Priority Words suggested as a minimum requirement for mastery in writing by the end of each grade level are:
level 1: high-frequency words 1-15 (Too of the to/two/too homophones can be omitted until second grade.)
level 2: high-frequency words 1-35 (Add too to the to/two/too homophones.)
level 3: high-frequency words 1-55 (The there/their/they’re and your/you're homophones can be omitted.)
level 4: high-frequency words 1-75 (Add there/their/they're and your/you're. You can omit (there's/theirs.)
level 5: high-frequency words 1-100 (Add there's/theirs.)
levels 6-8: high-frequency words 1-30
Words are usually added to the Priority Word list in order of frequency-of-use in writing. However, if you prefer to add a word sooner or later than its frequency designates, you may do so.
Most of the students in a classroom have the same Priority Word expectation. Yet, you may wish to have a lower expectation (fewer words) for less able students and a higher expectation (more words) for the most capable students. This deserves one word of caution. Students who cannot read English should not be in a formal spelling program, nor have a Priority Word list (see Students With Spelling Challenges). To challenge able students, a lengthy Priority Word list is not as an effective differentiating strategy as challenging them through other aspects of the program (see Challenging the Capable Speller).
You can determine the level of responsibility required for homophones. Often, when one homophone is added, the responsibility for its partner(s) is also added. Yet, let your common sense guide you. For example, first grade students can learn to be responsible for the homophones to and two. Then too can be added in second grade. Further, second graders can be responsible for four when word number 11, for, is added, but not fore. The homophone set tbere/their/they're/there's/theirs is the most. difficult set of words to add to the list, but once there, number 37, is added, their and they're should also be included. Later, there's and theirs can be added.
To help students differentiate homophones, use context sentences. Context sentences are provided for high-use homophones on the backside of the 3-8 Spell Check card. Context sentences on classroom posters are also helpful.
Other levels of Priority Word responsibility are yours to decide, for example, the use of a for an. If students have letter reversals, should this be considered an error? It depends on the student and your perception of his/her current capacity to write without reversals. Use your best judgment on individual issues, such as these.
Specific time to proofread should accompany each written task. Students can proofread independently or with their classmates. Keep students focused during the proofreading sessions by walking about the classroom giving general proofreading pointers. Perhaps, set a timer to indicate time solely for proofreading. Be persistent, yet positive. Ongoing, enthusiastic emphasis on Priority Words helps students make these words a priority before their papers are handed in--not afterward, making more work for you. The goal is to guide students toward their own proofreading success. Celebrate this success overtly! No one ever tires of hearing they're successful.