Words Their Way


This word study approach allows students to learn their words at their individual level of instruction and teaches them how words work.  It is a new approach to teaching spelling.  Each week begins with a word sort focus in which  students will learn to sort, compare and contrast word features in each category, make discoveries, become more fluent readers, and increase their vocabulary through word meanings.  It's only natural that their comprehension will increase as a result of this program.


Word study is just what it sounds like – a study of words. Students are assessed throughout the year and place into small groups based on their current spelling ability. Students move through weekly word study patterns and activities during the week with a word sort test on Fridays. Students lists will be on a word study PATTERN (example –  how prefixes uni-, mono-, -bi change the meaning of a word OR how to add suffixes such as -ion and -ian to base words ending in -t and -ic.) The quiz on Fridays will be on the pattern from that week with 16 words being called aloud as student write them and an additional 4 words that fit the pattern.  A Spell Check Test will also be given as spelling sorts are mastered. The 5th grade Word Sorts focus mainly on prefixes and suffixes and root words, what they mean, how they affect the meaning and the spelling of words. They become very complex.


Research studies clearly indicate that memorization of lists of "spelling words" does not promote the development of spelling skills. In the past when we’ve used this traditional approach of "everyone gets the same weekly list and test on Friday", many students who received a 100% on their spelling test could not spell most of the words in their writing! Memorizing a list of words and getting 100% on weekly tests does not necessarily mean a child is a good speller. It may just mean they are good at memorizing words for a test.


Students will compare and contrast words by sound to categorize similar sounds.  This helps them associate certain sounds with letters, syllable patterns, and spelling conventions.  Spelling patterns help students to recognize similar patterns in related words in their reading.  This increases their ability to identify and understand more complex words in their independent reading.  Students learn to categorize words and word parts by meaning and parts of speech.


Homework will consist of spelling sorts and other optional activities Monday through Thursday.  The test will be on Fridays unless we feel the class needs additional time for the word study.

Here are some suggestions for practicing the words for the upcoming quiz.

Sort the words -  (Speed Sort)  Your child should read each word aloud during this activity. Have your child explain why the words are sorted in those particular categories.  Have your child sort the words again, but his time it should be done quickly.

  1. *No Peeking Sort -  (No Peek Sort)  Using the “No Peek” chart, students will add words to sort columns as they are read aloud be someone else.  Have your child tell you what category the word belongs in without SEEING the word. 

* Sort Activity -    Each sort includes an activity sheet related to the word patterns for the week. These are completed as homework on Wednesday.

  1. *Copy - Cover - Write -   Students practice writing each word twice in using the copy, cover, write method. In the first column they copy the word from the page. Then they cover the word and write it again, checking to make sure they have written it correctly. This is completed as homework on Wednesday.

  2. * Words in Context -   Students will use ten different words from their sort to create sentences. This will help assess their understanding of the meaning and context of words from the sort. This is competed as homework on Thursday.

  3. *Spelling Assessment -   Students will take a spelling assessment to show their understanding of the words from their sort. They will be given 16 words from their sort, as well as 4 bonus words that match the sort.

For additional information please visit the site below.

Word Study - Working and Playing with Words