Monday, September 24, 2012

Words Their Way- Day 1

 Welcome to Words Their Way Week!

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:
Words Their Way: Word Study for Phonics, Vocabulary, and Spelling Instruction (5th Edition) (Words Their Way Series)
Amazon LINK
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!
Come back every day for more tips and tricks for words study!
Tuesday: Open and Closed Sorts
Wednesday: Additional Activities & Practice Opportunities
Thursday: Word Work books
Friday: Game Day!


  1. I loved visiting your room today! You have to totally post the video! : ) Just think of how many people could see you doing your WTW stuff!

    1. I think the school district owns the rights.... I may ask if I can at least post the link where they can be found :)

      Loved having you visit!

  2. So happy I have stumbled across your blog! I am an Australian Prep (preschool) teacher and we have been introduced to words their way. I was just curious how did you incorporate words their way with your kindergarteners?

    1. Hi Amanda!
      Our kindergarten starts with the Letter and Picture Sorts book ( Using this book, the concpet of a sort is developed and they gain the practice and routine before tackling the higher content. The book links the letters/sounds to poetry and pictures. In January (we begin school in September), kinder teacher give the Primary Spelling Inventory. From there, they set up their groups. Children entering kindergarten in the USA of a wide variety of experiences (some can read already, while others can't recognize their names). This program lends itself to differentiation at a developmentally appropriate level. Their schedule is pretty close to mine, but they may do addiotional support activities during a center time or with a parent helper.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Which books do I need to purchase to implement Words Their Way in First Grade?

    1. Hi there!
      You will definitely need to get the main book, which fully explains the program and has the tests and activity ideas. For most first grade students, they will spend most of their time in these two books:

      You may need the Letter & Picture Sorts book if you have very low students, but I haven't need to in the last few years.

      Good luck!