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TAG Strategy Lesson - Graduated Difficulty

Stephanie Beckles

Title: Words Their Way

Subject: ELA - Word Work
Grade Level: 3rd grade
Duration: 45 minutes

Type of Lesson: Graduated Difficulty

Standards and Elements:

TAG - HO/CTS #2: The student responds to questions with supporting information that reflects in-depth
knowledge of a topic.
HO/CTS #3: The student conducts comparisons using criteria.
HO/CTS #4: The student makes and evaluates decisions using criteria.
ELA - ELAGSE3L2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of Standard English capitalization,
punctuation, and spelling when writing.
e. Use conventional spelling for high-frequency and other studied words and for adding suffixes to
base words (e.g. sitting, smiled, cries, happiness).
f. Use spelling patterns and generalizations (e.g. word families, position-based spellings, syllable
patters, ending rules, meaningful word parts) in writing words.

Suggested Vocabulary: determine, examine, communicate, identify, establish, criteria

Summary: Students will analyze their spelling in order to determine an appropriate place to begin their
self-directed instruction.

Enduring Understanding: At the end of this lesson the students will have used higher order critical thinking
skills to make a decision about which level of spelling instruction they should begin at.

Essential Question: How can I choose the best spelling level for me to begin my Words Their Way spelling

Evidence of Learning:

What the students should KNOW: Students should be able to learn how to make a good decision
about choosing a task at an appropriate level of difficulty.

What the students should BE ABLE TO DO: Students should complete and evaluate a chosen task
and state their goals for improvement.


Hook: Ask students What words do you spell correctly in your writing? I want you to take one
minute to go through your Work on Writing, and count the words that you know you have spelled
correctly. Ready? Go! When children have finished counting, have them share the number with a

Background Information: Students, did you know that most students misspell words in their writing
that they can spell very easily on a Friday spelling test. Today we are going to do an activity that allows
you to analyze your spelling at different levels of difficulty, select a task that you think will be the most
appropriate level for you, complete and evaluate your spelling task, and then make some goals for
improving your spelling.

Acquiring Content: This lesson has to do with spelling, and as such the students have been studying
spelling patterns since they first started school. We will assume that the content needed for this lesson
has already been acquired but will do a quick review of simple spelling patterns.

DECIDE, Practice, DECIDE: In this lesson we will use the acronym DECIDE to help guide students
through the process. Hand out the DECIDE page and go through it with students:

D Determine what you know and understand about the content or skill to be practiced. Have
students discuss the words that they spell correctly in their writing. Do they notice any patterns?
E Examine the levels of difficulty carefully and choose the level that is best for you. Students will
choose a Level 1, 2, or 3 spelling list, and have a partner test them.
C Check your work, change your level, communicate with others about your work, or create a new
level if you are able to complete the highest level. Students score the test, looking for spelling pattern errors
and noting these down as they score. At this stage they should make a decision to choose a lower level, or
create a new level if they are easily able to complete level 3.
I Identify the criteria you used to make your choice. Students write down the criteria and reasoning
they used to decide on a spelling level.
D Determine if you made a good choice and decide what you need to know and understand to
move to the next level. Have students answer the question: Was the choice a good one for you? Why or
why not?

E Establish a goal for improvement. Have students write down their goal for moving to the next
level of spelling. Make sure they are specific and state the spelling patterns that they are aiming for.

Summarizing Activity: Students will take a look at their Work on Writing notebook and note any words
that they could spell, but they could have chosen a more interesting word to go in that place e.g. bighuge, small-diminutive. Challenge them to use those more interesting words in their writing from now

Assessment: Take pictures of the children as they are working. Collect the DECIDE pages from children to
show how they worked through the process and compare the choice they made for their level to the level
chosen by the teacher.

Technology Integration: Use the Interactive Whiteboard to display the DECIDE chart, and go through each
part, and show spelling pattern charts for discussion.

Differentiation: Allow extended time for students that need longer to work through the process and
choose their goal.

Resources/Materials: Interactive whiteboard, Reading journal, DECIDE page, spelling lists.


Name: ________________________________

Determine what you know about spelling.

Discuss words that you spell correctly in your writing with a partner. Do
you notice any patterns? __________________________________________________

Examine the levels of spelling and choose the level that is best for you. Have a
partner test you on the level you choose. Level ______












Check your work, change your level or create a new level if you completed
level 3.
What was easy or difficult about the level you chose? __________________
Do you need to change your level? Why or why not? __________________

Identify the criteria you used to make your choice.

What criteria or measure did you use to choose your level? _____________

Determine if you made a good choice and decide what you need to know or
understand to move to the next level of spelling.
Did you make a good choice for your level of spelling? Why or why not?

Establish a goal for improvement.

Write down your goal for moving to the next level of spelling. Make sure
you are specific and state the spelling patterns that you are aiming for.

spelling lists
Level 1

Level 2

Level 3































TAG-Graduated Difficulty
Acquiring Content: Spelling Pattern Review

Working through the DECIDE process:

Words Their Way

TAG Graduated Difficulty Reflection
At the beginning of the school year, in August, I had administered a Words Their Way Spelling Inventory. The
purpose of the inventory is to analyze the spelling errors that children are making, and based on this
information, determine the level at which spelling instruction should begin. This Spelling Inventory
assessment is conducted as a spelling test, and is graded by the teacher, and the decision to place a child on a
particular spelling level is also made by the teacher. When the Graduated Difficulty Lesson was presented, I
thought this would be an ideal opportunity to see if my students could choose an appropriate level for their
spelling instruction based on the same spelling patterns that were used in the Spelling Inventory.
As a hook to this lesson, I decided that the children should take a look at their own spelling. They simply took
one minute to count the number of words they spell correctly in their own writing. This was a simple, yet
effective, way to help them see that the words they use are often the same, simple, words that they spell
often. I also wanted to draw their attention to the fact that there are other words that they could be using in
their spelling that may be more interesting to their reader, for example: There was a big cloud could be
replaced with, There was a gigantic cloud

As we discussed what the children already knew, I assumed that they had enough knowledge about spelling
patterns in order to proceed, after a quick discussion, with the DECIDE activity. My assumption was not
correct, and I quickly found out that my students did not know how to look at a word and identify the spelling
patterns in the word. Luckily, I was able to teach this lesson with my second Reading class (as I teach two
Reading classes each day), and so I spent more time with my second class discussing the spelling patterns and
showing them how to identify the patterns in words. In my second class, the children were much better
equipped to use their knowledge of spelling patterns to make an informed decision as they progressed
through the DECIDE process.
Overall, I really liked this activity, and could see myself using it with third grade students again. They were
engaged, and I hope that this process allowed them to feel empowered in that they have a part to play in the
decision of where to start learning new spelling patterns. For me as a teacher, it was gratifying to learn that
by using this method, my students are very capable of making choices based on a set of criteria that they
came up with themselves. For the most part, my students were able to choose a level of spelling that
matched what I had chosen for them, however, I did notice that the students in my class who still need help
with some more basic spelling patterns, such as blends, were more likely to choose a level with harder
patterns. Did they do that to try and compete with their peers? Is it a negative outcome to try and reach for
a higher level than what your teacher thinks you are capable of? Time will tell.