Friday, June 3, 2011

Word Study For Lower Elementary Students

 Last year I purchasedUnits of Study for Primary Writing: A Yearlong Curriculum (The Nuts and Bolts of Teaching Writing)(school funds...all of it),The Daily Five (out of pocket), The CAFE Book: Engaging All Students in Daily Literary Assessment and Instruction(more out of pocket), Words Their Way: Word Study for Phonics, Vocabulary, and Spelling Instruction, 4th Edition (Book, CD & DVD) (you guessed it- even more out of pocket!) all at the same time like a crazy person... And I got overwhelmed.  It was the start of my second year of teaching, I was a full time grad student at night and things just got a little crazy.

I did successfully implement The Daily 5 (LOVE IT!)  and I kinda sorta did ok with The CAFE book.  I like it, too, but it got lost in the hustle.  Here is a snapshot from early in the year (I did fill it up more than this!)  Some teachers re-arrange "CAFE" to spell out "FACE".  But then "The Cafe Book" would have been "The Face Book" ....get it? ;)

  I started strong but by the end of the year... I completely neglected poor Lucy Calkins- I will do better with writing workshop this year.  I didn't have some of the mentor texts, and that became a problem.  Plus, grad school got a little crazy.  Seriously.

I wanted to direct your attention to who is a fantastic teacher and blogger for Scholastic.  In this post by Beth, she discusses how she uses word study in her classroom.  It's an amazingly detailed guided and a great resource.  However... it's for 3rd grade.  So I'm looking to adapt her program and Words Their Way to fit the needs of my firsties.

Last year I also purchased the companion book Words Their Way: Word Sorts for Within Word Pattern Spellers (2nd Edition) but I need to get this one:Words Their Way: Word Sorts for Letter Name - Alphabetic Spellers (2nd Edition)  Thankfully it's only $15.  And it comes chock full of activities!  Pretty good deal if you ask me.

So, here is a breakdown of word study for those of you who are not familiar with it:
-All students are administered the Words Their Way Spelling Inventory and placed in their developmental stages (Beth also adds a high frequency inventory, which I like.)
-Students have spelling buddies, word work folders, and center activities that are developmentally appropriate to learning spelling rules
-Hands on spelling sorts by meaning or spelling pattern is another essential part.  Words for the sorts and activities can be found in the supplemental companion books.

Now, we have the district mandated Scott-Foresman Reading Street Program for our spelling words.  I want to emphasize that I'm not throwing that out the window.  I am going to evaluate the Scott-Foresman spelling lists by patten/rule and then use those words all week in our spelling sorts.  Every Monday I give a pre-test; we grade this together as a class.  All pencils must be placed in their pencil box, inside their desks.  Next, each student holds up a red checking crayon to signal they are ready to start.  I quickly write the words on the board.  Finally, students bring their grade lists up to me as I call them by number (1-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16-20).  I look over their work, make sure it is correct and hasn't been "tampered" with and staple either the regular list or the challenge list to their pre-test.

I also really love how Beth has her students paired up to do the last part of the test: writing a sentence with each of their high-frequency words (5 total).  I say their own because each student's list is different depending on which words they are working on that week.  I am still struggling with how to adapt this down to first grade.... maybe give the same high frequency words to the entire class in the fall and then just introduce the individualized component after Christmas?  I'm open to ideas.

Here is the basis for this post: the Words Their Way book & DVD + CD for only $30.  Not too shabby!  The CD also has printables.

I am very interested in hearing how other primary teachers are delivering spelling/word study instruction.  If you have any ideas, please feel free to comment!!!!



I'm really interested in implementing the Daily 5- but not sure how to do so in a Kindergarten classroom. Do you think that I could?! I want to get some advice on it before I go and purchase the books! =)

Amy Lynch

I used Words Their Way with my third graders a few years back, but I never got as deeply into it as I would have liked since it was my first year teaching. This year I taught kindergarten with a full time intern and she leads word study groups based on the Words Their Way activities/inventory. We started in February (we could have started a lot earlier looking back...) and by April, the kids had made amazing growth. 6 of our18 kindergartners are Within Word Pattern spellers now. I would estimate that our kids were able to identify 10-12 more word features in two months time!

Also, I've used a couple of the Lucy Calkin's books and I really enjoyed them. We will be adopting them as a school next year, and I am excited to delve deeper into Writing Workshop!


I haven't used Words Their Way at the lower grades but I used it with 4th graders a couple of years ago with GREAT success! I am planning to bust it back out when I go down to 2nd grade this fall. We will be using Reading Street but I am not sure if we will be mandated to use the spelling lists or not (our initial training is not until the end of July).

Either way I will find a way to use those sorts with my little ones. I was AMAZED at the growth my 4th graders made when we did those sorts consistently.

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