A differentiated, small-group, word study program provides students with the foundation for establishing important reading skills. Every group of students receives quality instruction matched to their reading stage, and instruction can be paced to accommodate the needs of beginning and struggling readers. Assessment is ongoing, and directly linked to instruction, so you can track students’ progress.
The human brain is wired to be a “pattern connector,” and providing opportunities for students to explore and manipulate word patterns can make them better writers and readers. Word study work supports not only spelling and writing ability, but helps students decode unfamiliar words while reading (Cunningham, 2004).
Word study activities call for active problem solving, and have the goal of teaching not just individual words, but word knowledge. Students are encouraged to look for spelling patterns, form hypotheses, predict outcomes, and test their predictions. Such activities require students to continually ask themselves, “What do I know about this new word, and how is it similar to words that I already know?” By implementing this student-centered approach, teachers can help support the literacy development of all students in their elementary classroom (Williams, Phillips-Birdsong, Hufnagel, Hungler, & Lundstrom, 2009).
A differentiated, small-group, word study program provides students with the foundation for establishing important reading skills. Every group of students receives quality instruction matched to their reading stage, and instruction can be paced to accommodate the needs of beginning and struggling readers. Assessment is ongoing, and directly linked to instruction, so you can track students’ progress. A word study program, taught in a systematic way, builds spelling, writing, and decoding skills. Implementing a successful word study program begins with assessing students’ word knowledge and based on these results, creating small homogeneous groups. Group instruction targets specific orthographic word features. To facilitate effective classroom management, word study and small group routines are taught and practiced. Word study lessons, sorts, activities, and homework are prepared. Activities within a weekly schedule consist of an introductory teacher-directed activity (in small groups and with buddies), followed by word sorts that are based on specific characteristics such as vowel-consonant-vowel, and word-list activities. Valuable homework may include a duplicate set of word cards sent home with a calendar of activities Weekly Word Study Homework Ideas: Grades1-3; Grades 3-5.
Daily writing activities (shared, interactive, and independent) can provide valuable cues about students’ word study progress. As students become more confident in their word skills, they take more responsibility toward spelling and writing as they develop valuable decoding skills (Williams, Phillips-Birdsong, Hufnagel, Hungler, & Lundstrom, 2009). Motivation and confidence soar, and students become engaged and enthused “Word Workers.”
Words Their Way and companion word sort volumes contain a complete curriculum of reproducible word sorts and detailed directions for the teacher working with students at various literacy stages.
Word Journeys: Assessment-Guided Phonics, Spelling and Vocabulary Instruction includes tools for assessment of children’s spelling and word knowledge abilities, and offers effective instruction at different literacy stages including word sorts, and a list of over 1,000 words arranged by sound, pattern and related features.
Cunningham, P. (2004). Phonics they use: Words for reading and writing. New York: Longman.
Williams, C., Phillips-Birdsong, C., Hufnagel, K., Hungler, D., & Lundstrom, R. (2009). Word study instruction in the K-2 classroom. The Reading Teacher, 62(7), 570-578.