Articles & Videos

Differentiation with Sound Waves

Paper airplane

Subscribe to our newsletters

Receive teaching resources and tips, exclusive special offers, useful product information and more!


Back to articles & videos

Differentiation with Sound Waves

Sound Waves Literacy 9/11/21

The aim of differentiation is to improve the knowledge and skills of every student regardless of their starting point.

Research shows that effective differentiation strategies adapt to the needs of students through content, process, product and learning environment1.

Here are some of the ways Sound Waves resources can help you tailor your differentiation plan to support and extend your students.

Explicit teaching lessons

Sound Waves lessons are designed to be explicitly taught. Lessons include a clear learning intention, teacher explanation and modelling, opportunities to check for student understanding, and independent student practice. It is well established that explicit instruction is the most effective and efficient method for all students, particularly those requiring support2. The consistent, whole-class, explicit instruction found in Sound Waves can also minimise the number of children who require intervention in the long-term.

A weekly routine

In a typical week, you will explicitly teach Sound Waves lessons from Monday to Thursday, which gives you time for consolidation and remediation every Friday.

Focus Words and Extension Words

Each set of Focus Words has been carefully curated to:

  • feature the focus phoneme and common graphemes.
  • typically progress from simple phoneme–grapheme relationships to those that are more complex and multi-syllabic.
  • include words that relate to the Focus Concepts in that unit.

You and your students will work with all of the Focus Words during your explicit teaching lessons and the associated student book activities.

When segmenting the Focus Words, either as an extra activity in Years 1–2 or as the first student book activity in Years 3–6, you can direct students to focus on fewer or more words depending on their individual abilities.

You can also direct advanced students to work with the more challenging Extension Words that come with every Sound Unit. Check out the Preparation and Planning section in the Sound Waves Teaching Resources for a range of ideas for using Extension Words.

Decodable Readers

Sound Waves Decodable Readers are available for Foundation and Year 1 students and were created with differentiation front of mind! The three levels of difficulty ensures you can provide a positive and successful reading experience for your whole class. For every focus grapheme covered in the sequence there is a support, core or extended title to choose from.

Support books are suited to students who need to build confidence with their reading and would benefit from starting with simpler, shorter texts.

Core books are ideal for the majority of students who can comfortably apply their new phoneme–grapheme knowledge to reading.

Extended books are suited to more advanced students who need more complex texts to maintain their motivation and engagement.


Sound Waves meaningful assessment resources allow you to easily monitor student progress and respond to difficulties before any gaps in knowledge or skills compound.

If you teach Foundation, use the Foundation reading and spelling assessments at the end of each term to evaluate students’ ability to read and spell words with the sounds and graphemes taught in the Sound Waves Foundation program (Phonemic Awareness Assessment in Term 1, Spelling Assessment and Single Word Reading Assessments in Terms 2–4). There are also follow-up suggestions and remediation resources to assist with targeted remediation where required.

If you teach Years 1–6, use the Spelling Diagnostic Test and Remediation Pack in terms 1 and 3 for an overview of student ability. This pack allows you to diagnose strengths and weaknesses for specific spelling concepts and provide targeted remediation where required.

To assess students’ understanding of phoneme–grapheme relationships and Focus Concepts recently taught, use the Content Reviews. Available for Years 1–6, these mid-term and end-of-term reviews include single word and sentence dictation, as well as Focus Concept activities.

Interactive tools

Have students log in to the student site to access interactive tools for each unit.

Support students will enjoy the simple Match Up tool. They can also work with a selection of Focus Words when using Read and Sort* or the Segmenting Tool.

Extension students can apply the Extension Word setting when using Read and Sort* or the Segmenting Tool.

Black Line Masters (BLMs)

Board games, puzzles, cut and paste activities, Focus Word and Extension Word segmenting sheets, art templates and many more BLMs are available in the Sound Waves Teaching Resources.

Choose from this suite of BLMs to meet the needs of your class. For example, the Match Up: Focus Word Beginnings and Endings BLMs are ideal for students who need practice with Focus Words, but who are more engaged by hands-on activities.


Educational games are a great tool for differentiation because they engage all students. They are also versatile enough to be used in whole-class, small-group or one-on-one scenarios.

Because games have such a valuable and flexible purpose in learning, Sound Waves offers a wealth of games to play throughout the week:

Great Games are included in the Extra Games and Activities section of every unit in the Sound Waves Teaching Resources.
Playing Cards are available in Foundation Sound Icon or Standard Sound Box versions. Each pack includes instructions for a variety of games and variations to challenge your extension students.

Charts and Posters

Both charts and posters act as a permanent reference, making them particularly useful for students who need extra support when spelling.

Students can refer to the Teaching Charts or their own Student Chart to help make grapheme choices when spelling unknown words.

Students can also refer to the Prefix, Suffix and Root posters (available to download from the Sound Waves Teaching Resources to display in your classroom).


In Years 3–6, most units in the student book contain a weekly Challenge. These extension activities require students to solve problems and apply previous concepts to challenges such as word ladders, word searches and word chains. Tell your fast finishers to move on to the Challenge while the rest of the class continues to work through the lesson activities.

With all these resources and tools at your fingertips, you’ll be able to cater to the needs of your students in varied and effective ways. The result? Effective, engaging and inclusive spelling lessons!


  1. Excellence in differentiation to increase student engagement and learning outcomes. Department of Education and Training Victoria.
  2. Kirschner, P, Sweller, J & Clark, R 2010, ‘Why minimal guidance during instruction does not work: An analysis of the failure of constructivist, discovery, problem-based, experiential and inquiry-based teaching’, Educational Psychologist. (Open access here:
More Sound Waves Literacy articles & videos