Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Differentiated Spelling: Words Their Way

Have you ever thought that drill and kill was the complete wrong approach to teaching spelling?  Have you ever wondered why ineffective spelling instruction from 100 years ago is still present in the classroom today?

This post offers alternatives to traditional spelling instruction.
First, you need to check out Words Their Way Words Their Way: Word Study for Phonics, Vocabulary, and Spelling Instruction, 4th Edition (Book, CD & DVD) by Donald R. Bear.

Words Their Way focuses on teaching in the way that the brain naturally acquires knowledge.  Word sorting and pattern recognition is a huge part of this program.  

Now I want to stop and let you all know that my district uses Scott-Foresman's Reading Street, and the name of the game right now is FIDELITY (that's your favorite word, isn't it?).  So I'm not throwing out the bath with the bath.  I will still give my weekly required spelling tests.


Today I gave my students the Elementary Spelling Inventory (part of Words Their Way).  It's a list of 25 words that you ask the students to spell.  They write any sounds they hear, even if they don't know how to spell the entire word.  The results are AMAZING!!!!!!
The scoring guide breaks the results down into the students' individual developmental spelling stages.  Now you can group students together by ability and give them remedial practice or an extra boost. I use this data at conferences and talk with the parents about how their child is developing in relation to their peers. I try to forgo all the teacher jargon and break it down into layman's terms.
"You're child is still working on spelling short vowel words like cat and dog."
 "You're child is very advanced at this stage.  We will continue to push them by working on blends such as -sh, -ch, -th..."

Ok, I know what you're thinking.  That all sounds great.  Now how are you going to differentiate all that?!

Here's the best part.  They already did the work for you!
Words Their Way Letter and Picture Sorts for Emergent Spellers (2nd Edition)Words Their Way: Word Sorts for Letter Name: Alphabetic Spellers [WORDS THEIR WAY WORD SORTS-2/E]Words Their Way: Word Sorts for Within Word Pattern Spellers (2nd Edition)
In these books, it has weekly word sorts and activities for your kiddos.  Granted, this is a big initial investment.  If it were up to me I'd throw the reading street book out the window when it comes to spelling and just use this program!

I use The Daily 5, so my students will do word differentiated word sorts during rotations (word work).

What do you do for spelling/word work?  


Mrs. S.

Thank you! This is awesome! We are pushed to differentiate sooo much in my county that I am seriously considering buying these books...even though it is an initial "investment" and finances are tight. Thanks!!


Stapler’s Strategies for Sizzlin' Second Graders!

The Yellow Rocking Chair


Loving this! One of the best ways I've found to differentiate is Mrs. Gold's Spelling packet. I stumbled across her 3rd grade website a couple of years ago and she has a plethora of choices for kids to use to practice their spelling--and they love it!

Jennifer Gibson

I am using Words their way this year, too. I thought the initial assessment was awesome, too. I am building my lists from the words in the book as well as some other vocabulary sources.

I am blogging about it, too! Can't wait to share our experiences.



We use this program at our school. I make eash child a folder with a laminated sorting mat inside (you can also use plastic sleeves). They get their weekly sorts during guided reading groups (leveled sort). We sort them together, then during the week, they sort for practice on laminated sheet T, W, TH in word work center. Take it home for HW on Thursday night, and then color, cut and paste one on Friday as an assessment. If they get 90 percent or better they get a new list on Monday! They love sorts...


This is awesome. I am struggling with my spelling programme and this was a timely support for me. Thanks to you...and to "Erin 2"

✪ Liam ✪
Twist of Liam

Sara Livsey

I love, love, love Words Their Way! It's great for differentiating and you can have so much fun with it. I'll blog soon about how I use it with my second graders.

Sara :)

Mrs. Wyand

our district also uses Words Their Way and we are supposed to integrate it with Fountas and Pinnell...somehow! :) We use the DSA to assess 3 times a year and I like the results it gives me and I love seeing progress made! I have the book Word Sorts and More and that is also a good resource if you don't want to invest in the individual books.

Mrs. Schroeder

Thanks for posting about Words their Way. I am very interested in learning more about this program. Have you used with your students? It is a great site to use with your students for something different. It has free and paid sections on the site. I store all of my spelling lists there for my students access at home and at school:)
The Schroeder Page

Dana Lester

I teach 1st Grade, what book do I begin with? I know nothing about Words Their Way, but it sounds great!
Fun in 1st Grade

Ashley Cross

Yes, I also have used spelling city- but only the free part. I love hang mouse!


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