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Differentiated Spelling Program

Found in: differentiated learning instruction, language arts, spelling, vocabulary

To establish an effective differentiated spelling program, try combining lists from various sources into a single list that’s divided into sections, each with 5-10 words:

  • no excuse,
  • word families/language skill, 
  • current content vocabulary, and
  • challenge.

Each student would be expected to study the words you’ve jointly agreed to, after a short “contract negotiation.” Everyone gets the same list, but mark ahead of time which words each child is expected to learn.

On test day, mix up the words when you give the test so they don’t memorize in order, but only within each section. Then, when a student is done with his/her words, they stop their test and compose a sentence using their words while the others are completing the rest of the test.

Homework could be differentiated as well. Have a basic requirement for everyone, adjusted to fit their words, and offer a challenge option that anyone can try (but expect it from those more capable); for example: composing a poem using various words, making a word search puzzle for the class to do, drawing a “hidden word picture” for those more artistically inclined, finding a newspaper article that uses X number of their words, etc.

These lists take some time the first year to compose, but can be easily saved and adjusted as needed for future classes. Have fun! Spelling is a great area to bring in a ton of language skills and is an excellent entree to the language when working with English language learners.


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