Words Their Way In Action

Word Study Instruction
Using Words Their Way
How do you teach spelling words?
 Drill and practice has earned traditional spelling
instruction a reputation for being BORING!
 No big picture and no ultimate – as soon as one spelling
list is tested, another list takes its place.
Word Study is not based on the random
memorization of words. A word study
program is a cohesive approach that
addresses word recognition, vocabulary,
and phonics as well as spelling.
Getting to Know Words Their Way
 What is word study?
of Word Study
Basics of Word Study
Stages of Spelling Development
 How to Assess and Group Students
Purpose of Word Study
 Develop a general knowledge of English spelling.
1. Examine words through active exploration using a
hands-on, manipulative approach
2. Discover generalizations about spelling, instead
of just spelling rules (regularities, patterns, and
conventions of English orthography needed to
read and spell).
 Increases students’ specific knowledge of words related
to the spelling AND meaning of individual words.
Basics of Word Study
Word study evolved from over three decades of research that explored the
developmental aspects of spelling. These researchers examined the three layers
of English orthography—alphabet, pattern, and meaning. In their research, they
found that each layer builds on a previous layer.
Based on the relationship between letters and sounds. These examples
show how to create words by combining letters, either singly or in pairs,
to form sounds from left to right.
CAT- a single letter represents each sound. Students blend the sounds
for /c/, /a/, and /t/ to read the word cat.
CHIP- students still hear three sounds even though there are four
letters, because the first two function as one sound
Basics of Word Study
In the English language, single sounds are sometimes spelled with more
than one letter or are affected by other letters. When students look
beyond single letter and sound match-ups, they must search for
EX> a final e will often make the preceding vowel stand for the
long vowel sound, like in the word cape (cap vs. cape, gap vs. gape). It
follows a pattern of consonant-vowel-consonant-silent e (CVCe
The meaning layer focuses on groups of letters that represent meaning
EX> prefixes and suffixes. Take the prefix re–. Whether
students pronounce it as ree like in rethink or ruh as in remove, its
spelling stays the same because it directly represents meaning.
Stages of Spelling Development
The stages of spelling development are
Letter Name-Alphabetic Spelling
Within Word Pattern
Syllables and Affixes
Derivational Relations
These stages describe students’ spelling behavior as they
move from one level of word knowledge to the next.
Synchrony of Literacy Development
Pre-K to middle of 1st
K to middle of 2nd
Letter Name - Alphabetic
Grade 1 to middle of 4th
Within Word Pattern
Grades 3 to 8
Syllables & Affixes
Grade Range
Spelling Stages
Grades 5 to 12
Derivational Relations
Emergent Stage
Emergent Stage (Pre-K to middle of 1st):
• Students are not reading conventionally.
• Students write with scribbles, letter like forms, or random letters and
• Children learn to recognize and write the letters of the alphabet. They
play with the sounds in letters and words.
• By the end of the level, students understand the concept of words and
begin to match picture cards to the words that represent their names.
Alphabet Sort for Different Forms of A and B
Picture Sort for Initial F and T
Letter Name-Alphabetic Stage
LNA Stage (K to middle of 2nd):
•Students have been instructed formally in reading.
•Spellers in this stage use letter/sound matches to spell the most
obvious sounds in words. Often, beginning and ending consonant
sounds are in place before vowels begin to appear.
•At the beginning of this stage, students apply the alphabet principles to
consonants. By the end of the stage, they are able to correctly represent
most short-vowel patterns, consonant digraphs, and consonant blends.
Picture Sort for ch, sh, and th Digraphs
Word Sort for the it, ip and ill Families
Within Word Pattern Stage
WWP Stage (Grade 1 to middle of 4th):
At the beginning of the Within Word Pattern Spelling stage students spell most
single-syllable, short vowel words correctly. Throughout this stage, they move
away from the sound-by-sound approach of the letter name and begin to include
patterns or chunks of letter sequences that relate to both sound and meaning.
Spellers in the within-word pattern stage know a great deal about short vowels
and the short vowel pattern, the consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) pattern. In
this stage, students begin by exploring the common long vowel patterns.
Word Sort for Long-a Patterns, Compared to the Short Vowel Pattern
Diphthongs and Other Vowels
Syllables and Affixes Stage
SA Stage (Grade 3 to 8th):
•Students can spell most one-syllable, short and long vowel words correctly. The
focus for instruction in this stage is multisyllabic words and patterns.
•Students also learn to sort by specific vowel combinations, inflected endings,
and vowel patterns in accented syllables.
This stage begins with the study of how syllables divide in words with open
syllables, such as cli/mate and re/act, and closed syllables like sup/ply and
It ends with the study of less common prefixes and suffixes such as fore– and –
ness and two-syllable homophones like cellar and seller.
Word Sort for Doubling Before -ed
Word Sort for Prefixes
Derivational Relations Stage
DA Stage (Grade 5 to 12th):
•Students spell most words correctly. The focus in this stage is on the
meaning connection.
• Students how to sort words by pattern and meaning with an emphasis
on meaning and related word parts. They will discover how spelling
preserves meaning even when there are changes in sound. Students will
also learn common prefixes and suffixes, examine the meaning of bases
and roots, and learn about the classical origin of polysyllabic words.
Prefix Sort for astro-, photo-, bio-, chlor-, eco-, hydro-, and hypo-
Millennium Word Study and Sort
Supplementary Sort: -um, -ium
Word Study in Action
Word sorts are the heart of the program. Students use word sorts to group
words into specific categories. As students complete the sorts, they compare
and contrast word features, make discoveries, and form generalizations about
the conventions of English orthography or spelling.
Video of Word Sort:
5 Types of Sorts
Typical Week of Word Study
 Students receive words to cut out and write their initials.
 Students will complete a written “open sort”
 Teacher introduces words, demonstrates sort in a small group.
 Students explain why words are being sorted that way.
 Students take their own words back to their seats and independently replicate the sort.
 They will then write the sort in their word study notebooks.
 Students re-sort words. They will pick 6 words to draw and label.
 Students will sort words with a partner. They will check each other’s work and discuss
any difficulties.
 Students sort words. They might have a speed sort against the teacher or with a
 Students perform a word hunt using literature currently being read.
 Review game or activity using words of the week.
 Spelling Test and Word Sort Assessment.
Words Their Way Homework Explanation
 Sort the word cards into categories (this type of sort has been taught at
school). For example you might sort out all of the words that have “short a” in
them or “long a.” Ask your child to explain to you why the words are sorted in a
particular way. Sort the cards a second time as fast as possible (you may want to
time them).
 Do a blind sort with your child. Lay down the category cards in a row. For
example you would lay down the cards that indicate “long a” or “short a.” Then
read a word card aloud, without showing it to your child. Without seeing the
word, your child should point to the category that it goes in. Lay down the
card. Your child should move it to the correct category if it is wrong.
 Do a word hunt. Look for their words or words with the same sound pattern in
books, magazines, or newspapers
 Have a practice test!
Useful Sites
Words Their Way Resources:
PowerPoint Presentations for Word Sorts
Companion Website for Words Their Way
Words Their Way Online Tutorials
Word Sorts
Vocabulary Ideas and Videos:
Spelling City:

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