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Differentiating Word Work: The Power of Student Choice

Differentiate Word Work through Student Choice! Word work activities, classroom management, and tips to help all students work on words at their own level during centers and Daily 5 time.
 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.
Differentiate Word Work through Student Choice! Word work activities, classroom management, and tips to help all students work on words at their own level during centers and Daily 5 time.
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!) 🙂
The solution? Our My Word Work board!
Differentiate Word Work through Student Choice! Word work activities, classroom management, and tips to help all students work on words at their own level during centers and Daily 5 time.
(The border, library pockets, and letters on this board are from my favorite friends at Teacher Created Resources!) I LOVE how it all turned out! Their products perfectly coordinate with one another and it was fun to mix-and-match the decor items!
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.)
Differentiate Word Work through Student Choice! Word work activities, classroom management, and tips to help all students work on words at their own level during centers and Daily 5 time.

 

Differentiate Word Work through Student Choice! Word work activities, classroom management, and tips to help all students work on words at their own level during centers and Daily 5 time.
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.
Differentiate Word Work through Student Choice! Word work activities, classroom management, and tips to help all students work on words at their own level during centers and Daily 5 time.
Differentiate Word Work through Student Choice! Word work activities, classroom management, and tips to help all students work on words at their own level during centers and Daily 5 time.
When the bell goes off for our next small group round, they clean up and put their list back into their library pocket.
Differentiate Word Work through Student Choice! Word work activities, classroom management, and tips to help all students work on words at their own level during centers and Daily 5 time.
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 very happy teacher!
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 Differentiate Word Work through Student Choice! Word work activities, classroom management, and tips to help all students work on words at their own level during centers and Daily 5 time.
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!
Happy learning,
Christina

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34 Comments

  1. I've been thinking for a while how to get my kiddos to own their spelling! They don't seem to transfer our spelling practice to their own writing. Thanks so much for your post! I'm taking this idea to my 3rd grade classroom.

  2. What a great way to release responsibility to your students! I'm struggling with that this year because so many of my students still need a lot of teacher support. I'm inspired by this idea! Thanks for your post!

    Jayme
    Teach Talk Inspire

  3. Oh wow, this post just sparked SO many ideas! Thank you…I'm off to go check out my little library pocket inventory. I can't wait to hear the bonus words my students come up with! Thanks again, Jen 🙂

  4. Wow!! I am also a first grade teacher and it is my struggle to see my low ones master words that are just not at their levels! This is an amazing idea and I can't wait to use it next year!!! It sure does make more sense!! ? Thank you!

    1. They choose from a first grade sight word list we have. They cross off the ones they master and pick new ones after their test. I don't care which ones they choose from that list as long as they are ones they haven't mastered yet. 🙂 Eventually, they get through all of the words on their first grade list. 🙂

  5. Hi Christina! I know that you are really busy, but I love this idea and would love to ask you a few more questions so that I can implement it into my classroom this year! Do you mind if I email you?

  6. Oh my goodness I think I'm in love with this idea. I teach in dual immersion and I'm curious to see if any of my kids will choose some words from Spanish class to master for their "anywhere in the world" words.

  7. Oh my goodness I think I'm in love with this idea. I teach in dual immersion and I'm curious to see if any of my kids will choose some words from Spanish class to master for their "anywhere in the world" words.

  8. I absolutely love this idea of differentiated spelling with sight words and word work. Could you clarify a few things for me? Do you have al the word wall words up at the beginning of the year and that is where the students choose the words? Your post mentions choosing from the word wall. I put up the words at the end of the week after we have studied them. Do you give a spelling test on the word lists and what does that assessment/time look like?
    Thanks for such an awesome post.

  9. Hello ! I am a kindergarten teacher. I really liked the idea of differentiated word wall of sight words .I hope this will support my students who is still not thorough with the sight words .Thanks alot for a wonderful idea.

  10. Hi! Thanks for this great idea! Just a few questions:
    Do your students also work on phonics during this time and if so, how do they practice those skills? Also. What do the students do with the lists they have mastered them? Do they take them home? Thank you again!

    1. Our phonics is at a different time. 🙂 We use FUNdations in our district. They take the list home after they master them and they color in the game board in my Sight Word Assessment Pack in my tpt shop.

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