October 22, 2013

Free 5 Star Speller Card Download

We are not the world's hottest spellers at my house.  I stunk it up in spelling as a kid (okay, I still do) but I don't love the idea of telling the kids that they are genetically challenged when it comes to spelling or that there is anything they can't rock if they put their mind to it.  And the whole If they read a lot, they will intuitively spell well thing just hasn't held true in this house.  My kids are serious readers and seriously stinky spellers.  

If I learned anything from my boys' time in public school speech therapy, it's that kids will do a LOT for the chance to dig some meaningless piece of plastic or candy out of a treasure chest.  My gut wants to run away from that modern wastefulness thing that our culture's got going on, where we buy slave labor junk from China, convince the kids that it's meaningful enough to work for, and then when it falls apart immediately, we just say, "It was junk.  What did you expect?  Here, have another."  Ick!  Everything about that rubs me the wrong way.  But still, the power of a prize box is an undeniable thing.  

So what to do?  Well, I've noticed a pretty steady stream of junk food and knick-knacky stuff coming into our home via Halloween and parades and festivals of all kinds, during which the kids accumulate grocery bags full of candy and frisbees and whistles and the like.  So our policy is to let the kids have a reasonable amount of their take - say 5 pieces of candy at any given event - and then the rest gets funneled into prize box where they can earn it out at a slow and steady rate rather than flooding their blood stream with a year's worth of sugar on a single afternoon.   

Shortly after I established the prize box, I happened to grab a coffee at the gas station and they gave me a punch card where if I bought something like 10 coffees, I'd get one free.  I just tossed it aside because I almost never actually buy coffee out and even if I did, the odds of me keeping up with that card long enough to get the free coffee were zero.  But Hannah Jane was like, "Whoa!  You have to do that!  Mom, it's free!"  And while I lectured her on how it wouldn't be free if I were buying coffee only to get the free one, I was also having a silent chat with myself in my head about how clearly the punch card idea excited her and could be used to my advantage.  And thus, the 5 Star Spelling Cards were born! 

Spelling is the ONLY subject that we have actual tests for.  Everything other subject is judged based on progress and practice.  Spelling, however, is a pretty basic and measurable subject area where there actually is always a right and a wrong and I don't need to factor in their process.  So every Thursday we do a pre-test and every Friday we do a test.  If you happen to get a 100% on the pre-test, you get free time during Friday's test, and if you don't, you know what you need to study.  The activities leading up to Thursday are pretty varied and creative, always trying to find a magical approach that will enable them to actually click with spelling.  But Thursday and Friday look pretty much like a public school in terms of spelling tests.  

With the 5 Star Speller cards, the kids get a punch in a star if they get a 100% either on Thursday or Friday, and when they get 5 punches, it's prize box time!  I'm always surprised by how motivated they are to get a tootsie roll or small plastic cat or whatever other junk is in the box, but they are.  It costs me nothing, the way I stock it, and it gets them a little excited about a subject that we all agree is pretty bleck.  

I made the cards bigger than those you'd put in your wallet because my kids don't use a wallet and they loose anything small.  They just slip them in the front pocket of their school notebooks, or Hannah Jane punched a hole in the corner of hers and actually filed it behind the spelling tab in her binder.  You can download the 5 Star Spelling cards here if you want to give them a try!

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