Rocket Spelling Blog

Differentiated Spelling

Here at Rocket Spelling, we believe in the power of differentiated spelling instruction and practice. Students enter our classrooms each fall with widely varying levels of phonemic awareness and spelling prowess. We believe that teachers' spelling instruction and the students' spelling practice should both be differentiated to meet their individual needs. But managing and documenting all of that can be time-consuming if not downright impossible.

That's where we come in. With 1,200 high-frequency words sorted by pattern, Rocket Spelling is designed to provide students with independent spelling practice that they can move through at their own pace, freeing the teacher up to provide small-group instruction to students as needed.


Prefixes (Levels 11-1 to 11-4)

Our final planet begins with four levels focusing on prefixes. Level 11-1 consists of words with the prefix re-, un-, or pre-: return, preview, undo, unlock, preschool, unhappy, rewind, unplug, preheat, and restart. Level 11-2 contains words with the prefix in-, im-, il-, or ir-: impossible, irregular, illegal, invisible, immature, imperfect, incapable, improper, illiterate, and impatient.


Contractions (Levels 10-3 to 10-6)

Levels 10-3 through 10-6 contain 30 high-frequency contractions. The words in level 10-3 are don't, didn't, can't, won't, wasn't, isn't, wouldn't, doesn't, shouldn't, and aren't. Eight of these 10 words simply replace the 'o' in 'not' with an apostrophe. The word 'can't' is an exception, as it also drops an 'n'. The word 'won't' is the real oddball in this set. You might point out to your students how it would seem like this word would be 'willn't' instead!


Verbs with -ing, -ed endings (Levels 9-3 and 9-4)

Levels 9-3 and 9-4 deal with verbs ending with -ing and -ed, some of which double their final consonant before the -ing or -ed ending. The words in level 9-3 are swimming, running, winning, throwing, washing, mailing, kicking, listening, hopping, and sitting. The words in level 9-4 are mixed, covered, enjoyed, compared, planned, tapped, dropped, tagged, stopped, and tipped. The general pattern here is that verbs which end with a short vowel + a single consonant will tend to have that final consonant be doubled when an -ing or -ed ending is added to the word.


Silent e + -ing verb endings (Level 9-2)

Planet 9 focuses on verbs. Level 9-1 begins with present tense verbs that are also high-frequency words (touch, leave, represent, describe, pull, laugh, suggest, decide, climb, and finish). Level 9-2 moves to verbs that end with a silent e which drops when an -ing ending is added. The words in this level are dancing, driving, making, loving, caring, hoping, riding, smiling, saving, and serving.


Homophones (Levels 8-5 to 8-8)

Levels 8-5 through 8-8 focus on homophones.

These levels, ideally, would be a resource for teachers to use alongside some instruction about homophones. Although the fact that we always put words in context with a sentence to support their meaning is especially helpful when it comes to homophones, we still encourage additional vocabulary work on these tricky words. An art project like the one shown below, where each student illustrates one homophone pair, would work beautifully alongside these Rocket Spelling levels!

homophone student art


Plurals (Levels 8-1 to 8-4)

Levels 8-1 through 8-3 all focus on plural nouns. Level 8-1 focuses on words that either add -s or -es to the end when they become plural. Level 8-2 focuses on two types of plural patterns: y --> ies and f --> ves. Level 8-3 focuses on irregular plurals. Finally, level 8-4 reviews all of these types of plural nouns.


Commonly-Used Words (Levels 7-1 to 7-13)

Planet 7 is different from all of the others: instead of having students work on words that follow certain spelling patterns, the words in this planet are arranged by topic. These are critical words for students to be able to spell: the basic numbers, colors, days, names of family relationships, parts of the body, school-specific terminology, and more. Although this planet might require fewer specific teacher-directed minilessons, we think it is a critical set of levels for students (of virtually all ages) to practice.


Vowel pairs: ie vs. ei (Level 6-9)

Level 6-9 goes back to a final tricky vowel pair combo: the infamous -ie vs. -ei pair. Everyone knows the old "i before e except after c" line, "except in words that say 'a' as in neighbor and weigh." Many memes have been made about the limitations of this rule, however (see below).

i before e


Word Ending Patterns: -sion, -tion, -cher, -ture, and -sure (Levels 6-6 and 6-7)

Levels 6-6 and 6-7 focus on some word endings that students sometimes confuse with each other. Level 6-6 focuses on the -sion and -tion endings. The ten words used in this level are fraction, action, reaction, nation, conclusion, equation, direction, section, mission, and tension.

Level 6-7 focuses on the commonly-confused -cher, -ture, and -sure endings. The ten words used in this level are picture, future, nature, pitcher, pressure, capture, mixture, pleasure, treasure, and adventure.