2 Tips for Making Any Word Study Schedule Work

Hi Y’all! 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 for getting the most out of your word study schedule.

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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 a few years into my teaching journey and I never looked back. Having a ready-made, differentiated word study program like the Words Their Way word sort books is still my #1 recommendation for alleviating the stress of planning and teaching word study. But, today, I have two tips about how to schedule your word study block that will help you make your time more enjoyable!

Tip #1 : DITCH MONDAY-FRIDAY THINKING

My first tip is to stop planning your word study activities based on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday routine. Instead, I recommend that you 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 planned our schedule based on Monday-Friday routines, I was often frustrated. Our schedule would get interrupted quite a bit and word study would get pushed aside at least once a week. Often, it really felt like a joke to try to maintain a regular word study block {can you relate?!}. Year after year, I found that training students with a "This is what we do on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday..." did not work and I decided to stop the insanity with my cycling approach.

By shifting 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 scheduling issues were alleviated!

With a 7 day cycle, I have a lot of flexibility and less stress about the unavoidable 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 it takes to cycle through the activities for one word list than it would with a Monday-Friday routine, we value word study more because we know ALL of the routines are going to happen for that word list.

Tip #2 : sTAGGER YOUR GROUPS/ACTIVITIES

My second revolutionary tip is to try staggering your groups so that students are 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.

 
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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.

 
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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.

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

 
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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!

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.

If you have not purchased the Words Their Way Word Sorts books, I highly recommend checking them out. You can check out the 3rd Edition Word Sort books, released in 2018 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

SHOP THE RESOURCES: (Please check the release date of your Word Sort books before making any purchases)


WTW 3RD EDITION ALIGNED RESOURCES (2018)

WTW 2ND EDITION ALIGNED RESOURCES (2009)

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

⇒ Additional Tips and Suggestions for Word Study

⇒ Differentiating Your Word Study Routine

A 7 Day Overview of My Words their Way Word Study Routine

Tips for Success with Word Study Word Searches

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

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