Reflections and Resources from Tarheelstate Teacher: January 2017
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Integrity Themed Morning Meeting Resources for Character Development

Integrity can be defined as "the quality of being honest, adhering to strong principles and character." Today's post is here to help you find morning meeting resources for character development - specifically integrity.

Here is a set of FREE morning meeting resources for your upper elementary students. They'll learn about integrity, honesty, and protecting their reputation through the books, ideas, quotes, and more at this blog post. This freebie is great for your 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade classroom or homeschool students. Build a stronger classroom culture and a community of kindness with this download. You add the picture books and you have everything you need to get started!

Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. Read my full disclosure here.

One quickly finds that our reputation is highly connected to our integrity, that the ways in which we choose to act make up what others think about us and what we think about ourselves.

I have used Morning Meetings/Community Meetings in my classroom as an avenue for having important conversations with my students about topics like these.

I've always felt that our greatest endeavor as human beings is to work hard to help our inner beliefs and character shine through on the outside and that's why I'm such an advocate of theme-based classroom meetings and taking the time to encourage social and emotional development in our students--even when it's not in the curriculum map. #SHUTYOURDOOR&TEACHtotheirHEARTS #igiveyoupermission

It can be so tough for a child to always have their actions match their intentions and their beliefs. Children's emotions are constantly out of whack, people are constantly telling them what to do. They may feel that they are constantly making mistakes, and quite a few upper-elementary students I've taught have also felt their reputation was already tarnished and that there was no point in making changes because other students wouldn't give them a chance to grow.

We are so fortunate that we have the daily opportunity to make an impact on impressionable young people. I know that many a teacher made an impression on me and made me believe that I could change the world and make a difference.

Today, as part of the #kindnessnation and #weholdthesetruths campaign on teacherspayteachers, I've teamed up with other sellers to provide FOREVER FREE resources that can make a positive impact on our future world and our students' lives. Many participants have included resources focused on Acts of Kindness, Civil Rights, empathy, and our nations constitutional and ethical ideals. You will find a plethora of wonderful free resources by checking out those two links.

I decided to make my INTEGRITY morning meeting resources theme set my forever freebie for this endeavor. Just like all of my other morning meeting theme sets, the free integrity-themed resources include related Quotations, Key Vocabulary, Lesson Ideas, and Student Journal Pages.

To launch my morning meeting theme, I always begin with a key read aloud. I LOVE Mr. Peabody's Apples by Madonna as my key read aloud for integrity, honesty, and discussions focused on reputations.

Other Good Read Alouds for an Integrity Theme:


1) Babushka Baba Yaga by Patricia Polacco
2) A Day’s Work by Eve Bunting
3) The Empty Pot by Demi
4) Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe
5) A Hen for Izzy Pippik by Aubrey Davis

Quotation analysis is another big part of my morning meeting routine. The following quotation is my FAVORITE from the set and gets at the relationship between integrity and reputation. I LOVE the ending, "the way to a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear."
Here is a set of FREE morning meeting resources for your upper elementary students. They'll learn about integrity, honesty, and protecting their reputation through the books, ideas, quotes, and more at this blog post. This freebie is great for your 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade classroom or homeschool students. Build a stronger classroom culture and a community of kindness with this download. You add the picture books and you have everything you need to get started!
One of the journal pages includes this quotation and questions to help students analyze the meaning of the quotation.
Here is a set of FREE morning meeting resources for your upper elementary students. They'll learn about integrity, honesty, and protecting their reputation through the books, ideas, quotes, and more at this blog post. This freebie is great for your 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade classroom or homeschool students. Build a stronger classroom culture and a community of kindness with this download. You add the picture books and you have everything you need to get started!
I also try to pull in music and other videos and sometimes I come across news articles that are perfect for sharing with students and adding to our discussion. 

I love sharing this article about Ivan Fernandez Anaya, a Spanish runner who intentionally lost the race so his opponent, who was in the lead but fell down, could win. I like to have students discuss whether or not they would have made the same choice and what we can infer about Ivan based on his choice.  We relate his actions back to integrity and what kind of belief systems he must have to do something so courageous and selfless. 

I found this movement called “Because I said I would” whose mission is to
be a social movement and nonprofit dedicated to the betterment of humanity. We make and keep promises to end suffering, establish peace and build happiness. Our mission is to strengthen humanity’s will. We created the“Promise Card” to help hold people accountable to their commitments. Make and keep a promise to improve yourself, your family or your community.


BISIW will even send you promise cards if you request them.

A fantastic extension of this mission and project would be to create a classroom book or individual cards where students make commitments to themselves and their classroom community. Just imagine all of the ideas they can come up with...B.I.S.I.W. be kind to a classmate who needs it; stand up to a bully; use a kind voice when speaking to classmates; apologize when my actions don't represent the person that I want to be.

I think an effort like BISIW in your classroom would help students be more courageous in their actions and act with more and more integrity! We can make being the kind of person who sticks to our commitments and our convictions #COOL in our classrooms! 

Another option would be to create general “because I said I would” cards together based on desired classroom behaviors, copy these cards as a set for each child as a reminder. Perhaps children can receive a “because I said I would“ card from the teacher or another student when caught doing the expected behaviors.

Additional Videos You May Like to Share with Your Students:
An Introduction to Because I said I Would
What is Integrity (at minute 5:59 this video talks about God as the ultimate example of a leader with integrity. Please PREVIEW THIS VIDEO before watching with students.)
A Life of Integrity (1 minute video)
Integrity for Students (1 minute description)

You can download all of the morning meeting resources, including a handy lesson ideas and teaching resources page, in the Integrity Journal Theme Set and the Integrity Bulletin Board Quotations and Vocabulary set for free. Just click on the images below!

Here is a set of FREE morning meeting resources for your upper elementary students. They'll learn about integrity, honesty, and protecting their reputation through the books, ideas, quotes, and more at this blog post. This freebie is great for your 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade classroom or homeschool students. Build a stronger classroom culture and a community of kindness with this download. You add the picture books and you have everything you need to get started!
Here is a set of FREE morning meeting resources for your upper elementary students. They'll learn about integrity, honesty, and protecting their reputation through the books, ideas, quotes, and more at this blog post. This freebie is great for your 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade classroom or homeschool students. Build a stronger classroom culture and a community of kindness with this download. You add the picture books and you have everything you need to get started!








Check out these other amazing resources from participants in #kindnessnation and #weholdthesetruths.



Additional Tips and Suggestions for Your Word Study Activities

If you've caught my past few blog posts, you know that I am focusing on Word Study for a little mini blog series. I've written about my 7 Day Words Their Way Word Study Routine and shared my Two Biggest Tips for Making Your Word Study Routine Work (even if you are not using Words Their Way). But today I want to focus specifically on more word study activities.

If you're looking to add word study activities into your day, you're going to love the suggestions, tips, and ideas presented here! Click through to find out how one teacher uses Words Their Way to enhance the word study routine in her classroom. The strategies presented here can be modified to work with any 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th grade classroom! Plus there's a FREE download to help your students better master their misspelled words! Great for spelling AND writing practice! Get it now!

Today I'm sharing additional tips and recommendations that I've found helpful:

Note: Links to the Words Their Way books are affiliate links. This means that I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. Read my full disclosure here.


Getting Started

  • After you pre-assess your students, it's important to know that I (and most other Words their Way teachers) recommend that you only try to juggle 4-5 different word study groups in your classroom, otherwise, you may just go nuts! This also keeps your group sizes small--I find that my lowest groups need to be fairly small (3-4 students) in order for them to get the attention they need. My higher groups are manageable with around 6 students.

While I highly recommended a staggered word study activities routine in my last post, at the beginning of the year it is important to introduce, model, and complete each activity as a whole-group so that students are able to independently complete the daily activities once regular word study begins.

I just choose a word list for the whole class and model the routines in one or two cycles of word study until students understand the expectations. (You could choose a lesson from your lowest word study group that you know you are going to skip OR focus on a big spelling rule that you noticed many of your students missed on their word study pre-assessment like "drop the y, add -ies".)

Share Students with a Colleague

If you're looking to add word study activities into your day, you're going to love the suggestions, tips, and ideas presented here! Click through to find out how one teacher uses Words Their Way to enhance the word study routine in her classroom. The strategies presented here can be modified to work with any 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th grade classroom! Plus there's a FREE download to help your students better master their misspelled words! Great for spelling AND writing practice! Get it now!

  • Do you have a colleague that can do word study activities at the same time as your class? One year I was able to partner with a colleague for word study block and it was AWESOME! This may be a way for your and other teachers on your grade level to serve more student groups.
I LOVED sharing a few students with him and vice-versa because
  1. We were able to give the lowest group (made up of a few students from both of our classrooms) TWO meet with the teacher days-one with me, and one with him. 
  2. Having a shared word study activities schedule made us both ACCOUNTABLE to word study because we had each other to consult with. 
How do you make sharing students for word study work? We created one master schedule with all of our students on it. We ended up with 6 student groups in all. Then, we decided which groups would meet with which teacher. You could change this each quarter so that you get to work with your students. I chose to give him my "knuckle-head" group so that maybe they would listen more and get more out of word study.

Our daily word study schedules were exactly the same since we made it with our students combined, so each day at lunch we confirmed which day we were on. If one of us needed to cancel word study, we had choices: do another writer's notebook day, give more time for word searching, or continue a Greek/Latin word-parts or vocabulary study lesson.

Getting Organized

How do I get organized for word study activities? Well, I use the Words Their Way Word Sort Books and my Words Their Way Word Searches that were created for and aligned to the levels in each sort book. 


If you're looking to add word study activities into your day, you're going to love the suggestions, tips, and ideas presented here! Click through to find out how one teacher uses Words Their Way to enhance the word study routine in her classroom. The strategies presented here can be modified to work with any 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th grade classroom! Plus there's a FREE download to help your students better master their misspelled words! Great for spelling AND writing practice! Get it now!

After I have pre-assessed students, created my groups, and decided which sorts each group will begin with, I spend an afternoon at the copier making copies of the Word Searches and Word Sort Sheets. I get at least 5 sorts ahead for each group (which means I'm copied/planned for 10 weeks since my routine is a 7 day cycle)

If you're looking to add word study activities into your day, you're going to love the suggestions, tips, and ideas presented here! Click through to find out how one teacher uses Words Their Way to enhance the word study routine in her classroom. The strategies presented here can be modified to work with any 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th grade classroom! Plus there's a FREE download to help your students better master their misspelled words! Great for spelling AND writing practice! Get it now!

As I'm printing the copies, I paper clip the sets together and organize them into folders that match the color of each leveled word sort book. I've seen some teachers copy each word sort onto colored paper to match each level---I think this is a fabulous idea for keeping the different word sort sheets organized!

If you're looking to add word study activities into your day, you're going to love the suggestions, tips, and ideas presented here! Click through to find out how one teacher uses Words Their Way to enhance the word study routine in her classroom. The strategies presented here can be modified to work with any 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th grade classroom! Plus there's a FREE download to help your students better master their misspelled words! Great for spelling AND writing practice! Get it now!

Before we start our first 7 day cycle, I spend a word study block helping students organize their word study notebooks. Students glue their word searches on the left side of the page so that they can record the words they find to the right of the word search.  I have them skip 2-3 pages between each word search for word work activities and for "Meet with the Teacher." If you are using the word searches, remind students to keep the word searches in order as they glue them in!

If you're looking to add word study activities into your day, you're going to love the suggestions, tips, and ideas presented here! Click through to find out how one teacher uses Words Their Way to enhance the word study routine in her classroom. The strategies presented here can be modified to work with any 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th grade classroom! Plus there's a FREE download to help your students better master their misspelled words! Great for spelling AND writing practice! Get it now!

My Derivational Relations Group (the blue group/highest group) also have Word Study notebook activities that are part of their routine. So, they must place the activity sheets for each word sort after their word search and "found words" list.

You may find that it's easier to pull students into small groups to help them glue their pages into their notebooks, or some years, I've just printed all of the Word Study Notebook sheets off into a separate booklet for them. (I do have to admit that this was MUCH less stressful than the years I had them glue the pages into a notebook).

Additional Tweaks You Can Make to Your Routines

  • On writer's notebook day, you could have students keep up with the misspelled words they find in their writer's notebook on a list that is kept in their Word Study or Writer's Notebook. This is especially beneficial if you have time to analyze common patterns students are missing or want data on how the transfer of "word study" to actual spelling is going. 
If you're looking to add word study activities into your day, you're going to love the suggestions, tips, and ideas presented here! Click through to find out how one teacher uses Words Their Way to enhance the word study routine in her classroom. The strategies presented here can be modified to work with any 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th grade classroom! Plus there's a FREE download to help your students better master their misspelled words! Great for spelling AND writing practice! Get it now!

I personally find that my students make a lot of progress out of having to focus on going back through their entries in their writer's notebook to find misspelled words without me requiring them to create this list, but recording misspelled words on a chart like this is an option to keep in mind and perhaps a modification for your lower spelling group.

If you're looking to add word study activities into your day, you're going to love the suggestions, tips, and ideas presented here! Click through to find out how one teacher uses Words Their Way to enhance the word study routine in her classroom. The strategies presented here can be modified to work with any 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th grade classroom! Plus there's a FREE download to help your students better master their misspelled words! Great for spelling AND writing practice! Get it now!

You can grab the "Misspelled Words Chart" and a Personal Words Chart from my google docs for free.

If you use my Words Their Way Word Searches

  • Be sure to teach students that they will almost never have a three-letter word in their word list (except for the Red Group). Students really have fun finding words, but I have found that stopping them from highlighting three-letter words keeps their word searches clean and they are better able to see the empty spots where another word may be hiding. 
If you're looking to add word study activities into your day, you're going to love the suggestions, tips, and ideas presented here! Click through to find out how one teacher uses Words Their Way to enhance the word study routine in her classroom. The strategies presented here can be modified to work with any 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th grade classroom! Plus there's a FREE download to help your students better master their misspelled words! Great for spelling AND writing practice! Get it now!

Y'all you might have realized it all ready, but I could just keep on talking about word study activities! I'm going to take a break from this 3-part series, but I'm sure I'll be back in the future with more tips and tricks for your word study routine. 

If you're looking to add word study activities into your day, you're going to love the suggestions, tips, and ideas presented here! Click through to find out how one teacher uses Words Their Way to enhance the word study routine in her classroom. The strategies presented here can be modified to work with any 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th grade classroom! Plus there's a FREE download to help your students better master their misspelled words! Great for spelling AND writing practice! Get it now!I don't believe I've confessed this up until this point, but I used to HATE word study (and planning for it) with a passion!!!! 

I spent countless hours combing through spelling books and trying to find the right systems that would work for ALL of my students' needs (my high-flying spellers and my kiddos with spelling disabilities and low word-attack abilities).

I would beat myself up again and again because I didn't really have any direction for how best to instruct my students in spelling and learning word patterns.

It wasn't until the Word Sorts books came along that I truly FELL IN LOVE with WORD STUDY because instantly, I had the resources and word lists I needed.

The books come in 5 Different levels and each one is broken down into chapters. I could start my word study groups at the beginning, middle, or end of one of the sort books depending on where they fell in the pre-assessment. 

If you have not purchased the Words Their Way Word Sorts books, I highly recommend checking them out. I can't say enough about how much of a lifesaver they are for word study instruction. You can find each one here:


Until next time, have a blessed and glorious teaching time! 

If you're looking to add word study activities into your day, you're going to love the suggestions, tips, and ideas presented here! Click through to find out how one teacher uses Words Their Way to enhance the word study routine in her classroom. The strategies presented here can be modified to work with any 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th grade classroom! Plus there's a FREE download to help your students better master their misspelled words! Great for spelling AND writing practice! Get it now!

Don't miss other posts in this word study series: 


Have any questions you want me to answer about word study activities? Drop them in the comments! 

2 Big Tips for Making Any Word Study Schedule Work

Hi Ya'll! I'm back today to share more with you about how I make my word study schedule run more smoothly. If you didn't catch my last post, you can learn all about my 7 Day Word Study Routine before you read my two favorite tips.

If you use Words Their Way or any sort of word study program, you're going to love the tips included at this blog post! You'll see how one teachers set up a word study schedule that is NOT tied to the M-F calendar! Click through to see how this can help give you the flexibility you need for your 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade students - while also ensuring word study is kept a priority! Great tips, ideas, strategies, and more included right here.

I have to admit, I was being a little sneaky in my last post and didn't share ALL of the details about how I make my word study routine work, but today I'm going to give away my 2 best tips for any word study schedule {no matter what program you are implementing}.

Note: Links to the Words Their Way books are affiliate links. This means that I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. Read my full disclosure here.

I started using the Words Their Way Word Sort books for word study and I never looked back. Being sure that you have access to the Word Sort books for each level is still my #1 recommendation for alleviating the stress of teaching word study.


Tip #1

My first tip is to stop planning your word study activities based on a Mon, Tues, Wed, Thurs, Fri routine.

Think of your word study activities as a cycle. In my classroom, students cycle through all activities that I've built into my word study routines for each new word list. I set aside 20 minutes for word study with the goal of consistently having our word study block 3-4 times a week. (Don't forget, you can get more information about our activities in this post).

When I finally shifted my thinking from having all of my students do something specific each day of the week to expanding our word study schedule into a 6-7 day cycle, so many issues were alleviated.

Our schedule would get interrupted quite a bit and word study would get pushed aside for what felt like at least once a week. Often, it really felt like a joke to try to maintain a word study block {can you relate?!}. Year after year, I found that training students with "This is what we do on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday..." did not work and I decided to stop the insanity with my cycling approach.

With a 7 day cycle, I have a lot of flexibility and less stress about interruptions in our schedule. We take about two weeks to complete our seven activities, including two whole-group days that I've built into the schedule where everyone is working on the same thing at the same time (one is a vocabulary day and the other is a "writer's notebook" spelling day.)

Although we might take longer than a Monday-Friday routine to cycle through the activities for one word list, we value word study more because we know ALL of the routines are going to happen for that word list.


Tip #2

My second revolutionary tip is to try staggering your groups so that everyone is not doing the same thing on the same days. {This was another remnant from the "We do this on Monday, this on Tuesday..." approach.} Staggering your word study groups to do different tasks on different days is extremely beneficial for "Meet with the Teacher" day and for "Spelling City" day if you do not have enough computers/devices to go around.

Finally, what you've all been waiting for...a closer look at my schedule.

If you use Words Their Way or any sort of word study program, you're going to love the tips included at this blog post! You'll see how one teachers set up a word study schedule that is NOT tied to the M-F calendar! Click through to see how this can help give you the flexibility you need for your 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade students - while also ensuring word study is kept a priority! Great tips, ideas, strategies, and more included right here.

You can see here that I try to have only one "meet with the teacher" group scheduled each day. The two groups on Day 7 are my higher groups so I can manage moving back and forth between them as I train students to lead the discussion. This also gives me the much needed flexibility to meet with my lowest group a second time.

Staggering groups has helped me more adequately manage the needs of each group by allowing me to focus most of my attention on one group at a time on their “teacher” day. Once everyone is settled into their activity for the day, I can give that group my full attention for 15 minutes.

Staggering the activities for each group has also allowed me to further differentiate and tweak student activities without stigmatizing certain groups (usually needed for the highest and lowest groups). For example, some years I've had my lowest group complete "Look, Say, Cover, Write, Check" with their words and I embed their assessment and "spelling test" practice into their teacher day.

My higher group (Derivational Relations Spellers) doesn't have an assessment day because they are my best spellers and do not need a whole day dedicated to doing a spelling test. Their focus is more on vocabulary development and learning Greek and Latin roots, so they have two days where they work on Word Study Notebook activities that I've developed.

At the beginning of the year when you are getting started with a staggered routine, this simply means that each day, an additional group starts word study. To get us going, I've allowed students to read independently until their word study rotation begins. You can see each group's start day noted by the red arrows. Everyone except the lower group begins with their word study word searches on their first rotation day.

If you use Words Their Way or any sort of word study program, you're going to love the tips included at this blog post! You'll see how one teachers set up a word study schedule that is NOT tied to the M-F calendar! Click through to see how this can help give you the flexibility you need for your 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade students - while also ensuring word study is kept a priority! Great tips, ideas, strategies, and more included right here.

You may be asking why you would even need to worry about starting students' schedule on different days. When you start plugging in your "meet with the teacher" time, it becomes necessary. I also want students to have two word search days before meeting with me to discuss the words they have found.

I start by putting each group's "meet with the teacher" day on the schedule, then plug in the activities in the order that I would like students to progress through them. Spelling City can really come any time during their sequence, but Blind Assessment needs to come at the end of their rotation.

If you use Words Their Way or any sort of word study program, you're going to love the tips included at this blog post! You'll see how one teachers set up a word study schedule that is NOT tied to the M-F calendar! Click through to see how this can help give you the flexibility you need for your 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade students - while also ensuring word study is kept a priority! Great tips, ideas, strategies, and more included right here.

How do I help myself and students remember where we are in our schedule?



I post our schedule that shows each groups' assignment for the day. We move the sticky note that says "We are on..." each day. This amazing staggered schedule approach gives us the freedom to have "off" days where we do something else with our word study schedule. 

Myself or a student rotates the sticky note each day that we have word study. Then, students know which group they are in and they check which activity they are supposed to work on.

After you have introduced the different rotations, students know what they should be doing. Posting the schedule on the smartboard, either the full schedule chart or by breaking each day down on to a separate slide (after you have developed the master schedule) is also a great idea!

Wish you could have a copy of my schedule? You can grab my word study schedule template from google docs! Make sure you go to FILE and SAVE A COPY to save an EDITABLE version into your own google docs!  

Changing my mindset from a Mon-Fri routine to more of a cycle of activities and staggering my word study groups so that resource-intensive activities (like needing the teacher or needing a computer) really helped me simplify my word study routines and turn that time of our day into something that I was able to enjoy a whole lot more!

Don't want to lose this post? Make sure you grab the pinnable image to the right and save to your pinterest boards!

In my next post, I share additional tips and suggestions for getting started, getting ahead and organizing your materials, and a way to share students with a colleague.

Don't miss other posts in this word study series: 
A 7 Day Overview of My Words their Way Word Study Routine
Additional Tips and Suggestions for Word Study
⇒ Differentiating Your Word Study Routine

How do you manage your word study schedule and groups? I'd love to hear in the comments! 


If you use Words Their Way or any sort of word study program, you're going to love the tips included at this blog post! You'll see how one teachers set up a word study schedule that is NOT tied to the M-F calendar! Click through to see how this can help give you the flexibility you need for your 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade students - while also ensuring word study is kept a priority! Great tips, ideas, strategies, and more included right here.

My Words Their Way Word Study Routine {Seven Day Overview}

Recently, I have received lots of interest in my Words Their Way Word Searches and questions about my word study routine. I decided to do a quick 3 part series to share my love of word study and the Words their Way word sort books that I've used in my classroom for many years. Today's post focuses on my word study routine. In my second post, I share a little secret about how I really make my schedule work, and the third post includes additional tips and suggestions for your word study activities.
This post outlines how to bring a word study routine into your elementary classroom or homeschool. It's a great way to see exactly how to make word study with Words Their Way work in your classroom. While the post is geared mostly for your 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade upper elementary students - you can also modify the ideas here for your Kindergarten, 1st or 2nd grade students. You're going to love how spelling AND writing improves when you students start this word study routine!
Note: This post contains affiliate links. This means that I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. Read my full disclosure here.

If you are unfamiliar with Words Their Way word study routines, I found this awesome video that demonstrates some of the key aspects of a Words their Way program including an open sort, blind sort, and a small group meeting with the teacher.

 I also recommend getting a copy of Words Their Way: Word Study for Phonics, Vocabulary, and Spelling Instruction. Words Their Way is described as "a hands-on, developmentally-driven approach to word study that illustrates how to integrate and teach children phonics, vocabulary, and spelling skills."

THE OLD WAY: 
In my first few years of teaching 5th graders, I tried different routines and programs for spelling and word study. We did not have a spelling program, but I knew it was important for them to have differentiated spelling lists.

I pre-tested students with a high frequency word list and gave students a highlighted copy of the words they had spelled correctly. Each week students pulled 5 personal words from the list and 5 words from my whole-group word study lesson. Students wrote their words on an index card, had me proof it, and placed it in their envelope on our chart that hung in the room.

My minilesson always focused on a spelling pattern that I thought students needed to review. I always tried to generate a list of shorter and longer words so that students on different levels could pull from the list but this was not always easy and my best spellers were hard to challenge.

On Fridays, students would buddy test with a partner, check one another's spelling tests and report the grade to me. Any words that were not spelled correctly went onto the following week's words study list.

Can you tell I was struggling to turn a chunk of my instruction that I felt was required into a worthy learning experience that would make an impact on my students' spelling? It was a struggle {and the source of great stress each weekend as I planned for words study} to feel like I was doing the right thing during spelling/word study time. I don't even remember the activities we did each day with these words, but I'm sure I would not recommend spending your time that way now {#firstyearteacherproblems!}.

This post outlines how to bring a word study routine into your elementary classroom or homeschool. It's a great way to see exactly how to make word study with Words Their Way work in your classroom. While the post is geared mostly for your 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade upper elementary students - you can also modify the ideas here for your Kindergarten, 1st or 2nd grade students. You're going to love how spelling AND writing improves when you students start this word study routine! Fast forward a few years, and my word study program was revolutionized by the release of the Words Their Way Word Sorts books for each level of spellers. Thank goodness my school purchased these for us and handed a set of the books to each grade level.

All of a sudden, I could stop wracking my brain over word lists, what spelling patterns to focus on, and whether or not I was giving ALL of my students what they needed based on their spelling abilities.

Using the Words Their Ways Spelling inventory to assess students at the beginning of the year gave me better data on where my students were in their development AND because of the Words Their Way Sort books, I was READY TO GO with my word lists and printable word sorts.

All I had to do was assess, score the assessments, group my students, decide where to start in the leveled books, and make copies of the sorts we would need each week! To see an example of the developmental spelling inventory, check out this tutorial from Pearsontraining.

Of course, I learned many strategies along the way to not only make my word study time easier to plan for and implement, but to also make it a BLISSFUL time of our day and something that my students and I looked forward to--we even called it FUN sometimes and I think that was because of the routines I set up for them and the new attitude I could have towards word study because it wasn't such a stress-inducing aspect of my planning time any more.

Today I thought I would focus on the Word Study ACTIVITIES that I found success with. Keep in mind that the routines and ideas I describe below are from the upper elementary perspective. Of course, modifications and scaffolding may be necessary for lower grades and weaker spellers.

I worked hard to include routine activities that remind students of the purpose of word study--that their spelling learning should transfer into our actual writing block! Here's my current word study cycle of activities that feels productive and successful to me (most of the time):

Day 1: Students complete a BLIND WORD SEARCH
This post outlines how to bring a word study routine into your elementary classroom or homeschool. It's a great way to see exactly how to make word study with Words Their Way work in your classroom. While the post is geared mostly for your 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade upper elementary students - you can also modify the ideas here for your Kindergarten, 1st or 2nd grade students. You're going to love how spelling AND writing improves when you students start this word study routine!
If you are familiar with Words Their Way, then you know that a "blind sort" is an activity where students sort the words into categories (and write them down) as they hear them called out. It's called BLIND because they are not looking at the words.

By doing this "blind searching" through a word search, students have a fun way of figuring out their word pattern focus for the current word study cycle as they try to deduce the current word sort rule or pattern.

The word search "WORD searching" is an engaging, fun way for students to discover some of their words and sharpen their ability to recognize words that ARE spelled correctly (which I've found is a major key to spelling improvement).

Students also demonstrate their understanding of sorting by sound and/or look when they record the words they have found into categories. (Students have the word searches glued into their notebooks and MUST record the words as they find them by SORTING the words into categories).

I have created word searches for the Letter-Name Alphabetic, Within Word Pattern, Syllables and Affixes, and Derivational Relations Spellers sorting books. You have two versions to choose from--one where students record their word findings in their word study journals and one that provides students space to record the words they find in categories.

This post outlines how to bring a word study routine into your elementary classroom or homeschool. It's a great way to see exactly how to make word study with Words Their Way work in your classroom. While the post is geared mostly for your 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade upper elementary students - you can also modify the ideas here for your Kindergarten, 1st or 2nd grade students. You're going to love how spelling AND writing improves when you students start this word study routine!

Day 2: Meet with the Teacher

Students receive their word lists on their desks to cut out in the morning so that they are prepared for this meeting. Meet with the teacher time includes sorting words in different ways, discussing word patterns/rules and word meanings, etc.

I like to simply ask students to sort their words and then have each student explain what criteria/word patterns they sorted them by. We look for any words that might be misplaced and as students are sorting, I work with individual students asking them to read the words in each column to me. (Often, students realize when they need to move a word to another category when you ask them to read the words aloud).

With my average/higher groups, I ask what words they found in their word search and we sort them into categories on a white board. Sometimes I will provide them with other words they should have found, but hearing what their group members found gives them clues about what other words to look for. (I always have my Words Their Way Word Sort books open during this meeting so that I can refer to them and see what words students should have found.)

Modification: The lower groups just need practice, practice, practice, and immediate feedback. When these kiddos meet with the teacher, I give them a white board, marker, and eraser and fire off words at them from the list they are on and from previous lists. We often have to focus on short sounds vs long sounds, words with double vowel patterns, and making sure we have represented all of the sounds found in the words. I ultimately need to meet with my lower speller twice during a word study cycle. I'll show you how I do that in my next post.

Day 3: Whole Group Vocabulary Day
Because vocabulary development is so important, I wanted to make sure I included at least one block of vocabulary development into our word study routine. This exposes all of my spellers to the importance of learning word meanings and gives them new vocabulary even if their word study words are so basic that they don't lead to much vocabulary development.

The resources I've used for our vocabulary day have varied across the years, but I've used my 48 Character Traits set, our content area vocabulary, Greek and Latin roots, and a Word a Week Vocabulary Program.

Day 4: Spelling City Day! 
You are in for a real treat because when I started using Spelling City.com as part of our Word Study routine, they did not yet have word lists from popular programs already created. But, today in my research for this post, I found that they ALREADY HAVE most of the Words Their Way word sorts ready to go!

This is a little off a tangent (but it is SOOOOOO exciting!). I found that you can even assess your students with Spelling City. The Elementary Spelling Inventory is the same word list that I used every year to assess my students! The words will be read to students and they will be provided with a sentence.

This post outlines how to bring a word study routine into your elementary classroom or homeschool. It's a great way to see exactly how to make word study with Words Their Way work in your classroom. While the post is geared mostly for your 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade upper elementary students - you can also modify the ideas here for your Kindergarten, 1st or 2nd grade students. You're going to love how spelling AND writing improves when you students start this word study routine!

This post outlines how to bring a word study routine into your elementary classroom or homeschool. It's a great way to see exactly how to make word study with Words Their Way work in your classroom. While the post is geared mostly for your 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade upper elementary students - you can also modify the ideas here for your Kindergarten, 1st or 2nd grade students. You're going to love how spelling AND writing improves when you students start this word study routine! When students are finished, the program prompts them to check their spelling and hit done. Then, they can print their results and you have a record of how they did!!

Although you can't see it in the thumbnail, the students name and the date are printed on the report.

The report shows you the words students missed and how they spelled incorrect words. HALF OF YOUR SCORING WORK IS DONE WITH THIS PROGRAM!!! This is definitely something to spend time exploring and playing around with!

Day 5: Writer's Notebook Day
Remember when I said that "I worked hard to include routine activities that remind students of the purpose of word study"? Well, to do that, I implemented a Writer's Notebook day into our word study routine and never looked back!

Everyone takes out their writer's notebook, turns to a page that is full of writing, and searches for misspelled words. When students think they have found all of the misspelled words on a page, they raise their hand and I skim to see if I can find anything they missed. I usually tell my better spellers, "I see #__ more misspelled words" and walk away to let them continue searching and correcting.

For students having difficulty finding a misspelled word, I tell them which line to look on. Students write a correction above the word (they are allowed to ask for help from a neighbor or me after trying themselves, and I don't usually have them searching through dictionaries because the goal is for students to improve their abilities for recognizing misspelled words...a key step to becoming a better speller!). I believe our Writer's Notebook day is CRITICAL to transferring spelling improvement and encouraging students to place some importance on spelling more words correctly.
This post outlines how to bring a word study routine into your elementary classroom or homeschool. It's a great way to see exactly how to make word study with Words Their Way work in your classroom. While the post is geared mostly for your 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade upper elementary students - you can also modify the ideas here for your Kindergarten, 1st or 2nd grade students. You're going to love how spelling AND writing improves when you students start this word study routine!

Day 6: Another Word Study Word Search Day


Although students do get better and better at finding words in their word searches, very few students complete a word search in one word study block. This day gives them an additional day to work to find all of their words.

If students have found all of their word study words, they return to Writer's Notebook Corrections or can be directed to play on Spelling City.

Day 7: Blind Sort Assessment 
Students need someone to call their word list out to them. If all students are assessing on the same day, I assign everyone a word study partner that is not in their word study group. I require my students to complete their word study assessment as a blind sort. This means they must record the words in appropriate columns as they also try to spell them correctly for the spelling test.

I love blind sort assessments because as I watch students categorize words, I see them actively thinking about spelling patterns—erasing, moving words around, and correcting spelling. It is really amazing.

Students check their partner's tests using their word lists, record a # correct/total at the top, and record missed words on their “Words to Work On” Chart. These are words that their spelling partner can pull two from each week. Once it has been spelled correctly 3-4 times, it can be checked off of the list.

The only other thing I would add to this list is the opportunity for students to call words out to one another. If you have time, inserting a "white board spelling day" would be really fun and beneficial for students. You could have students who are in the same group call out different words to one another. They could make it a little competitive by keeping score (which is a fair game because students are on the same spelling level.

What? My word study routine has more than 5 days?!?! You'll find out how I manage this in an upcoming post and why I finally gave up the Monday-Friday word study mindset. 


This post outlines how to bring a word study routine into your elementary classroom or homeschool. It's a great way to see exactly how to make word study with Words Their Way work in your classroom. While the post is geared mostly for your 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade upper elementary students - you can also modify the ideas here for your Kindergarten, 1st or 2nd grade students. You're going to love how spelling AND writing improves when you students start this word study routine! Are you implementing your word study routines with fidelity? I know it can be a real challenge and that it can be really easy to cut word study out of your day sometimes or even drop the ball all together {ooops!}.

However, I have found that students' spelling deteriorates when word study is dropped from the classroom routine (maybe students think you don't think spelling is important at that point?).

But, the silver lining is that if I can get my routines together, students actually have a lot of fun during word study and our room is always busy with that productive hum that we teachers love to have in our classroom.

My favorite time to do word study was always this 15 minute block of time that we had between lunch and special area classes. My students knew how to check the schedule and would come in from their bathroom break and get right to work! I was free to rove around the classroom helping out or leading my small group.

If you have not purchased the Words Their Way Word Sorts books, I highly recommend checking them out. You can find each one here:

Letter and Picture Sorts for Emergent Spellers
Word Sorts for Letter-Name Alphabetic Spellers
Word Sorts for Within Word Pattern Spellers
Word Sorts for Syllables and Affixes Spellers
Word Sorts for Derivational Relations Spellers

I hope you have enjoyed a peek into my word study routines. Next up, I've shared a few ways that I modify for my struggling and advanced spellers, how I really organize my schedule, and my best tips for managing word study and making the routines go even smoother!

Don't miss other posts in this word study series: 
⇒ My Two Best Tips for Making Any Word Study Routine Work
⇒ Additional Tips and Suggestions for Word Study
⇒ Differentiating Your Word Study Routine

This post outlines how to bring a word study routine into your elementary classroom or homeschool. It's a great way to see exactly how to make word study with Words Their Way work in your classroom. While the post is geared mostly for your 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade upper elementary students - you can also modify the ideas here for your Kindergarten, 1st or 2nd grade students. You're going to love how spelling AND writing improves when you students start this word study routine!

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