Reflections and Resources from Tarheelstate Teacher: My Words Their Way Word Study Routine {Seven Day Overview}
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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!
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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. Coming up next, I'm going to share 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!

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!

4 comments:

  1. I absolutely love this method! I really appreciate that you have added a writing component to it as well, because so many students don't transfer their spelling knowledge from a spelling test to their own writing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kelly, "Writer's Notebook day" is one of my FAVORITES!!! I really think it helps them make the connection between word study and writing in their own notebooks. I don't expect them to make corrections to spelling in their notebooks regularly (I just help them during writing and focus on it more during the drafting/editing process--but having one day during our word study cycle where they hunt for misspelled words makes a bid difference).

      I love teaching them that "realizing that a word is misspelled is the first step to becoming a better speller" and then giving them the opportunity to actually focus on finding misspelled words.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  2. Are your word searches aligned with the most recent sorts or the old ones? I would love to try this with my kids but need to know which version you use. ��

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Ashley, the word searches are aligned to the Word Sort books linked in the post--they are aligned with the 2nd edition of those from 2008. I am not aware that there is a more recent release of the word sort books. Hope that helps!

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