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STAAR Prep: Spelling Strategies, Resources, and Downloadable Posters

by Emily Horn

There was a flutter of online activity after the RLA STAAR test post a few weeks ago. Teachers were discussing how spelling is included in the “conventions” section (2 points) of STAAR writing rubrics. It’s true – spelling is on the list! Let’s take a look at acceptable STAAR spelling accommodations, the STAAR Dictionary Policy, and a few spelling strategies with downloadable posters. We’ll end with a few curricular resources for teaching spelling. Here we go!

STAAR Spelling Assistance

Take a look at acceptable Spelling Assistance accommodations that do NOT require TEA approval for these spring 2023 STAAR tests:

  • grades 3-8 RLA
  • English 1, English 2
  • grades 3-5 Spanish RLA
  • grades 5 and 8 science and biology
  • grade 5 Spanish science
  • grade 8 social students and U.S. History.

Student Eligibility Criteria

A student may use this designated support if the student routinely, independently, and effectively uses this designated support during classroom instruction and classroom testing and meets the following criteria:

  • the student receives Section 504 or special education services; and
  • the student organizes and develops ideas and understands the basic function and use of written language conventions (e.g., sentence structures, irregular verbs) but has a disability that is so severe that the student cannot apply basic spelling rules or word patterns (e.g., prefixes, suffixes) to written responses.

STAAR Dictionary Policy

Dictionaries are required to be provided for students for these tests: grades 3-8 RLA, grades 3-5 STAAR Spanish RLA, and the STAAR English 1 and 2 tests. Here are some key highlights of the Dictionary Policy:

  • The minimum number of dictionaries should be “one for every five students testing,” but the recommendation is actually one for every three students.
  • Thesauruses are permitted (but not required) for the listed tests, and the recommendation (if provided) is one per five students.
  • Electronic dictionaries (including apps) are acceptable as long as TEA’s technology guidelines are followed.
  • The dictionaries provided should be what students are used to using during instruction and testing in the classroom.
  • Any student- or teacher-created dictionaries, subject-specific, and slang dictionaries are not allowed (see the policy for the list of acceptable dictionaries).
  • You can provide a dictionary in the language that’s best for the student.

Spelling Strategies for Elementary Students

Here are a few strategies that can help set students up for success when it comes to spelling in general. For each strategy, there is a visual. In addition to your word wall and phonics rules, you can hang these up in the classroom as you teach each strategy so that, eventually, students will independently choose from the strategies when writing.

When taking the STAAR test, students can use some of these with scratch paper and pencils/pens. They won’t be able to use all these strategies when taking the test, but practicing the strategies during class will help them remember to spell words correctly since the student is taking ownership of spelling rather than being given spelling by the teacher. In other words, it encourages productive struggle.

Click here for the editable poster templates!

Additional Spelling Resources

Scientific Spelling. This is by far my favorite curriculum for a few reasons. It’s great for students with dyslexia, and it’s backed by research, so that means it’s great for every student. Additionally, it’s cost-efficient with full teaching manuals for grades 1-8 costing just $65. Neuhaus also offers affordable training for the program either virtually, on demand, or on site. In the classroom, it is a very systematic program focusing on phonology, regular words, rule words, irregular words, and procedures. It takes about 10-15 minutes per day. On their website, they offer a lot of free resources, too. Can you tell I love this program? I love this program.

List of Top 10 Spelling Apps. Take a look at this “Top Picks” list of apps from Common Sense Education. These apps will reinforce spelling for students of all ages. Using games, quizzes, and more, students can explore new words, word construction, and take quizzes (premade or customized).

VocabularySpellingCity Beginning Spelling Curriculum. While I did use Spelling City quizzes and games for reinforcement with my students (since you can create your own lists), I’m not very familiar with their curriculum; however, I’ve spoken with several teachers who really like it. Spelling City offers K-3 and K-2 options. The K-3 Grade-Specific program gives a spelling pattern each week and includes high-frequency word lists. One thing to note – it is aligned with Fountas and Pinnell’s “The Continuum of Literacy Learning: Grades PreK-8.” The K-2 Classic program contains five-week units in which the first three weeks introduce regular patterns, the fourth week focuses on high-frequency words, and the fifth week reviews the previous weeks. In order for your students to access everything at school and at home, I do believe you must have a Vocabulary A-Z account.

Top 10 Resources for Spelling and Word Study by Reading Rockets. Here is a list of resources on how to approach spelling in a way that supports reading and all readers. They offer information on dyslexia and dysgraphia, word lists, phonological awareness, and instructional methods.

What resources and strategies would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments!


Additional STAAR and TEKS Articles You May Find Useful

Reading Language Arts STAAR Test Resources

The K-5 ELAR TEKS and Free, Editable Spreadsheets

The K-5 Math TEKS and Free, Editable Spreadsheets

A Practical Strategy for Teaching Editing Skills

A Powerful and Easy Strategy for Teaching Text Evidence

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