For centuries, students have learned orthography through a weekly spelling test routine. On Friday a test assesses students on words introduced at the beginning of the week.
Teachers of elementary school students spend on average 2,5 hours per week on spelling test related tasks. Add to this the time students and their parents spend reviewing words at home: Plain to see why both students and teacher easily grow tired of the process.
What's worse: Students who are not at the target instructional level often don't benefit from the exercise at all.
That's because the traditional spelling test process is fairly static. Personalizing the process or reviewing words over a longer period of time are typically limited by class size and time.
If students verbal skills lag behind, they may master words on Friday's spelling test with intensive study. Those "crammed" words, however, are often forgotten as early as next Monday. (Morris, D., Blanton, L., Blanton, W. E., Nowacek, J., & Perney, J. (1995). Teaching lowachieving spellers at their "instructional level." Elementary School Journal, 96, 163-177.)
Spelling tests cause students to "cram" words into short-term memory. They may get a good grade this way, yet without actual learning gain. Automaticity is what turns words into active vocabulary, and it is not achieved this way.
Students who have a weak vocabulary foundation can't learn grade-level vocabulary effectively! Catching up to grade-level requires an extraordinary effort. Initially, struggling students often require much longer review cycles, and those needs can not be met by a spelling test routine.
On the other side of the proficiency spectrum are students with advanced verbal skills. They will perceive the routine as futile busy work. Deprived of a good challenge, they go through the exercise without significant knowledge gain.
Rote spelling tasks put a strain on everyone in the classroom. They also consume time that would be better invested in creative and social learning tasks.
LearnThatWord is designed to integrate vocabulary and spelling practice. Our online tutoring is 100% personalized to the needs of each student, and reviews practice words until they are fully learned.
LearnThatWord quizzes can feel like a spelling test at first. That's because we always start out with testing if the student can produce the right answer. We do this before introducing new words. This way, we assess actual knowledge and not just short-term memory.
In contrast to traditional spelling tests, however, the assessment is non-judgmental. It is solely used to determine which words need more practice. The main focus of LearnThatWord is to provide every student with the optimal amount of review for successful learning.
The results are used to tailor practice and review to the individual.
Struggling students get the careful attention they need. LearnThatWord helps them catch up with their classmates at their own time and without fearing embarrassment.
Advanced students can complete the assignment in minutes and move on to more challenging words.
Instant feedback alerts the students to items they do not yet know. Immediately following the feedback, tour Open Dictionary of English offers colorful information. This page prompts the student to write the word again for practice. Multi-media and traditional dictionary sources help to make the word "stick."
At LearnThatWord, learning does not stop after a certain date or a predefined number of reviews. Instead, we patiently practice words that the student got wrong. Practice words are removed from the students learning profile only after they have been answered correctly over three quizzes in a row. It does not matter if this takes three or many more reviews. What matters is that the student learns the word long-term and builds automaticity.
Our adaptive algorithm makes our tutoring fast and targeted. Long-term results are created in a fraction of the time.
Teachers save a lot of time by delegating the spelling test to LearnThatWord. They can create their own word lists or select one from our large word list archive. Words are sent to classes with a few clicks.
Teachers can create an unlimited number of classes and group students together as needed.
Students are accountable. Performance is clearly visible, both to the student and the teacher. Teachers simply set weekly goals (ideal are daily sessions, minimum three a week). Instead of using grades at a spelling test, credits can now be given for completing LearnThatWord sessions regularly.
LearnThatWord also helps struggling students catch up. Simply select a lower grade for these students and set the goal to "improve English." LearnThatWord checks for gaps in each student's vocabulary. It then automatically moves each student forward, using our proprietary progression scale.
Advanced students can challenge themselves with words that meet their interests, for example, winning the spelling bee or preparing the SAT.
We never assign grades, compare or reprimand. LearnThatWord assess what needs further practice, and provide it with utmost care.
In the same spirit, our rewards, diplomas, and prizes all focus on effort, not existing skill.
This, research has shown, is the only way increase learning using rewards.