My personal word study journey started in grad school when I purchased Words Their Way for a class (about 4 editions ago!). Although I was able to do the testing and such, my practical experience didn't begin until I had my own classroom (kindergarten 5 years ago). Now that I am with firsties, I have been able to fully dive into all that word study has to offer. I also became one of our districts trainer-teachers for WTW. This was a huge opportunity for me to refine my practice and really research the methods and see the awesome outcomes in my students. This week, I will be sharing an overview, tips, tricks and real world challenges that student-focused/targeted instruction can present.
What is Words Their Way?
Words Their Way (WTW) is a developmental word study program, developed by Invernizzi, Johnston, Bear, and Templeton. WTW is an approach to spelling and word knowledge that is based on extensive research on how children spell and read. Students benefit from differentiated instruction in phonics, spelling and vocabulary.To accomplish this goal, students are taught how to examine words to learn the regularities that exist in the English Language. They are also taught some irregularities. The process of sorting words into categories is the basis of the Words Their Way. When students sort words, they are engaged in the active process of searching, comparing, contrasting, and analyzing. Word sorts help students organize what they know about words and to form generalizations that they can then apply to new words they encounter in their reading. As they demonstrate mastery, they move through developmental stages. The main resource for information about the program is this book:
There is so much research and information, that I urge you to get the book if you plan to use this program. It is much clearer after REALLY reading it and digesting the process of learning.
Scoring & Making Groups
The first step in WTW is giving students the spelling assessment. In first grade, we use the Primary Spelling Inventory. Based on the students' understanding of spelling pattern (and where they begin to make mistakes), you will be able to place them into a group/ stage for study. I'm a visual person, so usually review all of the scores (highlighting a stage) and then spread them out on the floor in order to make my groups.
Last year, my students fell into three group. At this point, I have four groups. It is important to remember that these are FLEXIBLE groups. Please do not confuse this targeted instruction method with "tracking". Students learn at all different rates. It's important to do informal assessments (through writing, etc.) and the check points that are in the sort books in order to monitor student progress. If students are cruisin' through, they should be switched to a more challenging group. I do the formal spelling inventory each quarter to monitor progress and update parents on the report card.
Organization will be key in this program. I give each group a color and then keep their materials in that basket (sorts, games, etc.) during the week/s. This helps the students be more independent in retrieving materials and I avoid gray hair.
As you create games/ activities for the sorts, you will want a system in place. (I will talk more about games later in the week.) Everyone is different, so you may need to test a few methods. Teachers have used totes, bags, pouches and files. I also CAREFULLY label everything I make for word study so I can find it when I'm frantically planning. Right now, it's all in a file cabinet (I need to expand into another drawer!).
What do I do now?
Once my groups are set, I follow this basic format over a 2-week period:
|Click HERE to download this schedule.|
I will be touching on each of these activities throughout this week right here!
Tuesday: Open and Closed Sorts
Wednesday: Additional Activities & Practice Opportunities
Thursday: Word Work books
Friday: Game Day!