Monday, December 18, 2017

Words Their Way in the Primary Classroom

Changing your approach to word study in the classroom to support ALL of your students!

This year we began using Words their Way and said goodbye to traditional spelling lists and weekly spelling tests. While this was an adjustment, the results have been amazing! Students at all levels feel challenged and successful!

Words their Way can seem OVERWHELMING at first! But with the right plan of attack, teaching word study can become a joyful part of the school day for you and your students.

Organization, systems, and routines are critical to Words their Way success! While I am still making changes and continuously learning as I go, I am going to share what has worked for my classroom!

First, determine a developmental spelling level for all of your students. This is what ensures students are receiving instruction where they need it! To find this level you will give the Primary Spelling Inventory (or one of the other inventories depending on your grade level) and score it using the WTW scoring sheets. We plan to give the PSI 3x a year to show student growth.

Once I found levels for all of my students, I put them into word study groups. To keep this manageable (and avoid pulling my hair out) I kept this to 3 groups. Students within each group are at a similar developmental spelling level.


Important Note!! Before diving in to differentiated word study instruction, we spent 4 weeks learning and practicing routines together as a whole group. Every student had the SAME word sort and learned each type of word sort activity together. Once we modeled, practiced, and practiced some more we were ready to begin working in our word sort groups! Taking this time at the beginning of the year saves so much time in the long run!

 In first grade, keeping routines predictable is KEY. We follow the same schedule every week. Students love knowing exactly what to expect each day, and we don’t waste valuable instructional time explaining directions. I display our daily Word Study slide as a visual reminder for students. Here is the schedule that has worked for me!

Friday: When students come in on Friday morning, their job after unpacking is to glue their word sort from the previous week in their Word Study Journal. After gluing, if they have time, they can choose 5 words to write in sentences to earn a smelly star using their choice of Mr. Sketch marker! (It’s a pretty big deal J)

Friday Rotations: On Fridays we dedicate more time to word study than any other day. During rotations, students will visit 3 different centers with their groups.
1. Meet with the teacher: students will gather on the rug in a circle and I will introduce their new word sort. I love introducing a new sort with a Mystery Sort (see my cheat sheet for more info!) It's a great way to get kiddos thinking critically and collaborating with one another! After sorting, we discuss the headers and reflect on what we learn about words from the sort. We also talk about any unknown words and discuss their meaning. Sometimes we'll brainstorm more words that could fit within the headings. 
2. Cut out new sort: Students will grab their new word sort for the week from their group’s folder (color coded of course!) At their seats, they will cut out the new sort and write their initials on the back to avoid lost pieces. They will then practice sorting independently.
3. Technology Center: At our school we use IXL and Moby Max. You can make this work for what you have available. If technology isn’t an option, independent reading or some other word study activity works too!
We complete 3 rounds of rotations so each group has the chance to visit each center!

Monday-Wednesday have a similar routine. After the whole group part of our Word Study time, students will meet with their word study partner. I assigned partners so that each partner pair is in the same word study group and are therefore working with the same sort each week. Students will begin by sitting back-to-back with their partner and sorting independently. After sorting, they sit next to each other and take turns reading each word in their sort. After completing this, partners will work on an activity together.
Monday- speed sort or memory
Tuesday- Blind Sort
Wednesday- Writing Sort
(See cheat sheet for descriptions)
I display these Daily Slides on my Smart Board to review expectations and keep students on track!

Thursday is brain check day! I pull one group at a time to progress monitor. I pull one group at a time a give students 6 words to spell. These 6 words follow the patterns from their word sort. Some of the words could be words that are in their word sort, while others might not be. It is essential to make sure students are learning the pattern and can apply it to other words. It is not about memorization!
Check out my brain check forms here! 
While I am progress monitoring each group, the rest of my kiddos are working independently on a text hunt. Using books from their book baskets, students look for words that follow the pattern of their word sort. They keep their word collection in their word study journal.

Storage: I love using these Pencil Pouches from Amazon! I have found that they hold up a lot better than Ziplocs and don’t get lost as often! I just wrote student numbers in sharpie so I can use them year after year!

Leave any questions you still have and I’ll follow up in another post!

Happy Teaching Friends!