Word Study

We officially began word study last week. Word study activities involve manipulating words to discover how the English spelling system works.  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.”

There are four main parts to our study of 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. Students are assigned spelling words each Monday.  Their words are formatted as a word sort (on cards) and not as a spelling list.  They are expected to sort and spell their words correctly by Friday.  Each week a different spelling pattern is learned and practiced.

On Monday, students are given three copies of their spelling words.  One copy is cut up at school and stored in an envelope.  The other two copies should be brought home.  Of those, one should be cut up for spelling homework, and the other can be put in a safe place in the event the cut-up words are lost during the week.

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. MVC-021S

Nifty Fifty . . . These 50 polysyllabic 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 practiced as part of 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.  Our classroom has many word games to help us build our word skills.  Ask your child about these activities!

What is the spelling homework each night?

Homework for word study/spelling is the same every week.  This homework schedule is attached to your child’s word study notebook on a label.

MONDAY— On Monday night students are expected to do a written sound sort.  This means that they sort their words based on vowel sounds.  The sound sort heading cards are typed at the top of their spelling sheets and are shaded gray.  Once the cards are sorted into sound categories, they should write them neatly into their word study notebook. Word Wall, Nifty Fifty and Challenge words should be written three times in columns at the bottom of their word sort.

TUESDAY—On Tuesday night students sort their words by spelling pattern.  Your child discovers these patterns in class and writes them in their word study notebook.  One common long vowel pattern is VCe (ex. file and home/made) .  Once the words are sorted they should be written neatly in their word study notebooks.  Word Wall, Nifty Fifty and Challenge words should be written three times in columns at the bottom of their word sort.

WEDNESDAY—On Wednesday we do S.A.W. which is an acronym for:

S — Sort words by sound

A—Alphabetize each category list

W—Write neatly in word study notebook

This homework is similar to Monday night’s homework, but is in alphabetical order. Word Wall, Nifty Fifty and Challenge words should be written three times in columns at the bottom of their word sort.

THURSDAY— On Thursday night students need your help. They complete a “blind sort” or a practice test.  It’s called a blind sort because students can’t look at their spelling words like other word sorts.  Words are sorted based on their spelling patterns.  Your child should write their pattern headings in their notebook before you begin.  It’s okay to give them these headings (They are the same as Tuesday night’s homework!).  You should then call out a spelling word for them to sort and write correctly in their notebook.  Words are correct if they are sorted AND spelled correctly.  You can practice spelling and/or sorting as many times as your child needs.  Any misspelled words should be written FIVE times for additional practice!!  On a blind sort, word wall, challenge or nifty fifty words are written ONE time (list form) as a category of their own (i.e. “Nifty Fifty Words” or “Challenge Words”).

FRIDAY —We take a test in school.  Students sort and spell words by pattern.  Words that are spelled incorrectly are circled and the correct spelling written above or beside the word.  Words that are incorrectly sorted are also circled.  They are written in the correct category.

Occasionally, a spelling unit will have a different sequence of activities or different activities. When this happens the assignment(s) will be posted on the bottom of the spelling sheet.

Please help your child practice sorting and spelling their words each week.

Homework Routines



Homework is a crucial component to your child’s 4th grade experience.  The main purposes for homework are two-fold:  to develop responsibility and practice skills taught during the day.

We have been easing into a consistent homework routine.  It is vital that your child complete their homework each evening.  To help both you and your child, we’ll be using Student Planners and Homework Alerts.  Homework is written on the board in the front of the room and students are expected to write down their homework daily.  Please help your child manage their homework by looking at their Planner book and ensuring that all their work is complete. You will receive a “Homework Alert” if your child comes to school with homework not completed or incomplete.

Completing homework can be a struggle for some students at the beginning of 4th grade.  It takes teamwork and support from both home and school for students to be successful.  Please feel free to email me if you have any concerns.

Home Reading:

We began home reading last week!  Students are required to complete 80 minutes of home reading each week. To break it down more specifically, your child is responsible for at least 20 minutes of reading four times per week. Home reading sheets are due each Thursday.

Your child should keep track of their own reading, and you should verify that they read by signing the form each week.  The record keeping form helps your child develop important skills.  Correct capitalization of titles and calculation of elapsed time are important skills every fourth grader needs, so they should fill out the form with your support.  Feel free to help them calculate their time for the first month or two until they learn how to keep track of it on their own.

Need a record sheet? Click here: Weekly Home Reading Record .

468502417_7b9356e195_tGoing GREEN option:  Consider filling this out electronically and emailing it to me each week.  This will save many pieces of paper and lots of trees!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Check out the new “HOMEWORK” page on the the left (in between “About Me” and What we’ll be learning”). Each day I will try to record daily homework.

We finished writing on-demand reports today.  The kids worked really hard and wrote 4 paragraph essays!!!! We have been working for the past month on writing nonfiction pieces and learning essay format.  This piece was our final assessment of report writing.  Now we are going to turn our focus to another essay:  response to literature.  This will be a breeze because they write letters about their reading regularly and turning one of them into an essay will be a snap!!

We learned how to calculate the area of a triangle today!!!  It was related to our work yesterday solving area problems for parallelograms.  Watch this short video to learn how architects use area and perimeter.  The video also demonstrates the formulas we’ve learned:  area of rectangle, parallelogram and triangle.

Area Video