How to teach spelling in special education

Teaching spelling in a self-contained classroom

Teaching students to spell in a classroom that often contains multiple grade levels and multiple learning levels can be a challenge. You have some students who are non-readers, some who are just emerging with their reading skills, and then you may have a few who read at a level that is just 1-2 years behind. It can really be a challenge to take one resource and make it fit for everyone. Let me share how I envision this happening.

At the end of this post, you can download a COMPLETE spelling unit for FREE.

For your non-readers

There are a lot of activities you can do with the activities that come in many spelling units that will work for your non-readers.

You can make any activity into an identical matching task by simply making 2 copies. So, if the purpose was to sort -ack vs -ap words, these students can take one copy, cut out the sorting pictures and match them on the second copy.

Sorting task turned into a identical matching task in a spelling unit.

You can also use color coding to provide that additional level of visual structure your non-readers need to complete the activity independently. When doing a word-picture match activity, outline the word (or box) and matching picture the same color. That way, the task becomes a color matching task using the same materials the other students are using.

Adding color coding to a word to picture matching task from spelling unit.

Finally, make the activity errorless. This is something I have come to realize many teachers have come to expect and appreciate and now comes in many of my units. For the circle map displaying -ack words, only give students correct answers to choose from to place in the circle map. If you use my units, I provide this as a choice, so there is no need to eliminate wrong answers. Simply choose the errorless version for those students who need it.

Errorless circle map for spelling unit.

For your emerging readers

Well, this one is easy. This is the group of students who are the target for this type of unit. These are all the activities you will find in this unit, perfect for your emerging readers:

  • Circle map
  • Sorting activity
  • Photo-picture matching
  • Word-word matching
  • Word-picture matching
  • Circle the correct spelling
  • Fill in the missing letters
  • Choose the best work to finish the sentence
  • Writing prompt
  • Quiz

For your more advanced readers

This group of students are usually beyond the easy spelling lists and units that other students are using (or so you may think). But, you can use the same list and create some extension activities to build more skills using the same resource.

Here are some activities you can do with your more advanced students:

  • Go through magazines to make a collage describing the word, synonyms, and maybe even antonyms
  • Have then make a small dictionary for each list (either let them look up words on the computer and copy definitions, or you could type them up and let them cut and paste them
  • Use the words in a novel sentence
  • Remove the picture choices from the activities, so students have to come up with on their own:
    • words to complete the circle map
    • sorting words
    • words for picture matching

If you visit my Free Resource Library (click here), you will be able to download some extension activities for the unit below that is perfect those more advanced students.

(Don’t have the password? Click here to sign up)

Ready to start spelling with your students? Grab this complete spelling unit on -at words for free. Just click the button below.

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