Teacher staring in dismay at the massive stack of papers on his desk.
Teachers have too much work to do. We have to find ways to lessen the load.


The weekly spelling review work.  The endless stacks of papers that all want to be scored and returned.  One of the “never-ending stories” of the elementary classroom.  Yes, students need to work on spelling and word review.  Yes, students need repetition.  But no, we don’t have to continue to suffer through the grading of it every single week.  I’ve struggled through the issue for years and finally found a mix that works for me in the classroom.  I included five top tips to help alleviate the workload from weekly spelling review work and how it can work for you.


Why do I need the spelling review to work for me – what’s the big deal?

There are multiple meanings for weekly spelling reviews.  But teacher friend, if you have spent time in an elementary school, you know what I mean when I mention weekly spelling review work.  That weekly packet of work that used to be inside of a spelling textbook (but now we get to copy), those exercises that allow students to practice spelling, handwriting, and word usage.  It goes along nicely with the weekly spelling word list, weekly spelling test, weekly phonics review, and many, many others.  I could go on and on,  and in your head, you are most likely thinking of the same seemingly unending list.

As teachers, we have a HUGE amount of things to do every week.  And because we are rock stars, we get it all done… mostly.  A few times, I got it done by dragging piles of assignments home and either talking my children into helping with the grading or paying my next-door neighbor’s child.  Tell me you’ve done the same.  The work we are called to do is incredible, and the children we work with are precious.  But, the behind-the-scenes workload, all the hours spent prepping, planning, meeting, copying, and scoring, is not.


We need to lessen the to-do list. 

I knew I could take it home and grade papers while I watched a movie or sat at my child’s drum lesson or dance practice.  Right?  You have probably done the same.  I didn’t want to have to do that anymore.  I wanted my family time to be my family time.  And, if I had extra time during practice or other mom duties, I could focus that time on my family or honestly breathe.  Sitting quietly in your car and breathing can be the most beautiful thing.  So I decided to reevaluate my practices in the classroom and see how I could save time and energy and lessen my to-do list.


Time to make changes to the review work we do every week.

Exhausted teacher asleep on piles of work because he needs to lessen the to-do list.
Teachers have too much to do daily. We need to figure out ways to decrease the workload.


The weekly spelling review I have the kids work on each week to supplement their spelling skills was the first thing I chose to change up.  I changed my entire process with a few minor tweaks and saved myself some time and energy (both of which I value).  Hopefully, some of these suggestions will help you.


5 tips to help with the weekly review work


1. I made the weekly spelling review a homework assignment.  I like that students can practice at home.  Students need spelling practice.   Fortunately, they do not require my presence to be successful.  Assigned homework should allow the child to complete it independently with a 90% accuracy rate.  You will have parents and students that want homework assignments, some that expect it, and frankly, a few little loves that never seem to be able to get their work done at home. This is an easy option for parents and kids who want homework.

For the ones who may not complete it at home, you do not need to use the spelling review for a grade nor punish the children for not bringing it in.  The work is scored and returned the following week with a note in the child’s agenda about the missing assignment.  You can keep a grade sheet of the child’s weekly score on the word work or if a student fails to turn one in.  This is an easy way to keep up documentation for a study habits grade for report cards or conferences.

I also consistently assign it weekly so parents and students know to expect it and plan for it.  Students get the work on Monday and turn the work in on Friday.  Work expectations are adjusted for shorter weeks.

2.  I differentiate the weekly word work for my students who need it.  We have all different abilities in our classrooms, and teachers are required to meet those needs.  Some kids need a challenge, and some need a little more help.  Regardless, it is our job to make sure the assignments, at least from the outside, look the same.  This is incredibly easy to do with the weekly word work.  I can give a different list to every child who needs one.  Still, they all have the same assignment, just a differentiated workload.  This is a huge time saver because word lists can be created and adjusted quickly and done weeks at a time for convenience.  Additionally, it is another way to show that you differentiate in the classroom to meet the needs of your students.

Students work together to grade weekly word review assignments.
Classroom jobs help empower our students and allow much more to be completed in the classroom.

3. I created one spelling contract to use every week.  Choose a spelling contract that you like and use one.  Many spelling contracts and word review suggestions change the themes for the different holidays or months.  Others offer various activities each week.  I found some charming ones, but I also know that it requires a lot of work to keep up with the different ones, and I wanted to simplify my workload.  Many teachers can juggle the copies and change the themes of the contracts for the seasons and enjoy the time it takes to do it.   If that is you, awesome.  You do you.  I am impressed because I can’t do it.  Or rather, I will focus on consistency and simplify the process.

I created one spelling contract I liked.  I posted on my website examples of activities so parents would know what the exercises meant.  I made copies one day after school and tucked the extras away in a cabinet to use over the next several months.  I have spares for kids who need another copy (and there is always at least one).  Parents know what to expect every week.  Students know what to expect and can go over and above if they want to.  There are enough activities for students to choose which combination of word work they want to complete each week.

4.  I do not grade my student’s weekly word work; my students do.  I made scoring the word work a classroom job.   I spend the first few weeks of school reviewing and perfecting classroom policies and procedures like you.  This is just one of them.

Students work at their desks because they have learned classroom procedures.
Spending time at the beginning of the year, teaching students classroom policies and procedures, allows so much time to be used wisely throughout the rest of the year.

On Friday, the student counts up his completed work, fills out the points on the front of his spelling contract, and turns it into the student collecting the spelling contract for the week.  The student checker flips through the work to ensure it is all attached, circles the score, and marks it on the grade sheet.  Students who make more than the class goal of 50 points get a bonus added to their bank accounts.  I do classroom cash.  For every 10 points over 50, the student receives a ‘class dollar.’  My banker sits beside the student collecting the word work and passing out the necessary money.  I am not involved in any of this process.

My students go through this as part of their Friday morning routine.  I am free to turn my attention to other matters, but available if there is an issue or a question.

I wanted to value my students’ work but not take the time to grade it myself.  Now I have the best of both worlds.


5. I made it part of their center work.  This is an easy addition to any classroom where centers are required for seat work.   The students already know what to do, and the assignment is already differentiated. Plus, you already have the copies made.  I love having this option in the center, especially for my kids who struggle with completing homework.



A bonus!

Weekly word work is a great time filler.  You know that list you are supposed to have in your classroom of what students can do if they finish early?  This is a super easy way to keep them busy and engaged with their work.

This spelling contract can also be pulled out of backpacks during bus dismissals at the end of the day.  Kids love getting a jump on homework, and the student stays busy on something valuable to his learning but does not require your time or help.  The limited time helps the students stay on task since they only have a few minutes.  There were fewer and fewer behavior issues when everyone was focused on their assignments.

Happy elementary students taking responsibility for scoring their own work
Making the weekly word review scoring a student responsibility opens up some more of my time to focus on other things.

Changing these simple steps and putting much of the responsibility back on the students saved me a lot of time.  I could then

You can focus on something else entirely and still value the work the students completed in their weekly spelling contracts.


Hugs, teacher friend. 

Thank you for spreading your sunshine to your students and sharing your magic with the world. 

The world needs you.