What is word study?
Word study activities involve manipulating words to discover how the English spelling system works. There are four main parts to our study of words. I have moved to this spelling approach based on research, Vermont’s new Grade Expectations, and my own observation that simply memorizing words for a Friday test does not result in improved daily spelling.
The following quote from Words Their Way illustrates the rationale behind this approach to spelling instruction: “Students examine words they already know how to read, and sometimes even spell, as a way to gain insight into how the spelling system works. This in turn enables them to analyze unfamiliar words they encounter while reading and to master the spelling of similar words.”
Weekly spelling lists . . . children are assessed each trimester and groups are formed based on each child’s developmental level. These groups explore patterns and discover spelling rules through daily activities. These activities include sorting words in a variety of ways and recording our discoveries in a journal.
Word wall practice . . . These frequently misspelled words are posted on a bulletin board and practiced each day. These words MUST be spelled correctly on all student work. These words are often practiced as part of our weekly spelling.
Nifty Fifty . . . These 50 multisyllabic words are used to learn about prefixes, base words, and suffixes. We practice spelling them orally and in written form, and we also use these special words to create new words. For example, if we know how to spell “richest” and “encouragement,” we should be able to combine word parts and spell “enrichment.” Nifty Fifty words are often included as challenge words in our weekly spelling. On short spelling weeks, we often have Nifty Fifty spelling work instead of our usual word sorts.
Word study activities . . . other word study activities include word ladders, making big words, guess the covered word and sparkle. Ask your child about these activities!
What is the spelling homework each night?
Each night of the week your child will have spelling homework. Most groups follow this homework schedule:
Monday . . . Sound sort. This sort was completed with a teacher and your child’s group in class to introduce the week’s words and patterns. Tonight they will do the same sort and write it neatly in their word study notebook.
Tuesday . . . Pattern sort. This sort was completed with a partner in class. The same sort needs to be completed and written in the word study notebook.
Wednesday . . . S. A. W. (Sort, Alphabetize, Write) by sound. This is a sound sort with a twist: your child needs to sort the words and then put each column in alphabetical order. Similar to Monday night’s homework, but alphabetized.
Thursday . . . Blind sort. This sort is like a practice test. You read the words to your child. They write them and sort them by pattern (see Tuesday’s homework for patterns). Any words that are misspelled need to be written in cursive 5 additional times in their word study notebook.