Spelling with the Rainbow Boxes in Lower Elementary

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Many students in the Lower Elementary classroom have been hard at work improving their spelling skills in various ways, such as answering daily journal prompts, composing weekly stories in Writer’s Workshop, and making their way through the Waseca Rainbow Boxes.

The beauty of the Rainbow Boxes is that there are quite a few components to each level, all of which can be mixed and matched to create an individualized, hands-on activity for each student. Each drawer contains somewhere between five and ten flash cards and labels that share a specific phonetic element in common; one side of the card shows an image or an illustration that represents a word, while the other side of the card shows the spelling of that word. If a student is unfamiliar with the phonetic element being studied, they may begin by matching each card with its respective label. Students who express a familiarity with the phonetic element, however, may jump to the next step, which is looking at the image side of each card and spelling out the word letter by letter with the movable alphabet. Once they’ve finished arranging the letters, they self-check their work by flipping the card over and comparing their spelling with the correct word as it is shown on the back of the card.

Once they have mastered the words with the movable alphabet, they move onto a short exercise that involves reading another five to ten words aloud from a small booklet that also include the same phonetic elements demonstrated by the cards. This helps them recognize the sounds that they have been working with in a different context, and it’s exciting to watch and listen as they begin to show confidence in their ability to pronounce words that they might not have even seen before.

Finally, they revisit the original set of words one more time. They are presented with the image cards again, one by one, and this time they use a pencil to spell each word in their notebook—again, self-checking their work by turning the cards over after they’re finished writing. When they finish the last card in the set, many students often express an immediate desire to be given even more words to spell, demonstrating that they’re truly proud of their ever-expanding spelling skills. This is just one method of using the components included in the Rainbow Boxes, with many more possibilities ahead.

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