Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Can Ewe See My Steaks?

My students are used to using Microsoft Word and Open Office Writer in school. Both programs include visual cues to spelling and grammar errors. We discuss the reason for the red and green squiggles from the time the students start typing in Kindergarten. This year, I found a great new way to introduce the concept.

Spell Checker Poems
Over on the Elementary Tech Teacher's ning, Vicky Sedgwick posted a nice lesson on the spelling checker that she was planning on using with her sixth grade. She wanted to work with them on the concept of not relying too heavily on the spell checker in reviewing your work.

I was able to adapt the lesson to my third through fifth grade students this past week. She has three poems. I only used the first poem with third grade. We used two poems in fourth and fifth. Some of the quicker students also worked on the third poem.

Introducing the Lesson
Since we have an Activboard in the computer lab, I decided to extend the lesson a bit. First, I brought up the smallest poem titled The Spell Checker Poem by Mark Eckman. Word found three errors: Eckman, the word it on the second line of the poem, and the homonym your.

I was happy that all grades understand that Eckman is not in the dictionary, it is a person's last name, and is really not a spelling error. All three grades had a student point out that the grammar checker thought a period was missing in the first line of the poem. We had a short discussion on poetry and punctuation. Finally, the students realized your should have been written you're. We were doing a great job.

Using the Activboard
I opened up Activstudio, copied, then pasted the text of the poem into a text block on a flip chart page. I used the same methodology that I used with the Activboard Adjectives lesson. I demonstrated how the paint bucket could either paint the page or a word on the page.

We went around the room and the students took turns coming up to the board to identify words that really were spelled incorrectly. They had fun choosing the paint bucket color and coloring in the word. If a student chose incorrectly, I used the keyboard shortcut to Edit - Undo and the pen continued to be passed around the room.

Once all the words were identified, I had the students use the pen to write the correct spelling of the word.

It was a great lesson.

Extending the Work
The third grade students had been working on typing a document called The ABCs of Me in the previous class. It was leading up to my standard spell check lesson for the third grade. They opened their completed Word document and used the spell checker to check their work. They used their eyes and knowledge of the English language to finish proofreading before they printed.

The fourth and fifth grade learned to use the highlighter tool in Word. They opened the three poems from Vicky's lesson from the file server. They spent the remaining fifteen or twenty minutes to find all they mistakes they could.

Closing the Lesson
Next week, I will have the students open their highlighted file. I will bring up the corrected poem and they will check their own work. I was really happy with this lesson. I look forward to returning to the lesson next year with the third and fourth grade as a recurring lesson.


  1. Most spell checkers don't look at the context of a sentence and their editing distance is very limited therefore don't give a good answer to people with problematic spelling.
    I have recently found a great spell checker that was developed for people with dyslexia called Ghotit and I have found it works great and the good part is that Ghotit has a plug in for word which is available for free to educational institutes and a free of use options on Ghotit web site (www.Ghotit.com)

  2. I hadn't heard of that tool. Thank you for pointing it out!