The Benchmark Word Identification Program was developed by the Benchmark School located in Media, Pennsylvania. Since attending several workshops at the Benchmark School over the past several years, the staff at The Craig School has incorporated this decoding program across the curriculum. Not only are Reading and Language Arts teachers working with this program, but we also have content area teachers working with it as well. This will help our students transfer this strategy to a variety of reading and writing situations.
The Benchmark Word Identification Program uses an analogy approach to decoding and vocabulary development. The students are taught the spelling patterns of key words which they then use to decode other words having the same spelling pattern. For example, a key word rain would be used to decode the word "strain." This concept is also applied to multi-syllabic words. The key word rain could be used to decode a word such as "maintain." The sounds of the spelling pattern are not stressed, rather the whole word is taught by analogy. The teacher models the thought process involved in this approach. The hope is that an internal dialogue will develop that sounds something like this, "If I know rain, I know strain."
New words are given out on Thursdays and written by each student in a Benchmark spiral notebook. Students are responsible for studying the words at home using the analogy approach. Studying is done with parents and is closely monitered. The students are tested on words weekly and their lists include both current and past spelling patterns. The students are required to remember all the key words presented to date. Below is an example of how the notebook is organized:
year treat speak (key words for the lesson)
The students are asked to study the spelling words in conjunction with the spelling of the new key words. Their dialogue while studying should sound like this, "If s-p-e-a-k spells speak, then b-l-e-a-k spells bleak." With modeling and consistancy it is our hope that this program will continue to be a successful strategy for decoding and spelling at The Craig School.