelling?
When I was in the English-only classroom (not dual language) I fell in love with Words Their Way by Beers, Invernizzi, Templeton and Johnston. It was the only program I felt really worked for my students. Forget the 'one-size-fits-all' spelling list, because with WTW children are grouped according to their developmental spelling stage. Yes, it was crazy at times because there were 3 or more spelling groups at one time (usually 5 at the most, yet I feel more comfortable with 4) and every group had a different list. Setting up the routine took some time at the beginning, but after a month or so it was so smooth, you could hardly notice that children had different words. When I moved to the dual language world, I searched everywhere for something that would resemble Words Their Way and while there is not an official Words Their Way program designed for Spanish learning students (the books have an extended list/test for ELL but is not designed to teach words in Spanish), I came across a very promising guide created by Irma H. Trujillo and a team of collaborators with funding from the Department of Education.

The great thing is that since it was funded by the Department of Education, the materials and guides are FREE. There is a webcast available here with plenty of examples and a breakdown of how this tool works.

The guide, "presents teachers with a clear understanding of authentic Spanish word features, discusses a tool for word study assessment developed for a New Mexico school district, and provides resources to assist teachers in their efforts to implement a Spanish word study program for elementary students." 
(Early Literacy Intervention: Estudio de Palabras/Word Study in Spanish)

If you are familiar with WTW (Words Their Way), this guide will make TONS of sense. One thing I learned for sure or that I started to accept is that in Spanish word patterns or features are completely different from English so children do not progress through stages as they do in English.

This past school year I started playing with the program and really liked how it was structured; however, I found that since in Spanish words sound like they are spelled (for the most part) my students were not really having trouble with spelling as they did with vocabulary. I made changes throughout the year so that towards the end I did spelling in English and vocabulary in Spanish. It worked out really well, but I was left wondering if there was a better way to teach spelling in the bilingual classroom and if it is necessary at all.

Do you focus on spelling or vocabulary in Spanish or both? Other teachers and I would love to hear what awesome things you do in your classroom.


Image thanks to elginwx


  1. My kids are always making mistakes in Spanish! Since it is so phonetic, there are a lot of b/v, y/ll and just plain tons of errors. I like palabras a su paso.

  2. It's very difficult for me to understand the spanish, they speak too fast and loud, barely i can't even make a phrase correctly, too many verb tenses! Thanks for the help Kelly

  3. Hello! I know this post is older but I see that you say the program is free. I have found Palabras a su Paso, but definitely not free. Do you have any information on how I could access the free program? Or is this just no longer available. Thanks for any info you could provide!

    1. https://my.readingrecovery.org/webcasts.php



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