Wednesday, June 24, 2015

summer blog party: word study tips

Good morning! I have kinda fallen off the map because my niece is visiting me in Chicago for the week, but she's still sleeping so I am taking a few moments to write up a post about Words Their Way for our focus today: Phonics and Phonemic Awareness. Seemed appropriate since my most popular post is about the five day plan for word study - check that one out here!

Today I'm going to share some tips and tricks for a flawless Word Study implementation. So off we go!

Assessment and Grouping: First things first, you'll need to figure out how to group your kiddos. You'll need to give the spelling test in the back of the Words Their Way book, and use the feature guide to determine the level each child will start at. Word study is great because it's not a right or wrong situation. The feature guide will help you see which phonics principles the children have mastered and not. My friend Carla has a great You Tube video on her blog that will touch on this assessment. See what it looks like by clicking here

As far as grouping - I recommend no more than three different groups within your classroom. As their teacher, you'll need to provide each group with instruction and materials to enhance their knowledge of phonetic principles, so if you create more than three groups, it's going to make your life really complicated. Keep it simple: Three groups or less!
Forget days of the week: Because you're going to be guiding three groups of kids through the word sorts, you're going to have to stagger the days that you meet with them so you're able to introduce the words to the kids when they begin their new sorts. (This, and many weeks have holidays which will throw everything off!) Perhaps the following chart might be what your plans would look like:

Remember, kids sort their words first thing every day (to build automaticity) and then go on to their other task. So if you notice June 22nd - the teacher is responsible for giving group 1 and introduction to their new words and possibly giving an assessment to group 2. Teacher would begin with group one and then meet with group 2.

Also: It would be a good idea to post some kind of chart with each day and the description of activities. Then, groups numbers can be on a clothespin (or something similar) and kids have a visual of what they will do for the day. I've been looking online for a picture and just can't seem to find one!

Teach routines: Kids have to be taught the routines and procedures for each of the days. So, give your whole class the same sort for a few cycles and focus on teaching kids what the routines look like. Teach them what each day in the cycle is all about - how you meet with the teacher on day 1, how to do the vocabulary activities on day 2 and the word hunting in their Just Right books on day 3. Once you do the routines two or three times, then you'll be ready to complicate things further (for the teacher!) with three different word sorts going on!

Don't assume: As the sorts and the rules become more difficult, your students will most certainly need instruction to understand the phonetic principles, highest group included. You want to make sure all kids in the group can say each word correctly for sorting purposes. It's imperative that the teacher meets with each group on Day 1 - in addition to word pronunciation, you also need to talk about word meanings. This doesn't have to be any big deal - the kids can attempt to sort first if you need to see another group first, and then when you meet with them, they can tell you what they have trouble with. But please, see each group when they are on Day 1 of the cycle!

Connect to your guided reading: It's pretty likely that your word study groups will be different than your guided reading groups, but that doesn't mean that you can't do a little word study investigation within your guided reading. If you know anything about Jan Richardson's plans, part of it includes about 4 minutes of word study. This is a great time to dictate words or sentences (using words from their word sort lists) to do a little assessment of what kids are mastering (or not!). This will give you information about how you can better support the kiddos during your word study time when you meet with groups, too!

I hope this was helpful! If you have ideas how I can enhance something here, I'd love to hear them! Also, feel free to leave a question if something is confusing. Just because it makes sense in my head doesn't mean it does in everyone else's!

I'm also discounting my Word Study Implementation Guide by 50%! Check that out here!

Do you have some great tips and tricks for phonemic awareness or phonics? Be sure to link up with us and share them!


  1. I love that you shared your rotation schedule to show organization. Huge help for beginners for sure! So glad you were able to link up! Excellent post!

  2. This sounds a lot like what I used to do when I used Words Their Way. It is very different from "traditional" spelling approaches. Great post.
    That Literacy Blog

  3. Very useful post, Michelle! Thanks for the tips. I'm about to Tweet them out! :)
    Literacy Loving Gals

  4. I like "forgetting the days of the week". Things always seem to derail the whole "days of the week" idea be it an assembly, unexpected day off or some other thing that just makes that not work. I like your idea of just having a plan with dates rather than days

    A Very Curious Class


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