Reflections and Resources from Tarheelstate Teacher: 2 Big Tips for Making Any Word Study Schedule Work
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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.

5 comments:

  1. Which of the many versions of WTW books do you use for your word searches?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kelly, I use the WORD SORT books listed here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/search/ref=as_li_qf_sp_sr_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=tarheelstatet-20&keywords=Words%20Their%20Way%20Word%20Sort%20books&index=aps&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=ur2&linkId=f318a95b0c984af51846c06dbcaa8554

      These are the 2nd Edition, but the newest version of this specific resource for WTW.
      Thanks for your interest!

      Delete
  2. Could you help direct me to what Words Their Way books would be most suitable for fifth graders? I am worried that some might start them out too low and be too easy. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Lisa,

      Have you seen the assessment for Words Their Way? If you are looking for a spelling-focused word study program, it's best to assess your students and see what levels they are on. This is a copy of the assessment for upper elementary. http://readingandwritingproject.com/public/resources/assessments/spelling/spelling_upper.pdf

      I have students take a traditional spelling test at the beginning of the year. Then, to score students' responses, I print off pg 2 for each student (I don't usually test past #20).

      In teaching 5th graders, I have always had students on all 4 levels. If you have students as low as 1st grade in their spelling/word attack skills, you will need the red level materials (Alphabetic Spellers), but I'm sure you will also have students who fall on the yellow level (Within Word Patterns Spellers) and your on-grade level students will probably be at the Syllables and Affixes spellers level (green book).

      Now, if you are looking to create a word-learning program that you can use with your whole group, the BLUE (Derivational Relations WTW set) would work great for that. Since it focuses on Greek and Latin roots, it does a lot of what we need to do with students in terms of vocabulary development.

      I hope this info helps! You are welcome to email me at tarheelstateteacher @gmail.com

      Tammy

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