First things first we would like to help you understand what our spelling program will look like in fourth grade. You will hear us refer to spelling as “Word Work” or “Word Study”. We use a program called Words Their Way which was developed by a group of educational researchers. There are a number of reasons we believe that Word Study is the best possible way to teach students spelling. Brain research suggests that students gain greater long term memory when they are…
- Testing hypothesis/making predictions
- Recording and constructing their own learningThis program is made up of these three focuses and more!
- Through active exploration, word study teaches students to examine words to discover the regularities, patterns and conventions of English orthography needed to read and spell. Word study increases specific knowledge of words – the spelling and meaning of individual words.
- The better our knowledge of the system, the better we are decoding an unfamiliar word, spelling correctly, or guessing the meaning of a word. \
- At the beginning of the year, and then many times throughout the year, your student will take a spelling inventory that will help inform us of the skills that they need to be taught but also the skills they have mastered.
Words Their Way Elementary Inventory
We administer the Words Their Way Spelling Inventory during the first week of school. I like this inventory because it provides the teacher with specific information about each student’s knowledge and application of specific orthographic features. For example, in the inventory below, I can tell the student has mastered short vowels and consonant blends, but needs more work on “within word patterns,” etc. This student falls in the “within word pattern” developmental stage of spelling. We use the information from this assessment to plan strategy groups and also to determine where to begin with our whole class instruction/yearlong spelling program. (If we find that most students have already mastered initial consonant blends, we will skip that unit and address it in strategy groups with the few students who need more practice.)
Each week your student will be given a word sort specific to their spelling needs to study at home based on the spelling pattern that they are studying in class. Their final test will also include some words that they will not be able to study that follow the same spelling pattern.
Researchers have found that students often memorize words for a test and then promptly forget them the following week. This is because assigned spelling lists require students to study isolated words rather than studying the phonics, the sounds that letters make within the words. The five to ten words on the test that your child is not able to study will help us determine how effectively your child is able to apply the spelling pattern to new words.
With this approach in mind, each week a new spelling pattern will be introduced to your child in class. Students will learn the “rules” associated with each new pattern and will take part in word working activities throughout the week to gain more exposure to the pattern and practice making and sorting words that follow the pattern. When students take their final test, they will be given words that follow the pattern we have been studying throughout the week. Ten will be words that they have been studying at home, and 10 words will be new. This will help us assess how well students can apply the spelling pattern to different words instead of only assessing them on how well they can spell isolated words that were memorized for the test. Research shows that this approach to spelling leads to more accurate spelling of words when students are composing their own pieces of writing.
Our Classroom Word Study Schedule
Friday: Students will be given a word sort of around 20 words to teach them the pattern of the week. They will keep one of the sorts here at school and bring a copy their list home in their nightly folder so they can work with their words at home. Attached to their word sort will be a parent explination letter. This will help you guide your student with any question or conserns they may have. It will also have a list of the Word Work Homework for the week. They will have a mini lesson with me to learn what patterns they are learning this week and how they should sort their words.
Monday: Students will sort and identify word patterns in small teacher guided groups. I will also give them time to work independently and cooperatively with another student on pattern word sorts. They will also have time to do a speed sort with a partner or time themselves as individuals.
Tuesday: Students will also hunt for additional words that follow the spelling pattern during our Word Discovery Time. If time allows students will also play a spelling game of their choice.
Wednesday: Students will perform a blind sort with myself or a partner calling out words as they write them in the correct categories. Students will also complete a spelling game and/or speed sort.
Thursday: Students will have time to review the spelling patterns they have learned this week and then they will take the weekly test
Example Night of Homework
- Each week I will send home some word sorts and that will have various bold word header cards. Have your child cut out the word cards and the different head cards.
- There will be directions on the header page that tells you what kinds of sorts the kids can do with their word cards.
For example, they may be able to sort the words by vowel sound, beginning or ending sounds, or beginning and ending blends. Sometimes students can sort their words in three or more different ways.
- Decide upon a way for your child to sort his/her cards. Put those headers at the top of an open area (he/she will need some room to work).
- Let your child sort the word cards. If he/she makes a mistake, don’t correct it right away. You’ll have time to do that later.
- When your child is finished, go through each column and make sure he/she can pronounce each word and confirm that the word “fits” underneath the header. This is the time to help them correct any mistakes.
- When finished, mix up the cards again and do a different sort if possible.
If you can only do one type of sort, then try something called a “speed sort”. Time how long it takes them to do the sort and see if he/she can beat the time. They LOVE this! It is extremely important that your child can pronounce each word. Keep reviewing this if you find it is a little difficult. They should know the meanings of the words as well.