What is a quick difference between Montessori and traditional classrooms? Where to start! But one of the differences is the absence of the infamous "Classroom Word Wall" that exists in traditional classrooms. Instead, because our students are in 3 different age groups, and within those age groups on their own levels, we don't have a way to have a classroom word wall! What we do instead, is have each student have their own personal dictionary set up instead. This personalized version allows a student to add new words that applies to them! The personal dictionary is a way for students to house unfamiliar spelling words that they either misspelled in a writing assignment or are requesting being spelled by a teacher.
These boxes can be found at dollar stores or grocery stores at a cheap rate. You can find the alphabetizing cards online too. Then, your student will just add index cards behind the letter to alphabetize their words. I suggest writing the word directly on the card if the student has trouble rereading their handwriting in a future date. These boxes are my favorite because they are transportable! The students can take them anywhere they need to write. They also rarely get full, especially if students add 4-5 words on one card that begins with the same letter of the alphabet. If the box falls (which does happen!) the student will be able to easily sort which cards go where.
The next level is for students who understand the organization of the box pretty well and can write on a small line. To make this dictionary, get a small composition notebook and add a sticker to the side of the page to form a "tab," then add each letter of the alphabet on one or every other new page. Your student will add words onto one singular page of the alphabet to add to their dictionary.
The next level is for students who have fewer misspelled words, and are avid typists. I suggest having a dictionary computer or tablet available at all times in your classroom, or else you'll have students waiting. Then, create a spreadsheet (we use Google Slides) and help students understand the format. Each letter of the alphabet is at the top, and then there are numbers going further down. They will add each word as it begins in the alphabet, but go downward for each word. So in the A column they might have: alligator, artistic, and authentic- then in the B column have: banana- and so on.
This isn't something to sort of nudge in their direction and have them know how to do it. You will want to spend time giving a proper demonstration, and having times throughout the year where you check on their dictionary organization. Sometimes I have students who put it in the wrong place, or upside down, or don't put a word in- just be on the look out!
Students can at any time bring a "ticket" (a very small piece of scrap paper that we have previously cut and displayed) to a teacher and ask them to write down a word. If it is a sound out word, I encourage the student to try. They should also bring their dictionary with the ticket to show you that they did look in their dictionary first! Then you will write it down on the ticket and they will add the new word into their dictionary. It doesn't happen as often as you think, and some students like to assist with tickets too (if they are great spellers).
At the end of writing assignments, a draft will have underlined words that are misspelled. Depending on the level of the student, they will have the correct form written right above (or it won't if I know that the word is already in their dictionary). Then they will be responsible for adding these words into their dictionaries.
In our classroom, students have absolute access to these boxes or books at any time. They are welcome to use their personal dictionary during a writing period. I recommend allowing the student to use these boxes because it will help them get used to using it! During silent writing times (we do every Friday afternoon), I do not allow new tickets to be asked for by the teacher. This encourages students to ensure they are using their dictionaries throughout the week.
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