Five Steps to Differentiating Spelling Instruction
Nov 20, 2009 Young Learners 1867 Views
Good teachers differentiate spelling instruction. They get outside of their spelling workbooks and challenge their students with un-mastered spelling patterns and words. But, how to differentiate spelling in a diverse classroom is the trick. Here is a classroom-tested plan that works with all grade levels.
Select twenty grade-level spelling pattern words from either a spelling workbook, an encoding assessment that targets specific sound-spelling patterns, a spelling rules-based assessment, a list of commonly confused words, a list of non-phonetic outlaw words, or a list of high-frequency words. A visit to your educational bookstore or a quick web search should provide you with these resources for differentiating spelling.
Dictate the 15—20 words (depending upon grade level) in the traditional word-sentence-word format to all of your students. Have students self-correct from teacher dictation of letters in syllable chunks, marking dots below the correct letters, and marking an “X” through the numbers of any spelling errors. Even second graders can do this instructional activity!
Students complete their own Personal Spelling List of 15—20 words (depending upon grade level) in this priority order:
Pretest Errors: Have the students copy up to ten of their pretest spelling errors onto their Personal Spelling List.
Posttest Errors: Have students add on up to five spelling errors from last week’s spelling posttest.
Writing Errors: Have students add on up to five teacher-corrected spelling errors found in student writing. Oops…this commits you to mark strategic spelling errors in your students’ writing—an essential component of improving student spelling.
Supplemental Spelling Lists for Differentiating Spelling:
High Frequency Spelling Words
Most Often Misspelled Words
Commonly Confused Words (Homonyms)
But, how do the students select the right words from the supplemental lists?
Parents can be integral partners in helping their children select appropriate words for the Personal Spelling List. After completing the weekly Personal Spelling List, the student must secure a parent signature on the list to verify that each of the selected words is an unknown spelling for the student. This is to prevent students from writing down words already part of the student’s conventional spelling word bank.
Early in the school year it is a good idea to send home a parent letter explaining the role of the parent in differentiating spelling instruction. Parents can pretest their son or daughter on the words from the appendices a little at a time to determine which words are un-mastered and need to be included as part of the weekly Personal Spelling List. For those parents who will not complete the pre-assessments, the teacher can have a parent, instructional aide, or another student complete the pretests.
Students practice their weekly spelling words on the Personal Spelling List by writing context clue sentences or short stories, using each of the spelling words. Spelling sorts by identifiable patterns provide wonderful practice. Suggest vowel sound, number of syllables, alphabetical order, parts of speech, words with prefixes, words with suffixes, words with base words as sorting criteria.
Students take out a piece of binder paper and find a partner to exchange dictation of the Personal Spelling List words. Have one student complete the entire dictation of the list prior to having the other student dictate. But, you may be thinking…what if they cheat? For the few who cheat…It would be a shame to stop differentiating spelling instruction for the many to cater to a few. Truly, they are only cheating themselves. After completing the spelling posttest, students turn in their post-tests for the teacher to grade.