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differentiated spelling



THis is my first year teaching second and all year we have used the reading series spelling list. WE have Houghton Mifflin. The words are way too easy and the spelling is not consistant enough that the students never really used the words in their writing. I would like to have spelling groups next year. I was just wondering how you do it? What list of words do you use? Does everyone follow the same pattern for the week (ex. long a and short a) the words are just easier and harder. Thank you in advance for your help/


Full Member
H-M Spelling

Although I don't really believe in spelling tests because data says that even if kids spell words correctly on tests, they are often unlikely to spell the same words correctly in the context of their own writing. Despite that, I have been using the H-M words as they are a required part of our curriculum. I do like that some of the words are found in the basal story and decodable texts. I pretest on Monday and then provide a challenge list for those acing the pretest. I get the words right from the H-M website. They have challenge words listed for each week. It's worked for me this year...


New Member
Add words

Why not use that list's pattern that your book has, and have the kids come up with more words that fit that pattern? Then you can either:
1. Choose which words everyone will use together
2. Have each kid choose their own words
3. Have a few words everyone is required to use, then let them choose the remaining words


Senior Member

I use HM too. Our district gave us advanced spelling lists that match the same pattern. After a student has gotten As for three weeks straight I placed them on the Advanced Spelling list. I give two different tests weekly. One is from the HM book the other is the advanced list.


Full Member
Words Their Way

Hi! Check into "Words Their Way" by Donald Bear (I think). He talks about spelling development and how to help students progress. I've never used it, but am hoping to implement it next year. Some other "posters" might have some advice on it for both of us.



Senior Member
quick spelling

The class I taught this year was really far behind in everything. As the year went by I started first grade spelling with the kids. Everyone on the first lesson and I gave a sheet from the spelling to work with the words, then in the afternoon, we all have a spelling test. Test is passed with at least an 80%, the child can move to the next lesson. If not, they stay until the list is passes. By years end, I have several students in the second grade book and one would have made it into the third grade book had he not left the school for a couple of months then come back. Spelling is something that doesn't take much time, and the kids loved trying to get to the next list before another student did.


Words Their Way

is a program I have used with success. I teach sixth in a middle school, so I have about 100 kids. I have only done it with my low kids, so far. It's a philosphy, really, more than a program. It's based on the premise that spelling is developmental and if we help children to see the patterns (we spell morphologically, NOT phonemically) then they can begin to see that English spelling is actually quite regular and predictable.

The kids discover the patterns (generalizations) themselves, through word sorts, which they copy into word study notebooks. They also have to state the generalization (this book gets away from the word "rules") in writing. Since we know from years of research that lists and tests just don't work, this is an approach which makes better sense, I think. I have a minor in Reading Instruction (18 hours in my undergrad) and this book WAS Reading 300 something or 400 something. It includes the templates for LOTS of games and activities, which extend the learning from the word sorts (kids are placed into their correct level by a quick placement test that's given first. It will allow you to easily group your kids by level). The games can be a lot of work to make. A bunch of us teachers got together one summer and made the games as a great big group, and got recertification credit for it, too. So it's initally a lot of work to get off the ground, but you will laminate the board games, for instance, so you never have to make them again. Also, you don't have to make every game in one summer. The games are well worth it. They really extend the learning, and the kids enjoy them. Some of them are quick and easy to make.

It will take the kids quite a while to get it right the first few times you do it. They have to cut out their sort (Words Their Way contains hundreds of sorts, categorized by level and generalization), then physically sort the words, discover the generalization, copy the sort into their word study notebook, and write the generalization. You will have to model, model, model this to make it go smoothly. After a few times, you should only be spending about ten minutes, two or three times a week, to do the whole thing. It's up to you how many to do in a week.

This would be a great center activity. They could just grab their sort and off to the races. You would just need to make copies of the week's sorts, and the kids would do the rest.

This approach to spelling instruction is endorsed by the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) and the IRA (International Reading Association).


Senior Member
Individualized Spelling

We have an individualized spelling list. I take words from their language papers and writings that they misspell and those become their spelling words. Students who are great spellers use a third or fourth grade list of words. Everyone is challenged! It does create a lot of work for me, but it's worth it.

We have 5th grade buddies who give us the spelling tests (students use their words in sentences that the 5th graders read to them for the test), and then they read to us.

I keep a 6x4 card with the words on it for each child and cross them off when they have been spelled correctly on a test.



Can I get the H-M website from you? Our grade level met today and discussed wanting to do a new approach to our spelling program...we had been using our basal words for our spelling lists, but we've decided we want to do 2 lists to differentiate our spelling instruction more.
Thanks so much!
Kim West
2nd Grade Teacher