Happy Sunday everyone. I’m popping in tonight to write a quick post about getting word study up and running in your primary classroom. This is my first year using word study in my first grade classroom as opposed to the traditional approach to phonics instruction. In previous years, I had been teaching a spelling pattern a week to my entire group of first graders. Even though we always mixed up the activities and differentiated to meet each student’s needs, I found that this kind of instruction didn’t fit well with my teaching philosophy.
Last year was my first year teaching in an inclusion classroom. I am currently the general education teacher in a first grade class and I work side by side with a wonderful special education teacher. Because last year was our first year together and both the first time in our new roles, it was quite the learning curve. But, working in that kind of environment, opened my eyes to the kind of instruction that I felt my students truly needed and I’m brave enough to say that it wasn’t what I was giving them. For this reason, with the support of my administration, my entire team has decided to move towards teaching spelling features with word study instead of teaching the entire class one spelling pattern a week. I’m not saying this doesn’t work for other groups of students; it just wasn’t proving successful with the wide range of learners in my room.
First off, you may be asking “What is word study?” Well, “word study develops students’ underlying understanding of how letters and letter patterns represent sound and meaning in language.” We use word sorts during our word study time because they’re hands-on and motivating and they encourage students to discover the “rule” without being told directly. Something, I am desperately trying to accomplish this year!
We’ve been moving VERY slowly but my firsties are already picking up the routine and I’m so excited to dive in fully this week. I wanted to shed a little light on how we’ve introduced word study and gotten it off the ground in hopes of inspiring some of you to make the switch.
On day one of school (our first Monday together), we began introducing what a sort is and the different components of a sort. Each group will be given their own schedule of activities but we wanted to get our first graders started with a schedule right away, so we’ve been working on the same one since school started.
We discussed what headers are and why they are important to pay attention to. We demonstrated turning our picture cards over and sorted beginning sounds as an entire class. Our first sort looked a lot like the image above, from Oriental Trading, because as a team we decided that at the beginning of the year we would review beginning consonants.
For the first three weeks of school, we’ve been working as a whole class and moving along a word study schedule (as seen above) to teach the procedures and routines of our word study block. Our word study block will only last us 20 minutes, so we needed to get into the routine of gathering our materials and getting set up quickly to not waste a minute. While we are reviewing the schedule and practicing our daily activities, my team gave our students a spelling inventory.
The spelling inventory (we used one from Words Their Way since this is the program we’ll be using) is given like a spelling pre-test to all of our students. On our first try, we gave 15 of the words to see how our first graders did. According to Words Their Way, once a student gets two wrong in a row, it’s time to stop. We analyzed the first set of inventories and found that some of our students were able to continue. Once our spelling inventories were done and analyzed (with a little help of some tea and fancy flair pens) we were able to start preparing groups.
While our team was preparing groups, our students were still being introduced to the activities on their schedule so they would be prepared to work independently when the time came. According to the schedule, on Tuesday my students took the same picture sort that was introduced on Monday and cut and sorted the pictures on their own. We practiced MANY times how to cut out the picture boxes carefully and how to sort the cards. You’ll notice from my little one in the picture that we all flip our cards over, scramble them, and then sort our pictures under our headings. My students are getting so good at doing these sorts independently and saving time for some more fun sorts like blind sorts and partner sorts.
On Wednesday, my students have been working on sorting their cards three times each and then pasting on manila paper. I have decided not to have my students use their word study notebooks to paste their picture cards in. Their word study notebooks will be used for extension activities and word hunts.
On Thursdays, or the final day of the week (since we’ve only had four day weeks so far) have been dedicated to word hunting. I have a lot of decodable books from our reading series, Journeys, that are set aside now for word hunting during word study block. My students have been practicing setting up their word study notebooks with the date and headings and are off hunting for words that match their spelling features completely on their own.
Now that the routines have been practiced and almost every activity on the word study schedules has been introduced, we’re ready to start groups full time! I have finally set up my word study group folders and organized all the materials that I will need for each day when I meet with my groups. I bought an 8 pocket folder to help organize all of my word study materials. This year, I will have five groups; two that begin in short vowels, one for blends, one in digraphs, and then my advanced students who will begin with a review of mixed vowel families. For each group, I have a pocket designated to the day that they will meet with me and their color name. Each pocket will hold their sorts and my sort that is pre-cut, their schedules that I will go over with them, my notes and planning page, and the sort extension activities.
Each student word study folder will be in their color bin at the back of the room. That way at the beginning of word study time, our groups can go get their folders from their matching color bin with everything already inside of it. I am choosing not to label these folders with my student’s names because if my students need to move groups, I want it to be fluid and easy.
Word study games are the last piece to this word study puzzle. While I work with my first group this Monday, every other group will be working on word study games that review beginning consonants and short vowels that have already been introduced. As each day passes another group will meet with me for the first time and get their new schedule. If the group has not met with me yet, they will continue playing games until they see me for the first time.
When word study is fully up and running with each group working on their own sort on their own schedule, I will meet with a group Monday-Thursday. Two groups (one with my co-teacher) will be seen on Mondays. That frees me up to use Fridays as a check-in day with my lower students or a chance to review and circulate with other groups and monitor their progress. As we continue to establish our word study routines, I will be back with more information on what works for us and what we’re changing.
If you would like to see more of my word study student schedules and follow-up activities, you can check out my Word Study Start Pack on TpT by clicking the image above!
Thank you so much for stopping by! I hope that this gives you some insight in how to get word study up and running in your primary classroom!