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How well do you spell? Find Out in Sixty Seconds

Cast a spell in sixty seconds!

Testing a spell

English spelling is hard and needs to be taught explicitly, but most American schools fail miserably to teach children to spell. Kids who can't spell often do not read and write with proficiency because spelling is at the foundation of both reading and writing. If your child can't spell well, it can lead to struggles with reading and writing. Most highly literate people have an excellent "spelling dictionary in the brain!" Literate people who can't spell well would be better readers and writers if they had expert spelling skill.

Test your own spelling acumen in a three-word spelling test. I predict three fairly common words will knock you off the "expert spelling" pedestal. Then use the Gentry Spelling Grade-Level Test printed below as a quick and easy way to find your child's spelling level. (In my next blog post, I'll show you why America's new toxic system for delivering spelling instruction may be harming your child.)

Are You a Spelling Champion? Test Yourself!

Can you spell words that adults frequently misspell? Let's find out with just three words. You have to spell all three correctly to remain in good standing--otherwise, I knock you off the pedestal! We'll start with a definition and a clue to make sure you know the word. (You can find the answers and sample secrets to deep-level spelling knowledge in the last section of this post.)

1. Spell the word that means a gymnastic apparatus or a stupid person. Clue: The weightlifter dropped the _______________. Starts with d.

2. Spell the word that means injurious or disrespectful to something held sacred. It is __________ to make profane utterances in a house of worship. Clue: Starts and ends with s.

3. Spell a word that means to inject a serum or vaccine into, in order to prevent or cure a disease. The nurse used a needle to ____________ the patient from the deadly disease. Clue: This word has four syllables and starts with i.

(NOTE: If you couldn't think of the word, you failed.)

Could you spell all three words? (Answers are found at the end of this post.)

Now Test Your Child--The Gentry Spelling Grade-Level Test

The Gentry Spelling Grade-Level Test is a graded list of spelling words that allows parents and teachers to determine a student's "spelling grade-level." This informal and easy to administer test consist of eight lists of 20 words each for grades 1 through 8. Start a couple of years below your child's grade level and stop testing when your child misses more than half of the words in a list. Words selected for each list are those that students in a particular grade level typically misspell at the beginning of the year but master by the end of the year after good spelling instruction. Remember, the highest grade level list at which your child spells 50 percent or more of the words correctly is a good indication of your child's grade level for spelling accuracy and his or her instructional level.

(Note: a printable PDF copy of this test is available on my website on the handouts page or by clicking here--

Grade One

1. all 5. play 9. the 13. like 17. is
2. me 6. at 10. and 14. am 18. ten
3. do 7. yes 11. one 15. you 19. was
4. come 8. on 12. be 16. see 20. no

Grade Two

1. jump 5. that 9. off 13. hike 17. seven
2. apple 6. more 10. bell 14. brown 18. egg
3. five 7. house 11. say 15. hope 19. sometime
4. other 8. fine 12. part 16. much 20. wall

Grade Three

1. spring 5. bones 9. below 13. wrong 17. those
2. helps 6. saved 10. walked 14. things 18. cream
3. feather 7. planning 11. also 15. airplane 19. biting
4. people 8. placed 12. often 16. learn 20. carry

Grade Four

1. worry 5. thumb 9. wreck 13. finish 17. fifth
2. twenty 6. carried 10. November 14. middle 18. tomorrow
3. you're 7. surprise 11. loud 15. wrote 19. writing
4. dozen 8. blame 12. wasn't 16. iron 20. frozen

Grade Five

1. neighbor 5. laid 9. subject 13. officer 17. midnight
2. parties 6. manners 10. claim 14. prove 18. steady
3. rotten 7. parents 11. unknown 15. library 19. prepare
4. worst 8. hungry 12. American 16. yawn 20. village

Grade Six

1. jewel 5. theme 9. ruin 13. interview 17. burden
2. thief 6. system 10. yield 14. forbid 18. canvas
3. avenue 7. written 11. seize 15. hymn 19. grocery
4. arrangement 8. depot 12. difference 16. mimicking 20. lawyer

Grade Seven

1. possession 5. interrupt 9. occasionally 13. patient 17. laboratory
2. yacht 6. athletic 10. anchor 14. pressure 18. cashier
3. thorough 7. secretary 11. announce 15. straighten 19. wrath
4. gymnasium 8. agriculture 12. revenue 16. establish 20. intelligent

Grade Eight

1. fierce 6. chemically 11. vengeance 16. alliteration
2. predominant 7. coincidence 12. executive 17. grievance
3. committee 8. columnist 13. schedule 18. autobiographical
4. analyze 9. cheetah 14. seniority 19. guarantee
5. pursue 10. financial 15. restaurant 20. appropriateness

If your child scored below grade level, don't be surprised. Most schools do a poor job of teaching spelling. Find out why and what can be done about it in my next post.

Answers to the Adult Level Spelling Test
1. dumbbell
You can use the rule for compound words to help you spell this word correctly: both words (dumb and bell) must stand alone as a free morpheme. Next you need to "see" the compound in your mind to know that it's like applesauce and not like post office.
2. sacrilegious
Knowing word histories will help you spell this word correctly. Sacrilegious derives from the Latin combining form sacr- meaning sacred and legere meaning to take away as in temple robbers who take away something sacred. The word religious has a different word history so if you used religious in your spelling, you missed it.
3. Inoculate
has the same word history or Latin root as ocular--of or relating to the eye. In Middle English inoculate was a science term applied to engrafting or implanting buds into plants: an inserted bud resembled an eye, or oculus. Remember how to spell inoculate by thinking of ocular.
In my next blog post, I'll show you why America's new toxic system for delivering spelling instruction maybe harmful to your child. If your child did poorly on the spelling test and is not bringing home a good spelling book, he or she may be in trouble.

Find out more about research-based, 21st century spelling books! Insist that your child brings one home!

Share this post with other parents and teachers!

Check out a new 21st century spelling textbook, Spelling Connections (2022).published by Zaner-Bloser

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