Today I want to talk about the difference between old school traditional spelling programs and the differentiated spelling approach. So many teachers I have talked to have told me that the old way of teaching spelling just doesn’t cut it for them and that they wish there was a different way to meet all of their spellers needs. Well, what if I told you there was? Today I want to take a little time to compare traditional and differentiated spelling programs. Here we go!
In a traditional spelling program, every student gets the same list of words on Monday. It doesn’t matter if that student has all the words spelled correctly and they’re going to ace the test for Friday or if they will never do well on Friday at all. They still get the same list of words. In a differentiated program, however, every student’s list is unique to his or her own ability levels as a speller.
Another difference is in a traditional spelling program, words are pre-generated from a curriculum. Often times the teacher has all the words for the entire year already ready to go at the beginning of the year. They come in a boxed set. It doesn’t matter what the student can or can’t do, they’re just all ready to go. Whereas In differentiated spelling, the words are actually generated by the students and through their own writing. So there really personalized to the student’s abilities each week.
In traditional spelling, the focus is on basic thinking, oral recall, and rote memorization. Where in differentiated spelling the focus is on word strategies, solving words, and understanding word parts. In traditional spelling, the words are always isolated to that list of 20 words, so it’s more memorizing than learning for the students. In differentiated spelling, the learning of those words patterns can be made in connection to those other words. So there not just thinking about the words that are on there list that week, they’re thinking about what other words may have the “igh” pattern in them.
In traditional spelling words are not in the context of reading and writing, they’re just on a list. There’s no deep meaning. In differentiated spelling, words are often used in context so that there is a lot of high-level thinking going on. Students are practicing those high-level skills such as analyzing, predicting and connecting. In traditional spelling, the words are often isolated to just one week. So not only are they isolated to just a list, but they’re also isolated for just one week. Monday you get your words, Friday you take your test and boom! You’re done. You start the whole process over on Monday. You never think about the words you just learned. However, with differentiated spelling, the leaning builds week after week! It lasts all year long.
In traditional spelling programs students study to take the test, so they learn for the sake of a test, and not for the sake of understanding words. In differentiated spelling, they study the word to spell correctly and they learn for life. They aren’t just learning for a test, there learning for life. Traditional spelling programs are often boring and very passive. The teacher is bored so of course, the students are bored! But in differentiated spelling the learning is fun! Kids are actively involved and taking there own personal role in the learning.
And last but not least, in traditional spelling, you are really just memorizing spelling rules. Such as, when there’s an e at the end it makes the vowel say its name. In differentiated spelling, though you are learning patterns and you are actively involved. Just look at all the differences there are between a traditional spelling program and a differentiated spelling program: So the biggest takeaway is that when you use a traditional spelling program you’re teaching to the textbook. You’re teaching whatever that textbook says for the entire year you can’t really take into consideration the students needs. When you use differentiated spelling, however, you are teaching to your students! You’re finding out their abilities and then meeting them there to teach them at their instruction level. This way, they will make the most gains as spelling throughout the year. I hope these comparisons have helped you see that there is a need for a differentiated spelling approach for our students to reach there highest potentials. If you’d like to check out an interactive spelling program for grades 2-5 that differentiates spelling instruction while still teaching the grade-level standards for FREE, click HERE!!!If you enjoyed today’s lesson you can find this post and many more on iTunes, Spotify, or Alexa Briefings. Click here to listen