A few years ago I moved toward the spelling contract instead of assigning a particular spelling activity each night. I love the fact that the contract allows students to have a choice in the way they work on the words. I have tweaked the contract over the past few years so that it contains the activities that most students seemed to gravitate to while providing choice across various learning styles. At first having so many choices can be a very new experience for the students. Every now and then I have a parent who communicates that their child has some difficulty choosing which activity to complete. I always picture my niece when I talk to these parents. That girl can not make a decision! I can remember standing in the cookie aisle with her trying to pick out out which treat we'd take with us to set up my classroom. She was just frozen in her tracks with all of those choices in front of her. I had to eventually pick a couple off of the shelf myself and make her choose between those two instead of the whole aisle. So when I talk to parents with this problem, I tell them to narrow down the choices for their child or make a game out of it by flipping a coin. Eventually, just about everyone comes to love the freedom of choice.
I've also found the contract idea to be much easier for me management wise. I have the students complete their assignments in a composition book and I walk around each morning and stamp that I've seen it with a stamp I ordered from Vistaprint that says "Spelling Contract Checked for Completion". It indicates that I saw that the homework was done, but not necessarily checked for 100% accuracy. I do catch glaring errors and can see the amount of effort put into the work, but homework is not actually graded at our school. When I know an individual student is having difficulty and needs the extra attention, I certainly check theirs more closely.
When I introduce the contract with the kids we start with a sample list of 5 words, usually ones that are synonyms for start - like new, begin, first. Then we actually complete one or two of the contract activities each day in their spelling notebook just the way I expect them to do it at home. I also have them glue the contract right into their notebook as well. Now when they take that home for homework, the students and parents have an instant resource and they'll know exactly how to complete each activity. It takes a while to go model it this way, so we usually don't start spelling homework until the third week of school.
So, where is the fabulous Spelling Star Contract, you ask? Well, it's over at First Grade Fanatics! I've shared it on their website as one of their 14 Days of Summer giveaways. So, click on over there to get your free copy and then scroll back and collect the other 13 giveaways too, there's a bunch of great freebies just waiting for you!
P.S. Today is my first day of school with the kiddies...wish me luck!