Differentiated Spelling

Aloha friends! I hope this post finds you healthy and happy. I know these winter months you catch those bugs and it can bring you down!  There are a lot of teachers at my school that are out sick and I am doing my best to stay healthy.

Today I wanted to share how I run my spelling program in my classroom.

I don't have  a set curriculum, except the reading series that our school has had for over 10 years.  We use the Harcourt Trophies series, but it is not at all aligned to Common Core.

In this series there is a spelling program that is supposed to go along with the stories that your class reads weekly.  For years I used this spelling program because that is what all the other teachers did.  It was not kid friendly and didn't follow any particular order.  This is the list for one of the first stories in our series...

The skill is ed, but the kids can't even spell the root word!!  My great spellers had no problem and loved the challenging words, but I found that many of my students were just bombing the weekly tests and I felt so bad for them.  With many of my ELL students this was so hard.

How can you boost a child's self confidence if they fail their tests each week?

So I looked around to see what I could find and supplement on my own, but found nothing that I was happy with.  Many of my students needed some basic phonics skills, but what about the other students that already had those skills?

So I decided to create my own program.  I took the basic skills that kids need to know to succeed in spelling and created two sets of lists.

One a simple list that teaches a basic rule or skill, and a second list using this same rule, but using more challenging words. I also made each list only 10 words which I think is all they need at this age.

At the beginning of each week I give a pre-test.  I give the simple list of words.  If the students get a 90% or better on the Pre-Test then they get the challenge words.  If not they study the basic word list.

This first student needs some work with this skill

This student seems to have this skill down...

So I give each of them a different list to study for the week.  I tell them the first list is our regular second grade list that we all have to know.  If we don't know it, that's okay we are here to learn it.  If they already know it then I will give them the challenge list.

This really helps those kiddos that are struggling to feel better about having a different set of words, and my smarties feel so proud that they get the challenging words.

For homework each week I have the same assignments:

Monday- Write your words 3 times each
Tuesday-Write your words in ABC Order
Wednesday- Write 10 sentences using all of your spelling words
Thursday- Study for your Spelling Test

I simply have them glue the list into their Spelling Composition Book and they do all of the assignments in there each week.

Somebody needs to check their spelling on number 6...

On Fridays  I give the two different tests.  It takes a few minutes more, but...
the results are much more positive!!  No matter what list they have, if they get a passing score that's pretty great in my book!

So I wanted to share my program with you which is in my TpT store.

There are 34 lists for the year, and ideas and worksheets to go along with it.  I even have holiday word lists to add some fun.

Recently I had a request for just the worksheets and not the whole set of lists.  I know some of you have your own program that you love, but this packet could be used for any spelling program.  It has all of my homework sheets along with printables that could be used for enrichment or during center time.

 Some of the enrichment activities include, writing their words in another language, write synonyms for their words, and creating a word search.  There are lots of choices to keep your students challenged.

If this looks like it would be helpful to you hop on over to my TpT store and grab yourself a copy.

If you have a great spelling program that you use, I would love to hear all about it!!


  1. Love this. I had big plans to differentiate my spelling this way this year and it just didn't happen. I had a hard time figuring out where to get my words. I'm in first grade but I'm going to check out TPT unit right now. Thanks for sharing how you do spelling. I think it is the kick in the pants I need to get on differentiating.
    Ms. Kerri and her Krazy Klass

    1. Thanks Kerri! Some of my beginning list are very basic, but I find my kids really don't know these skills even in second. I think it would be appropriate for 1st grade as well.

  2. Great minds think alike, Corinna. I conduct my spelling in a similar manner. However, I have 3 levels: regular, challenging, and the 3rd level is cutting the list to only 10 for my two who really, really struggle with spelling. I'll have to take a peek at your TPT unit.


    1. That's great Jill. I really think cutting down the list to 10 is so important for many of them. My special needs kids and my ELL's really benefit from it.

  3. Corinna, looking forward to seeing your worksheets. We are looking for ways to differentiate our spelling too. Thanks,
    P.S. I just discovered your blog and it triggered fond memories of my days at Kohala Elementary in Halaula!

    1. Aloha Kathy! Thank you so much for stopping by. Are you from the Big Island or did you just live there for awhile? I love it over there. Such a nice change of pace from Oahu:)

  4. I really LOVE the enrichment idea of writing the spelling words in other languages! I have several students who speak other languages at home and I think they would love to do this. They are always trying to teach me words in Cantonese and Mandarin! It would be so fun to see the characters for our spelling words. Fabulous idea!

    1. Thank you Heather. The kids really enjoy teaching others new words. I have a lot of Brazilian students and they love speaking to me in Portuguese. I also have some who speak Japanese, Spanish and Tagalog.

  5. Often it is considered to teach kids very difficult but if you have experience how to deal in kids friendly method then it is quite easy to teach them. From high schools to college and higher students the research paper writing help available all time so that they cannot face any problem in researching.

  6. This is absolutely wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing your ideas and set up. It's great to know there are other teachers working hard to differentiate for their kiddos!


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