AGQTP Action Research Project Improving spelling across the whole school. Mulgrave Primary School Jessica Mann & Nicola Weerakoon. School Profile.
AGQTP Action Research ProjectImproving spelling across the whole school
Mulgrave Primary School
Jessica Mann & Nicola Weerakoon
Mulgrave Primary School is a small school in the Eastern Metropolitan region. We currently have around 200 students in 8 classes, and have 2 specialist teachers. In 2008 we had a change of leadership, with a new Principal taking over, after having had the same Principal for 23 years.
MPS is undergoing a great deal of change in a number of areas, and the one that interested us the most was the evaluation of our literacy program.
Over the past few years, we have noticed a decline in our student results in the areas of writing and spelling, especially in the grade 5 area. The data obtained from AIM and NAPLAN results shows that students in grade 3 are at the state mean, but by the time they reach grade 5, are significantly below this level.
Our writing showed similar results, but as our school is already undertaking the Courtenay Gardens Writing program, we felt that spelling would be an ideal focus for our action research project.
Current Practices in spelling
We decided to start our action research by asking staff what they currently did to teach spelling to students. Some of the things being done were –
How much time do we spend teaching spelling?
We asked staff to estimate how much time they spend explicitly teaching spelling to their class.
By reviewing all responses from staff, on average across the school we are currently spending
two or more hours
a week teaching
spelling to our students.
Effective ways to teach spelling.
We asked our teachers what they felt were the most effective ways to teach spelling. These were the responses –
Why are some students not successful spellers?
Our next question was very important, and that was, why are some of our students not experiencing success in spelling? We asked staff what they saw as the problems with our current spelling practices, and this is what they said-
What do the students think?
We asked some students from the upper school why they felt it was important to learn to be a good speller. This clip shows some of their responses –
Where to now?
Now we had a clear idea of what was happening within classrooms, and of what staff felt in regards to spelling, we needed to decided how best to launch a program that would suit the whole school.
The biggest problem that our school
was facing was …….
Lack of consistency!!!!!
We had no real program, and no similar resources through the school. Everyone taught spelling their own way, with different resources and different approaches. Some people taught spelling for several hours a week, others just did it as part of homework.
We needed a consistent set of materials, and a consistent understanding of what was expected from both teachers, and students.
We decided to set up all staff with the same set of resources and information…
Each staff member was presented with a folder of spelling resources. We decided as a staff to use the Oxford Word Lists and associated resources as a focus point through the school.
The resources were available online at
This folder had all the Oxford materials, professional reading on spelling and other information on the assessment and teaching of spelling.
We also presented staff with an activity box. This box had lists, resources and ideas for students to use when engaging in spelling related activities.
What happened next?
The next step was to actually get staff involved, and the research project underway. The focus questions for all staff to keep in mind were ;
What, out of the new resources I’ve been provided with, works best for me?
What activities are most beneficial and useful in my class?
Have I noticed any improvement in student outcomes by using new resources and activities?
Staff were given 4 weeks in which to trial all the new resources and activities that they had been provided with.
They were asked to have at least 2 specific and explicit spelling lesson times per week, and to incorporate the spelling materials where possible into other areas of the curriculum.
Each staff member was given a record sheet to fill in at the end of each week as a means of cataloguing data for us, and to provide evidence of the lessons that had been undertaken.
Lessons were undertaken by each grade in the school. These included a range of activities and approaches such as whole class, individual and group activities, games, ICT resources etc.
To really lift the profile of the spelling program within the school, we held a whole school spelling bee as part of literacy and numeracy week.
Every student in the school was involved in revising at home the words that formed the basis of our spelling resources.
This was a great activity, and also raised some money for the school as well!
What did we discover?
After the 4 week trial period, we collected all the data generated by staff on the project. This included their planners, student results and evaluations and reflections of the spelling lessons.
These were our main findings –
Overall the teachers felt this spelling experience was positive and engaged the students. They felt that they could incorporate these spelling activities within literacy groups and writing lessons.
Most students spelling improved throughout the trial period. Some quite significantly.
They also felt that the children were more careful about how they were spelling words and what types of words they were using.
What were the challenges?
The main challenges that our staff identified were –
Trying to fit more teaching time into an already overcrowded curriculum.
Finding spelling related activities that catered for all learning styles.
Some teachers found it hard to group children according to their spelling ability as this is quite varied.
These are all areas in which we will need to put more time and effort into addressing.
We were also able now to make informed decisions about the type of spelling program that we would like to have in our school.
Staff decided that we would use –
Magic words in grade Prep
Oxford most used words resources in grade 1-3
Mulgrave words in grades 4-6. (this is a resources that we created especially for our senior students)
Hopes for the future
We hope that –
Staff continue to implement spelling specific activities on a regular basis, and continue to use and add to the resources provided to them.
Staff will adopt the new spelling program with vigour and enthusiasm as on term 1, 2010.
Our student results continue to improve, and hopefully validate this with analysis of to NAPLAN data.
Students continue to enjoy and be engaged by the new spelling program.
Thank you for your interest, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact either Nicola or Jess at Mulgrave Primary School on (03) 9795 2477, or email through edumail.