Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Spelling Instruction in the Special Education Classroom

What is the most effective way to teach spelling instruction? If you are like us, then at one point or another you may have questioned your approach to spelling instruction in your special needs classroom. You may have felt like you were reaching some students and not others. You may have not even taught word analysis skills to some of your functional learners. We struggled with the best way to integrate students’ current levels of performance in analyzing word patterns with a cohesive and organized method that was appropriate for all of our students. In our classrooms, we can have students that are reading and writing at a functional level all the way up to a 3rd grade level…all in one class. We have students that need to read and spell pre-primer/primer sight words and then students that are working on complex vowel patterns. And, in special education, its so important to integrate vocabulary to aid in age-appropriate listening and reading comprehension. So, here is what we did…

1.    We closely analyzed the Dolch 220 sight word list and Fry’s first 300 high frequency words. We divided them between two levels: Kindergarten-1st grade and 2nd-3rd grade.

2.   Careful and intentional selection of vocabulary words along with language rich learning can close achievement gaps in ELA, Science and Social Studies. So we looked at grade level appropriate content in guided reading and read aloud books at the Kindergarten, 1st , 2nd and 3rd grade level. We pulled the most prevalent vocabulary words that we found. We also looked at vocabulary lists from several different research-based programs and added those to our list of sight words.

3.   Lastly, we divided the high frequency and vocabulary words into weekly lists for the entire year while keeping into consideration the time of the year for thematic words. The word lists progressively increases in complexity as the year goes on. The Kindergarten and 1st grade curriculum has 6 words each week while the 2nd and 3rd grade has 10.

 Through 10 weekly activities in an engaging format, students use knowledge of word patterns to understand conventional spelling, while also gaining exposure to content related vocabulary. We have highlighted some of our students’ favorite activities within the curriculum.

This Magical Words activity is found in the K-1 curriculum. The students enjoyed this activity while using a white crayon and watercolor paint or a white crayon and colored pencil. However, they were mind-blown when I found these Top Secret Invisible Ink markers at Oriental Trading. You use the white marker to write the word and scribble over the top to reveal the word using the blue or green marker. They are a fairly inexpensive way to do something a little different. Our students loved having their friends reveal their words!

Another fan favorite activity in our classroom is the writing boxes. You can see how the two are differentiated below.

Parent involvement occurs when weekly Take-Home lists are sent home on the Friday before the new words will start. Allowing students to practice reading the words at home is beneficial when they have some prior knowledge on Monday morning.

Bold word wall cards are used to create a print rich classroom environment. Small word cards are kept on a binder ring and students can practice reading and spelling them as an early finisher activity.

Our favorite part of this method to spelling instruction is the organization of the work. Students feel ownership over their spelling and are eager to take home their workbook at the end of the month. Weekly tabs help students to stay organized and manage their own instruction. Tests are bound right into the workbook so that parents can view their test scores at the end of the month. They know to look for them in book bags J If you are like us and have multiple levels in your classroom, then you can decide to use the same cover for both of your groups. With this strategy, the students may not even know that there are two leveled groups. 

See the video below for more images and information :)

If you would like to try part of the first week,  click the images below that will direct you the free download.

We would love to hear your thoughts! We know many of you are enjoying the use of this curriculum in your general education K-3rd grade classrooms as well as special education and we would love your input! If you use any other methods for increasing engagement and differentiated spelling instruction, we would love to hear from you! *Oriental Trading sent us the the Top Secret Markers to use in our classroom in exchange for an honest feedback of the item. The opinions about the item are solely our own and not of Oriental Trading.

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  1. What a great idea for the magic markers! How do you prep the monthly units? All at once or on a monthly basis?

    1. Hi Katie! We prep the spelling units by month. They are fairly easy to prep when printing from the computer. Then, all you have to do is print the tabs with astrobrights as well as the take home list for parents! Then, you are set for an entire month :)