I love the idea of studying words. The concept allows students to examine words, notice patterns, question spellings, and cement the ideas with lots of practice, writing, and talk.
What Does Word Study Look Like in Room 7?
Depending upon your child’s word ability in second grade he/she will be placed into one of three word study stages: letter-name alphabetic, within word pattern, and the syllables and affixes spelling groups. Based upon our initial spelling inventory, our class will have two word study groups: Letter-name alphabetic (LN) and within word pattern (WW). I will meet with the groups separately for fifteen minutes each day and will derive lessons and word lists from the word study resource Words Their Way: Word Study for Phonics, Vocabulary, and Spelling Instruction (Bear et al., 2011).
On Mondays I will go over the ten word study words with the students by writing each word on chart paper for the children. Monday’s homework will ask students to “student sort” their words. Students will sort or organize their words in any way that they wish, trying to find a pattern within the words. For example, a student may sort his or her words by syllable, endings, beginning sounds, alphabetically, or any other way he/she chooses. Your child will write their organized list down on the Student Sort section of their homework and present it to me and his/her peers at the next word study meeting on Tuesday. When students sort their words, they are growing in their ability to “compare words within a category, note patterns of consistency, and then look across categories to identify contrasts”(Williams & Phillips-Birdsong, 2006, p. 456). They are paying attention to the intricacies of the words, rather than just reading the words.
Tuesday meetings will allow time for students to discuss their sort with their peers, giving reasoning and explanation of their thought processes. After acknowledging the variety of ways students have sorted their words, I will present the “teacher sort” or the intended grouping of the words. For example, I may say, “This week’s words are separated by beginning blends pr and br. Separate the words that begin with the pr sound, and words that begin with the br sound.” From there, students discuss the differences and similarities in their word set and are challenged to complete the sort for homework under Tuesday’s Teacher Sort.
During Wednesday’s word study meetings the I will go over the correct answers from the teacher sort and will encourage students to do a “word hunt” for homework. A word hunt allows children the opportunity to seek out other words that follow the same pattern as their word study list. Children are required to find words with the br/pr pattern, for example, in their authentic reading at home. When students come across a word that applies to the pattern they are practicing, they add it to the Word Hunt section of their homework. Children may find words pertaining to the sort on labels in the kitchen, in commercials on the television, and hopefully in their nightly reading. The goal in this, is that “word hunting” assists students in word analysis which is “conceptual knowledge—an understanding of the regularities, patterns, and principles of English orthography"(Williams & Phillips-Birdsong, 2006, p. 457).
At school on Thursday students come to class with a plethora of new words, excited about what they have found. The group adds each new word found to the word study chart paper, and studies their initial list of ten words for homework. Typically by Thursday, students are very familiar with their word list and its pattern. It is during Thursday’s group word study time that I will very explicitly reteach the concept or word pattern and check for understanding.
Before taking part in their test on Friday, our word study groups participate in a final word sort working together around the classroom. The hunt is composed of all the words the students have gathered throughout the week that pertain to their word pattern and readies their minds for the test they will take. When the sort is completed, students are called down to the carpet with a pencil and lined sheet of paper one group at a time. The word list with four days of work on it is covered and students are given a word study test very similar to a traditional spelling test. Each word is read aloud and is spoken within a sentence to provide contextual clues.
This Monday through Friday process allows students to become familiar with a regular classroom procedure that encourages a very authentic atmosphere of phonics, vocabulary, and spelling. The ability of students to find words that exude patterns pertaining to their word sort will broaden their personal word bank. Beyond that, it allows students to make the connection that the English language has many consistencies and many irregularities. Through the inquiry of word sorts and hunts, students grow in their understanding of orthographic knowledge (Bear et al., 2011).
Bear, D. R., Invernizzi, M. A., Templeton, S. R., & Johnston, F. R. (2011). Words their way: Word study for phonics, vocabulary, and spelling instruction (5 ed.). New Jersey: Pearson.
Williams, C., & Phillips-Birdsong, C. (2006, December 1, 2006). Word study instruction and second-grade children’s independent writing. Journal of Literacy Research, 38, 427-465. Retrieved from www.eric.ed.gov