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Curriculum & Instruction
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FISD Curriculum & Instruction
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An Overview of the FISD Elementary Literacy Program
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FISD recognizes the importance of developing proficient readers and writers in the early years. The elementary literacy program may be best characterized as a balanced one including the following components: teacher read aloud, shared reading, word study activities, guided reading, independent reading, modeled writing, shared writing, and independent writing. Critical features of the program include individual student assessment, literacy based professional development for teachers, and the implementation of research based instructional strategies.

Every student in grades kindergarten through fifth grade is individually assessed in reading at the beginning of each school year and monitored throughout the year. This assessment affords teachers the opportunity to determine each student’s strengths and weaknesses in reading, allowing for more individualized instruction.

District professional development provides teachers opportunities to remain current in literacy instructional strategies and practices. In addition to this literacy based training, each FISD elementary teacher is supplied with literacy resources that include 6 Trait Writing materials, the district phonics continuum, campus based guided reading libraries, the FISD spelling lists and suggested research based instructional strategies.

The district phonics program continuum has been in place for several years. This guideline for phonics instruction indentifies important phonics concepts and the corresponding grade level at which each concept should be introduced, developed and mastered.

FISD’s Spelling Program outlines the district’s philosophy of spelling instruction as well as grade level instant words, chunks and prefix/suffix lists, and summaries of the most current spelling instructional strategies. The district’s spelling philosophy supports direct spelling instruction with embedded opportunities for the authentic application of learning through writing. The goal of all spelling instruction is to develop independence, fluency and accuracy in writing. FISD recognizes that a quality spelling program equips students with strategies for spelling words independently, and for monitoring and proofing personal writing.

Important components of the FISD writing program encompass the craft/process of writing, the integration of writing in all disciplines, and teacher training. Students are encouraged to develop their own writing “voice”, and teachers utilize holistic rubrics for scoring writing selections. Writing workshop, academic journaling, and self-editing are all integral parts of the FISD writing program. FISD language arts teachers are provided a common FISD Writing Model and associated teaching resources.

For the student in need of additional literacy support, the district offers:

1. Accelerated Reading Program, for students in grades K-5 at-risk in general reading development
2. Scottish Rite’s Take Flight Program, for the third through fifth grader who demonstrates dyslexic tendencies.

Questions about the dyslexia program may be directed to Mia Bennett, Director of Instructional Support Programs, 469-633-6840.

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Spelling Instruction
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Spelling Instruction | Spelling Instruction FAQ

FISD supports direct spelling instruction with embedded opportunities for the authentic application of learning through writing.  The goal of spelling instruction is to develop independence, fluency, and accuracy in writing.  A quality program equips students with strategies for spelling words independently and proofing personal writing.

Spelling instruction should be ongoing, daily, and purposeful.  Instruction should be interrelated and interconnected with all strands of language.  The primary focus of instruction should be on teaching a variety of effective spelling strategies, rather than on just memorizing lists of words.  Students must be given opportunities to work with words, to proofread their own writing, and to study spelling patterns.  The key to spelling development is the understanding and application of spelling strategies that enable students to become independent and competent spellers.

“Expert spelling is not easy, and, for many children, it is not as natural as learning to speak.  Conventional spelling is learned over a long period of time.  Typically, most children will need to study the patterns and consistency of English spelling for about seven years—before they can spell like adults.” ~Richard Gentry

Realities of Spelling Instruction

  • Children need opportunities to experiment with words during word work and writing.
  • Correct spelling is easily learned by some children, and some even tend to be natural spellers; however, some children have trouble with spelling.
  • Copying words and focusing on mechanics does not ensure the development of correct spelling.
  • Expert spellers develop a memory capacity for visual images of words.
  • Purposeful and authentic writing is the key to learning to spell.
  • Spelling proficiency develops within progressive steps.
  • Learning to spell is a conceptual process that involves thinking about and making connections with words, not rote memorization.
  • Children initially learn to spell by inventing spelling.

"Inventing a spelling for an unfamiliar word --also frequently referred to as temporary spelling, sound spelling, constructed spelling, phonic spelling, or developmental spelling --is natural. We all do it. And kids do it all the time. However, contrary to what a lot of people think, invented spelling doesn't hurt kids; our failure to teach word-specific knowledge and correct spelling does..." ~Richard Gentry

Toolkit for Parents

  • Know and understand that spelling is a developmental process.
  • Know that authentic writing is the key to spelling instruction.
  • Praise and encourage instead of being critical of spelling errors.
  • Make time for writing.
  • Have fun with spelling.
  • Create a supportive literacy rich environment.

“Parents are important spelling teachers who play an active role in shaping their children’s attitudes about spelling.”~ Richard Gentry

Resources to Use at Home

  • Dry erase board
  • Magnetic Letters
  • Alphabet stamps and ink pads
  • Variety of paper
  • Writing tools such as pencils, markers, pens, crayons, chalk
  • Index cards
  • Write words using rice, sand, shaving cream, salt
  • Magnetic cookie sheet or burner covers

“… spelling in the home should extend beyond those frustrating Thursday night
efforts to force children to memorize a list of words for the test on Friday. 
Spelling should be fun!” ~Richard Gentry

Study Steps

A systematic technique for learning the correct spelling of words by using a combination of visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile procedures was reported in Fitzgerald (1951) and validated by Horn’s research (1954).  This technique continues to be supported in research.

  • Say the word.
  • Look carefully at each part of the word as you pronounce it.
  • Say the letters in sequence.
  • Close your eyes and spell the word.
  • Check to see if you have spelled it correctly.
  • Write the word.
  • Check to see if you have written it correctly.
  • If you misspelled the word, repeat the seven steps.

“Writing allows them to add new words to their spelling repertoire and engages their thinking about spelling. In addition, writing at home gets kids to use their acquired spelling knowledge.  It exercises their spelling skills and keeps them from getting rusty as spellers.” ~Richard Gentry


Gentry, J. Richard (1997).  My Kid Can’t Spell!: Understanding and Assisting Your Child’s Literacy Development. New Hampshire: Heinemann.

Gentry, J. Richard (1987). Spel…Is a Four-Letter Word. New Hampshire: Heinemann.

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Frisco ISD Handwriting Instruction: Frequently Asked Questions
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Does Frisco ISD include direct handwriting instruction in the elementary curriculum?

Yes. Ten to fifteen minutes of daily handwriting instruction is included in grades K-3.  Handwriting instruction is reinforced in grades 4 and 5.

Handwriting Without Tears is the district-wide handwriting resource.  Implementation of this program began in August 2010.  The Handwriting Without Tears program includes a consumable handwriting workbook in grades K-3.  The curriculum involves simple, multi-sensory lessons designed to support all learning styles.  The program’s unique materials and appealing workbooks are designed to eliminate problems with letter formation, reversals, legibility and sentence spacing.  Visit the following website for additional information.

Does handwriting need to be taught in a digital world?

Handwriting instruction is beneficial beyond the practical standpoint of legibility. MRI scans of children’s brains have shown that writing by hand activates parts of the brain associated with language development. Recent research indicates that writing by hand improves letter and shape learning as well as well as idea expression and composition.  Unlike pressing on a keyboard, handwriting promotes a deep knowledge of letters that links reading and spelling understanding.

Competence in handwriting also promotes higher quality written work. As a student becomes more fluent in handwriting, they are then able to write with automaticity which in turn allows the student to devote more mental energy to the content of the writing at hand.  Just as fluency in reading promotes comprehension of text, fluency in writing promotes thoughtful reflection in writing since the writer’s thought process is freed up to focus primarily on the content of the written matter.

A study completed at Indiana University found that children who had practiced writing by hand showed more enhanced neural activity than the children who simply looked at letters.  Manually manipulating and drawing letters requires the execution of sequential strokes whereas typing a letter on a keyboard simply involves touching a key.  Additional information about this research study and additional studies were cited in the Wall Street Journal on October 5, 2010.  This article may be accessed through the following link.

When will my child learn cursive handwriting?

In Frisco ISD cursive handwriting is introduced using instructional materials during the latter part of the second semester of second grade.  Third grade is the targeted year for deep level direct cursive handwriting instruction.  Grades 4 and 5 are considered reinforcement years.  The expectation identified in the English Language Arts Texas Essential Knowledge and skills is that by the end of third grade:

“Students are expected to write legibly in cursive script with spacing between words in a sentence.

My 5th grade child writes some letters in cursive and some in manuscript.  What should I do to correct this issue?

As children become more adept with handwriting and acquire more experience in using both manuscript and cursive, they commonly begin to “customize” their style.  By the middle school years it is common to find that children develop a unique handwriting style.  Legibility is the goal, and as long as the student’s handwriting is legible, this approach should not be a concern.  If one were to look at a sampling of adult handwriting, unique personal styles would be evident.

I see some printed material in classrooms that is not written in the Handwriting without Tears model.  Won’t my child be confused?

Readers become accustomed to seeing a variety of print and font styles in the world.  Although during instruction it is important that a consistent model be presented as students practice specific letters and strokes, it is also important that students gain experience in reading a variety of handwriting styles.  Books used daily in classrooms are written using a variety of fonts and styles.  Experience reading a variety of printed styles is an advantage.

How does handwriting skill impact writing composition and spelling skills?

Handwriting fluency positively impacts an individual’s writing composition and spelling.  When letter formation and spelling are achieved with automaticity, the brain can focus on the composition aspect of writing.  The writer is free to focus on the written composition itself.  Students who “struggle to retrieve letters from memory, to reproduce them on the page, and to scale them to other letters have less attention available to spend on spelling, planning, and effectively expressing intended meanings”  (Schlagal, 2007).



“Best Practices in Spelling and Handwriting: by Bob Schlagal in Best Practices in Writing Instruction,  Steve Graham, Charles A. MacArthur, and Jill fitzgerald, eds.  Copyright 2007 by Guillford Publications, Inc.