Saving time (and paper!) in Spelling: Part One

January 20, 2013

Saving time (and paper!) in Spelling: Part One

January 20, 2013
Hey there everyone! How are you doing this lovely Sunday? I’m here to share a new series of posts on how we’ve been saving time (and paper) in our classroom during Spelling and Word Work. 
Welcome to Part One!
So. We’ve been using Spelling City for years and years now…the free version that is. It really has been a priceless tool for my students–especially for my newcomer English Language Learners. I love all of the audio and practice it provides.
Recently, I decided to take the plunge and invest in the whole Spelling City package, which means Vocabulary Spelling City! *This is not a review, I purchased this myself after recommendations from some wonderful blogging colleagues.
Let’s getting to the saving time and paper part, which is the point of this post!
Aside from all of the wonderful features the full Spelling City offers (and there are many I’m very happy with) I really did purchase it for the online testing option.
Since my class is comprised of half EL newcomers and half mainstream students, we have quite a range of spellers within our diverse community. 
Which means multiple spelling lists. Which means, come Friday, a series of spelling tests.
This is fine, except it gives me a weekly panicked I-hate-the-amount-of-instructional-time-this-is-taking feeling. Ya know?
Soooo…NOW we have the fantastic option to take a virtual spelling test, with instant results…all at the same time! It took about 12 minutes this week and this was everyone trying the test for the first time.
Once finished, I am left with instant scores, all tabulated by student…
It is simply incredible!
There’s only one tiny problem.
I like to give my students five challenge words each week and I didn’t want to lose that option. Vocabulary Spelling City will add up the scores, but I don’t think it factors in extra points.
So I must confess, we do use a little paper after all (it’s 1/4 the size of the test papers we used previously, so it is technically paper-saving still, right?). 
It looks like this…
I cut the papers into fours, passed them out, took the Challenge portion of the test in the seven minutes before recess.Then I just recorded the points from the virtual test, added any challenge points earned, and wrote the final score. This also gives me something to send home to the families each week.
I had those babies graded and entered in the rank book before the kids could race to the basketball hoops outside!
And the best part of all? I felt like I had SO much more instructional time that Friday. We had taken care of one of our major routines in a matter of minutes and could move on to other important areas of learning.
I love it!!!
In case you are doing something similar with Vocabulary Spelling City, or would like to in the future, I have a copy of our Challenge Words sheet available for download right here (just click on the preview below)…
I hope this was of some kind of help to some of you out there, my dear readers! Stay tuned for Part Two, coming soon…


  • The Wild Rumpus January 20, 2013 at 4:59 pm


    We use Words Their Way, and I have to admit that that all of the differentiation and grouping and grading is overwhelming and time consuming. We have so much curriculum to get through. I don't want to shortchange word study, but the reality is that there is only so much time in a day. I've had my eye on Spelling City, so it's nice to have a recommendation from someone I trust. I REALLY like the online testing option. I'll have to take a deeper look at it.

    • Katie February 13, 2013 at 4:10 am

      I also use Words Their Way and want to see if I can test my students on Spelling City by sort and word spelled correctly. Maybe that's an option?! One can hope. I agree that it's SOOO time consuming. I have three groups going in my third grade classroom. Do-able but hard work. 🙂

  • Molly January 20, 2013 at 5:16 pm


    Yay!!! That is so great to hear that it is working well for you!! I forget, do you have technology for each student? I am still working on getting my Spelling City set up, but we won't be starting spelling again until the week after next because students have been spending a lot of time practicing for a school-wide oratory competition. I can't wait to see how it goes!! And your little challenge sheets are a great idea!!

    Lessons with Laughter

  • Diane R January 20, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    We used Words Their Way for the past few years, and I loved using Spelling City with it! I also upgraded to the paid version and would do it again. It made things so much easier. I had three or four different lists going, and I named my groups based off the color of my WTW book – yellow, green, blue, and then I used purple for those that were also in the blue book, but WAY ahead of the other blue book group. So when students logged in, they looked for their color, ie. Blue Sort 12. When they were done with their tests, I did have them print them out and hand it to me so I could put it in the grade book and have something to send home to parents. Add another recommendation from me! 🙂

    Fifth in the Middle

  • Elizabeth January 20, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    Yay, Kristen! I'm so glad you found a way to make this work for you and make your life a little easier. It sure made your Friday much better, huh? I've used Spelling City in the past and love it. I actually need to bring it up at home for my son. Thanks for the reminder about this awesome site 🙂


    Fun in Room 4B

  • Marcia January 20, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    I used the free version for several years. Like a dummy, I included my bonus words and then had to "fix" the score. This year I paid for the subscription and removed my bonus words. I give them those separately on a cute paper. Wish you had made yours available earlier! It would have saved me more time. This has become a "do it smarter" year. It takes me a few minutes to score my three sets of tests, record, and return them. I also give a pretest and allow students to be exempt for the week if they pass the test with 100%+ on Monday morning. They move to the highest level and can still test out. I have a smarty that often is exempt.

  • Brenda Frady January 20, 2013 at 10:52 pm

    I also use the paid version of spellingcity with my kiddos. LOVE it! We also use it for word study during literacy workstations. The only issue I've had is those few 'smarties' who think they can just click through & say "I'm done!" & move on to something else. Luckily, it's super easy to see how much time was spent on each task. I just set them up to re-do the activities….hopefully they'll soon learn it pays to be responsible & do it right the first time! lol

    Primary Inspired

  • Becca January 20, 2013 at 11:41 pm

    Hi, I'm just wondering how you go about setting it up? Do you use a class set of computers and have to go put each computer on to the website before you start your spelling test with the whole class? I'd love to do something like this but not sure how it would work. Also, I know a lot of my kids don't have much experience with typing on a keyboard, so I would wonder if they would make mistakes with the typing. Do you have this problem?
    Thanks for the post, spelling is something I've been struggling with teaching and looking forward to your answers!

    • Kristen January 23, 2013 at 1:36 am

      Hi Becca! Our school has a cart of laptops. If we have them all, we test all at once. If not, we will just rotate through the computers we have. We are also starting bring your own device to school soon, so this will help a lot.

      I don't set up the website for them…they're 5th graders so they can navigate to Spelling City and log on with ease. They're pretty savvy with typing because we use the computers a lot for word processing, interactive websites–plus they just use computers a ton at home as well.

      I hope this is of some help. I'm lucky to have a techy, fantastic class that responds really well to this kind of thing! Please email me at ladybugresources at yahoo dot com if you have any other questions about it, I would love to tell you more 🙂

  • Ms.M January 22, 2013 at 12:06 am

    It is amazing what you do. Some teachers I know use Spelling City but I just don't stress spelling so much so I just never got into it. Plus my kids are more Star Fall Kids, letters and sounds. However, all this looks wonderful. 🙂

  • Bex Mawn January 26, 2013 at 4:21 am

    I also give their challenge spelling words separately after they take the quiz on spelling city. I tried having the challenges as their own list but no one chose to ever take the challenge words quiz as an option. Now I can also require them to try one or more words 🙂 As I say, it wont take points off your score it will only add points if you get them right! I hope spelling city will someday figure out how to have optional challenge words in with the regular words.

  • teaching fashionista January 30, 2013 at 1:19 am

    i LOVE spelling city! I've never done the online test with the whole class yet.. Do all the students need headphones? I have to try it {so cool}
    I also bought the membership its honestly the best investment ever!
    How are you kristen? xo

  • Bex Mawn January 30, 2013 at 2:05 am

    Most of my students have headphones. Sometimes some dont work but it seems to be ok. I had a problem earlier this year that all of my kids werent logging in then I had no record of how they did. Now it seems to be fine! They also have an ipad app and the kids enjoy that.


  • Stephanie @ 3rd Grade Thoughts January 31, 2013 at 4:56 am

    THANK YOU for introducing me to Spelling City! I have heard about it in passing, but checked it out because of this post and have the Premium Membership now– it is awesome!! I still have so much to explore, but thank you a million times over, my friend, for once again making something easier and more fun during my day & my students' day 🙂 🙂 🙂 You are awesome!

    3rd Grade Thoughts

  • Katie Knight February 2, 2013 at 6:04 am

    Great ideas lady!

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