Differentiated Spelling

Over the last few weeks I have been working on a new spelling contract for my students. I firmly believe in differentiated spelling lists but I am tied to to my district’s spelling curriculum. It’s been an uphill battle as I try to come up with a compromise that I am happy with! I think I finally have it. This week I plan to give my students the Upper Level Inventory from Words Their Way: Word Study for Phonics, Vocabulary, and Spelling Instruction (4th Edition) and then level them into 2-3 groups.

Each week I will give our normal spelling pretest on Monday, using the district curriculum. However, in a change from the past, there will no longer a “Get 100 on the pretest and you have no spelling test on Friday” rule. Each student will grade their pretest. Then, each word that they spell incorrectly will go on their spelling list for the week. Once they write those words on their personal list, they will then choose from a leveled list until they have 20 spelling words for the week (20 most weeks, though more or less in certain weeks, according to the curriculum). The students will then complete a spelling contract that will be due on Friday. Friday morning, students will give each other their spelling tests in pairs

I think this will be manageable for me while still serving the students best. As I use a points system for grading (e.g. a spelling test would be a 20/20 instead of a 100), this will allow for even more differentiation. Should a student have more or less words than the rest of the class one week, it will not upset my grading system. This format will also allow me to follow the same schedule that we have always used for formal spelling. I do not have enough hours in the day to cover all the subjects necessary for language arts. I hate devoting a good chunk of time to whole-class spelling instruction on a daily basis. This allows me to focus on spelling on Monday and Friday while the students continue to work on it at home Tuesday through Thursday. That lets me concentrate on grammar Tuesday-Thursday.

If you are interested in my weekly spelling contract, check it out. One of my new additions is requiring a semantics map each week (an idea I gleaned from Emily Kissner’s Differentiated Spelling Program). The semantics map will cover our core curriculum standards for increased use of the dictionary and thesaurus, something most students need. At the same time, the contract gives them a choice of various other activities to choose from in order to fulfill all the weekly requirements. It’s a combination and compromise that I am happy with.

What about you? Do you use a differentiated spelling program in your classroom? How does it work?