On Track Spelling 


The On Track Spelling Program was created in an effort to differentiate spelling in meaningful ways for students.  This approach has been a huge success with students.  Students work independently on their spelling lists and move as quickly through the content as their ability level allows.

This is truly a differentiated spelling program.  What is Differentiated Instruction?  Differentiated Instruction is a flexible approach to teaching.  Although the learning styles and needs of students are different, the content students must master remains constant.  The On Track Spelling Program allows for the differences in readiness and learning needs by providing alternative activities to spelling instruction that motivate and challenge students.



What is the On Track Spelling Program? 

The On Track Spelling program is a system of sequential spelling cards consisting of five spelling words and a programmed menu of choices that allow the student to practice spelling patterns.  The program allows the student to work independently while differentiating instruction.  Children need choices in order to take ownership of their work.  The On Track Spelling program allows the student to make choices in the activities he performs as well as in how quickly he finishes a spelling list.

Back to the top


How Does the Program Work? 

The student pulls a spelling card and records the five spelling words.  He then creates a series of activities from a programmed menu of spelling activities.  Once the student has completed four activities from the menu of choices he reviews his work to be sure he has given his personal best.  He then submits his work for approval.  The teacher reviews the work, signs off on the activities, and initiates the corresponding spelling test.  The student takes the test and begins a new word list.

Back to the top


Where Does the Spelling List Come From? 

The spelling cards are created using the current grade level spelling program.  The spelling lists created in my classroom came from our reading series.  I broke down the spelling program into spelling cards of five spelling words each.  Research has shown that a student can successfully remember 5-6 items at a time.  We want our children to internalize the spelling of these words, not memorize them for test.

  Spelling - List 52

                       1.  many
                       2.  money
                       3.  every
                       4.  forget
                       5.  wonderful

Back to the top


How Are Tests Given? 

Tests are given at the completion of a spelling card.  Once the student has completed his list and feels that he has given his personal best, he turns in his work to the teacher.  The teacher carefully checks the work.  Once the work has been accepted, the teacher provides the student with a paper test.  All tests are multiple choice and provide the student with two wrong answers and one correct answer.  The student simply circles the correct response.  Remember the test is only five questions long so the student can literally take a test in under three-minutes.  Managing the spelling program takes quite a bit of organization because students are taking different tests.  One student might be on test number 25 while another may be on test number 52.  

An alternate way to administer a test is to have a student record the spelling words on a cassette tape and then have students play the tape and record his spelling test independently in a listening center or by using a personal cassette player.

Back to the top


Menu of Activities 

Each of the menu activities must be taught to the students.  It is beneficial to provide students with no more than four new activities each week.  As the weeks go by, their choice of activities increases.  


The menu of activities is then placed in a three prong binder so that students can reference them quickly.  Each menu is laminated for durability.

SKILL ACTIVITY (Choose one of the following):


Menu 1

  • Backwards Words
  • Silly Sentences
  • ABC Order
  • Write a Story
Menu 2

  • Pyramid Writing
  • Hidden Words
  • Rainbow Write
  • Bubble Letters 
Menu 3

  • All Smiles
  • Goofy Letters
  • A Heroic Letter
  • What's It Worth 

Menu 4

  • Three Times!
  • Pretty Poetic
  • Shaping Up
  • What's the Buzz?
Menu 5

  • Riddle Me?
  • That's a Laugh!
  • Connect the Dots
  • Rhyme Time


Menu 6

  • Code Words
  • Playful Words
  • Across and Down
  • Colorful Words
Menu 7

  • All Aboard!
  • Dicey Words
  • Type 'Em
  • Word Search
Menu 8

  • Square Off!
  • Flower Power
  • Sentence Types
  • Posted
Menu 9

  • Stencil It!
  • Stamp It Out!
  • Magnetic
  • Scrambled Words

Back to the top


Tips for Teachers 

This is an exciting program but it takes quite a bit of planning on the teachers part.  I have listed some useful tips that I think will make a big difference if you decide to implement this program in your classroom.

Resources you will need include:
   (1) Index cards (4 x 6 work best)
   (2) A card box to store the index cards
   (3) Index card dividers
   (4) A Hanging File box or crate to store tests
   (5) Hanging Files
   (6) Paper Trays or a basket for students to turn in their work
   (7) Materials for the spelling activities (colored pencils, markers, alphabet stamps, stencils,
         foam die, newspapers, scissors, glue, etc.)

Setting Up the Spelling Card Lists
The first thing you need to do is decide on your spelling list.  It is important to plan ahead for how you want each spelling card to be grouped.  Next you need to print your spelling lists on 4 x 6 index cards.  To do this you will need to change the margins of your Word document.  I have provided a template below.  You need to print a minimum of five cards.  Many times students will be working on the same list and you will need extra copies.  For durability, you will also want to laminate your cards.

Spelling Card List Template (MS Word) 

Once your cards are set up, you will need to label your index dividers according to your list numbers.  Place the cards and the dividers in a card box.  My suggestion is to visit your local Staples Office Supply Store.  They have a wonderful metal card box for $20.00.  It will last a really long time and will be well worth the investment.  

Organizing the Spelling Center
You will need to decide where to place your card box and where your students will turn in their work.  For turning in student work, I suggest a two-tier paper tray.  The bottom tier is where students turn in their completed work for the teacher to check and the top tier is where students turn in their completed tests.  Wal-Mart also sells three drawer storage units for around $10.  I have now switched to the three drawer storage unit which will prove to be more sturdy.  

My students complete their spelling work during Literacy Centers so the materials are maintained in the spelling center.  I also provide the students with any and all materials that will be needed in order to complete their spelling activities and house them in the spelling center.

For the spelling activities, it is helpful to create a 3-ring binder to house each activity card.  I printed the spelling activity directions on card stock and had them laminated for durability.  The students frequently reference this notebook when completing assignments.

Another alternative is to have students label a three-prong folder "On-Track Spelling".  Simply print or copy the menu of activities and have students whole punch and then store the activities in their folder as new activities are added.  This way they will have the information both at school and at home.

Teaching the Spelling Activities
Once your materials are in place, you will need to teach your children how to complete the activities.  In an effort to help the students understand what they need to do in order to complete their activities I first begin whole group.  I walk the students through each activity so that they know what to do.  This takes only a few minutes at the beginning of each week.  Remember, you are only adding four activities each week.  

It is also important to teach students to ALWAYS put the card list number at the top of their paper so that you may provide the student with the corresponding test number.

Tracking Student Progress
It is very important to track your student's progress.  It's sad to say, but some students will be content to complete one activity in a week's time.  Each activity should only take 10-15 minutes to complete.  One suggestion for tracking student work is to use a reward program.  I use a large poster to track student work.  The top of the poster is programmed with the test numbers and the left column is programmed with the student's name.  These reward posters can be found in your local school supply catalogue or teacher store.  You can also provide a special incentive by giving away a Super Speller Certificate to the top speller of the grading period or you can allow students to set a personal goal for themselves and reward students who meet their goal.  This is a fun program and there are many, many ways to reward students for their hard work.

Once you are satisfied with the student's work, they are ready for a test.  Tests are all multiple choice and are quick for student's to take.  The best way to organize the spelling test is to program and store tests in hanging files by card list number.  This way they are at your finger tips and easy to pull.  You can even allow students to pull their own tests.  A template for this Word file is provided below.

Spelling Card Test Template (MS Word)  

This is a powerful spelling program that truly differentiates learning for the student.  If you decide to implement this wonderful program into your classroom and need advice on how to set it up or questions about maintaining the program, please send me an email and I will respond with suggestions or tips. Please be sure to put "On Track Spelling Program" in the subject line.


Back to the top


Classroom Pictures 

Spelling Card Box


Student Work File
Student Staplers (Check your local Dollar Store)
Spelling Caddy (Check your local Wal-Mart Houseware Department)

Back to the top


Resources for Teachers


Spelling Websites for Teachers

Back to the top


This website is designed and maintained by Karen A. McDavid 2004.


Ideas, content, activities, and documents for this website
are copyrighted by Karen A. McDavid and should not be
copied or downloaded without permission. 


All graphics seen throughout this website should
not be removed, copied, or downloaded. 


You may download the banner below with a link back to this site.


Graphics by



setstats 1