After all that prep work it’s finally time for the kids to do some learning! With Words Their Way, the focus is on sorting the words. It’s a great way for the children to learn about spelling patterns, but it can be tedious doing it day after day. The book has lots of different sort suggestions and I’ve tried most of them. Over the years my system has evolved, it always seems to be “in-progress,” but this is how it’s been going this year.
Monday—a part of their morning work, the kids glue last week’s sort into their notebooks. In the afternoon they cut out their new sort. They write their initials on the back of each word card and store them all in a zipper pocket.
Tuesday—During morning work, I call each group back to the rug and introduce their sort for the week. They highlight the category cards and one exemplar for each category. I think it helps them remember their categories better. Then they take their words back to their desks to sort and write.
Thursday—Students sort and graph as part of their morning work. A couple years ago I had a student who HATED word sorts. He invented sort & graph as a shortcut. The students sort their words and then draw a graph in their notebooks. I let them choose what kind of graph
to draw. Sometimes they do tallies, most of them choose bar graphs, and occasionally someone will make a pictograph.
Later in the morning, the kids play a game using the words in their sort or a recent sort. I have files of the games and made enough copies for a group of 8 to play each one. Some of the games come from the WTW book. Most are games I made up. You can find some of them in our Etsy shop (Terrific Teeth, Ghosts in the Cemetery, …) . While the kids play games, I do any assessments.
You can download a free game for your students here (and the rules for playing here). It's a crazy-8 style card game called Bonkers to help practice vowel patterns (CVVC, CVC, CVCe, CVCC) in single syllable words.
Fridays—As part of their morning work, kids look through books to find examples of words that fit their categories.
That’s what works for me these days. I’m sure there will be some tweaking to it next year. There’s no denying that it takes a lot of work to get this program up and running. Some years I haven’t been diligent in following this program and it shows in when my children show a weak understanding of vowels. Even the good spellers don't really understand why words follow particular patterns.
It's been 6 years of trial and error, but Words Their Way has helped me be a better spelling teacher. I love the power of knowing how my children think about spelling. Being able to help them progress as readers and writers is worth all the effort.