Word Study – Word Sorts

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Word Study – Word Sorts
By: Laura Poland
Spelling is an important area of
interest and concern, not only
among literacy teachers, but
also among numerous scholars
and professionals.
Misconceptions
• Teachers have often believed that spelling
errors were due to poor sound discrimination
and inadequate visual and sequential
memory.
• Many have also had the incorrect view that
spelling is only alphabetic and irregular and
students must learn to spell by rote
memorization (Henderson & Templeton,
1986).
Learning to Spell
• Is a process of learning relationships between word
spelling patterns and their pronunciations (Invernizzi &
Abouzeid, 1994).
• Requires the ability to understand sound and letter
regularities, vowel patterns, and morphological
conventions that make up our spelling system
(Invernizzi & Hayes, 2004).
• Sequences of letters can be predictable. Students can
master these sequences when they become aware of
such patterns and realize that they must find, focus on,
and learn these patterns (Henderson & Templeton,
1986).
Word Study
• An approach to phonics and spelling instruction that has
progressed from developmental-spelling studies and theory
(Invernizzi & Hayes, 2004).
• Has been called a modern way to teach phonics and is
considered to be spelling-based phonics instruction (Joseph
& Orlins, 2005).
• Gives students the opportunity to critically examine,
manipulate, and make decisions about words according to
similarities and differences in spelling and sound (Invernizzi
& Abouzeid, 1994).
• Is highly systematic, and its explicit approaches involve
direct teaching, high-level of student engagement, and
individual accountability (Mesmer & Griffith, 2005).
Word Sorts
• Word sorts are a specific type of word study.
In 1981 Henderson devised the idea of word
sorting, because he was sure that
understanding how students learned to spell
words could also give clues on how they read
words (Invernizzi & Hayes, 2004).
• Sorting activities are active, thoughtful,
problem solving tasks (Fresch, 2000).
Benefits of Word Sorts
• Word sorting gives hands-on opportunities for students to
work through the complexities of our language.
• It also promotes word analysis, which can benefit students
in other reading and writing activities (Fresch, 2000).
• They can be beneficial for helping students to spell words,
recognize words, make word connections, become aware of
the phonemic structure of words, and gain meaning of
words (Joseph & Orlins, 2005).
• Word sorting and word hunting require students to explore
spelling properties of words in relation to the spelling
characteristics of words they already know (Invernizzi &
Hayes, 2004).
Benefits Continued
• A very unique attribute of word study originates from its use of
differentiated instruction in different levels of word knowledge
(Bear, Invernizzi, Templeton, & Johnston, 2008). Research suggests
that if students are reading at various levels, their word knowledge
is most likely different as well. This has to be considered when
learning to spell (Fresch, 2000). By narrowing strategies on the
zone of proximal development teachers can foster students’ growth
toward a mature written vocabulary (Invernizzi & Abouzeid, 1994).
• This knowledge of the student’s invented spellings can help design
individualized appropriate word study activities for small groups
(Invernizzi & Abouzeid, 1994). Grouping students is one of the most
important elements of instruction that promotes literacy success,
especially for at-risk students. These groups should always remain
flexible and dynamic. Teachers should regroup when necessary to
best meet the changing needs of students (Invernizzi & Hayes,
2004).
Determining Spelling Stages of
Students
• Teachers are able to determine the level of students by using a
developmental-spelling assessment, like the “Words Their Way
Spelling Inventory”. Qualitative spelling inventories outline the
basic foundation of the spelling system to be learned and they list
specific spelling features that need to be systematically taught in
developmental progression.
• These test a small amount of student spellings with words that
have been thoroughly selected to show the taxonomy of written
English. Students are usually scored by the presence or absence of
specific spelling attributes and if the word is spelled correctly or
not. Understanding and interpreting errors allow a teacher to
determine the specific word attributes that students need to focus
on if they are to continue to improve their spelling skills (Henderson
& Templeton, 1986).
Lesson Plan Format
1st - Begin with a teacher demonstration. The teacher
begins by introducing the sort and the key words or
pictures (if they are being utilized).
2nd - Next, the student sorts and checks his or her sort
individually or with a partner. During the sort, students
arrange the words underneath the related column.
3rd - After sorting, students read the words in each
column to check their work. After checking, a
reflection helps to declare, compare, and contrast the
words.
4th - Finally, the teacher may extend this activity with
games, other sorts, or journaling activities (Bear, 2006).
References
Bear, D., Invernizzi, M., Templeton, S., & Johnston, F. (2008). Words their way: Word study for phonics,
vocabulary, and spelling instruction. New Jersey: Pearson Education.
Fresch, M. (2000, January). What we learned from Josh: Sorting out word sorting. Language Arts,
77(3), 232.
Henderson, E., & Templeton, S. (1986, January 1). A developmental perspective of formal spelling
instruction through alphabet, pattern, and meaning. Elementary School Journal, 86(3), 305-16.
Invernizzi, M., & Abouzeid, M. (1994, November). Using students’ invented spellings as guide for
spelling instruction that emphasizes word study. Elementary School Journal, 95(2), 155.
Invernizzi, M., & Hayes, L. (2004). Developmental-spelling research: A systematic imperative. Reading
Research Quarterly, 39(2), 216-228.
Joseph, L., & Orlins, A. (2005, Summer 2005). Multiple uses of a word study technique. Reading
Improvement, 42(2), 73-79.
Mesmer, H., & Griffith, P. (2005). Everybody’s selling it—But just what is explicit, systematic phonics
instruction? International Reading Association, 59(4), 366-376.

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