Differentiating Word Work: The Power of Student Choice
In this post, I’m going to share how I differentiated word work during our Daily 5 time!
Because my district uses Fundations on a daily basis for spelling and phonics, my students use their Daily 5 Word Work time to practice their sight words. As you know, in first grade, our students are ALL over the place in their reading levels. The same goes for their sight word identification and their ability to successfully spell these words. I have a few kids who have been mastering the second grade sight word list, and some little babies who are still working on spelling words on the kindergarten list.
I use to put the SAME word list in my word work bins each week. The kids would grab a word work bin and use the word list inside to practice their words. The words on the list were current words and some review words from our units in Fundations.
You can read all about how I organize my word work by clicking HERE.
I’m sure you already see the problem with these word lists- many in my top group had already mastered those words. Some of the kids in my lowest group still couldn’t READ the whole word list, let alone work on spelling them.
I needed a quick, easy, and EFFICIENT way to differentiate these word work lists for my kids. I’m big on making everything in my room effective but not time consuming. (I teach first grade and let’s be real – I don’t have time for fluffy, over-the-top sight word systems!) 🙂
To kick off this word work routine, I met with each child individually and together, we worked to decide on 8 sight words that they really wanted to practice and get better at spelling. (Yes, this initially took a little time but after this initial meeting, my students will choose and write their own word lists!) It was so neat to hear them say things like, “I always forget how to spell “because” and I write it ALL the time!” or, as one little firstie pointed to the list of words said, “I can read this word but I can’t spell it yet.” I adored this whole process and my kids were SO excited to have a word work list all to themselves.
After they picked out 8 sight words from our word wall (and for my top kids, they chose 8 words from the second grade list), they got to pick TWO words from anywhere in the whole wide world that they wanted to learn how to spell. Haha this was my favorite part! I got everything from “Elsa” to “giraffe” to “Minecraft” to “ribbon.” (Ribbon? Not sure where that random word came from…I’m looking forward to reading a narrative that has to do with lots of ribbon though.)
After they made their list, they slipped it into their library pocket on the board. Now, when they choose to go to word work, they grab a word work bin and they grab their list from the board to practice.
When the bell goes off for our next small group round, they clean up and put their list back into their library pocket.
When students feel they have mastered their list, they have a friend give them a little informal “test” using their whiteboards. When they are ready for new words, they use the word wall in our classroom, grab a new list, and write their new words on it! (I help them with the 2 words they can pick out from “anywhere in the world!”)
My students have taken on more responsibility for their sight words since we started our My Word Work board. In reading groups now, I’ll hear, “Hey! That word is on my list!” and I’m starting to see these words transfer into their writing more. This makes perfect sense, because they have now attached their personal touch to these words and the words are suddenly THEIR words. My top kids are challenging themselves and every child is practicing sight words that are on his or her level.
And that makes me a veryhappyteacher!
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Thank you so much letting me share our new word work board with you! I hope you found it helpful! Remember, differentiating student learning doesn’t have to be complicated, “fluffy,” or over-the-top. It just has to be meaningful!