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.