Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Words Their Way for Dummies

Last year our principal came to my fourth grade team with the Words Their Way program. The phrases:

"Differentiation!" 
"Developmental model!"
"Application of spelling!" 
"No more memorization!" 

were thrown around, but all I saw was a confusing checklist, a series of books, new terms to describe spelling, and about a hundred different word sorts. Prior to Words Their Way, my preparation and class-time spent on spelling was very minimal. I had two lists (fourth grade list and challenge list). The only in-class instruction and practice time was the pre and post test. The rest of the practice was done for homework at home. This seemed like a great program, but the two questions that hung over my head were:

  1. How will I find the time to do this in class?
  2. How much additional time is this going to take to plan? 


Overwhelmed was an understatement. 

Our district did a wonderful job of training us on how to give the placement test and form our groups. YouTube has a number of videos to show these steps as well. View my Phonics Assessment presentation I made for Grad School to get a better idea of how to get started if you'd like.

Although the training and grouping was pretty painless, the part that worried me was the added work I was about to have. One afternoon my team and I sat down. We organized the sorts, came up with a general packet, created a weekly rotation, determined an appropriate homework assignment, and started Words Their Way pretty painlessly!

Work Smarter NOT Harder!

Organization

What You Need:

  • Hanging file folders (color coded = much easier!)
  • Filing bin/cabinet (easily accessible)
  • Labels for file folders
  • Master copy of each sort 
  • Copies of the table of contents from each book you are using
    • Make each sort cluster on a different page
  • Paper clips

I have to admit, this part is time consuming, but preparing it all ahead of time is so worth it.

The labels should include: Spelling stage, level (early, middle, or late), sort range, spell checks checks (if any).

Section Number (VII), Spelling Stage Title (High Freq. Words/Contractions), Sort Range (43-44), Spell Checks (10-11), and Level (L-Late)


Hanging file folders should be coordinated with the book color: Alphabetic Spellers (Red), Within Word Patterns (Yellow), Syllables & Affixes (Green), Derivational Relations (Blue)...etc. 

Each file folder should be labeled, and separated by sort cluster and identified between early, middle, and late. There will be about 10+ file folders per book. 



Within each file folder should hold a master copy of the correlating lists (in order). This will make copying easier in the future! 

Put the file folders in order of earliest to latest developmental stages. 

Within Word Patterns, Syllables & Affixes, Derivational Relations


Come Up With a General Sort

Words Their Way has a number of sorts and endless possibilities of ways to practice words. I simply don't have the time to generate and teach new types sorts for students each week. I felt that providing students with a routine would be most beneficial. Lucky for YOU, a general sort is already made. 


This general sort requires students to manipulate the words, rewrite the words, test themselves on the words, and generate new words that fit in the sort. 

Another activity to add rigor to the general sort is a feature analysis, which requires students to look at meaning, origin, word parts, and more. 

Weekly Rotation 

I meet with one group per day, four days per week for about 15-20 minutes. Students' tests and homework due dates are staggered (which is an adjustment at first, but manageable after practice). I recommend communicating with parents about the staggered test/homework dates to avoid confusion. Each day I project the rotation, and students are held accountable for their daily work. Purchase the rotation from my Teachers Pay Teachers store. The rotation correlates with the general sort packet. The sorts are described in more detail in the document.  

Before fully implementing the Words Their Way rotation, I model each sort/page of the packet then have students practice each type of sort full class, with an easy list. 

Homework Assignment

I use class time as spelling and phonics practice mainly. The focus on homework is the meaning. To keep things interesting, and to allow students to challenge themselves appropriately, I give them choice on their homework. You can download my homework page from my Teachers Pay Teachers store.


TIP: Have students underline their spelling word and write their spelling group at the top of their paper. Since you're grading multiple spelling lists, that makes it much more manageable! 

Parent Communication

Our school has an immense amount of parent involvement. Whether that is the climate of your school or not, I recommend keeping parents informed. This will make the homework/testing transition easier. We sent home a letter to parents explaining what the program is all about, and how we will be using it in the classroom. 



My class has really grown to enjoy Words Their Way. If you like the idea of minimal planning, manageable grading, and a smooth-running class, then feel free to download my Words Their Way bundle. It includes all you need to get started with Words Their Way (and it's slightly cheaper than buying all the components separately).


If you want to pick and choose, by all means, download whatever you'd like, my products are very flexible! 

And...if you have other smarter, not harder ideas for Words Their Way, PLEASE SHARE! I'd love to add a new spin! 


Here are some resources that I found helpful when getting started with Words Their Way: 

  • Words Their Way Official Site - Provides a variety of sorts, PDFs of Words Their Way materials, videos, games, and more! (NEED A LOGIN)
  • Sorts in a PowerPoint - This is great to link on your webpage, I know I wouldn't have the patience to make all of these myself! 
  • Pinterest - What else would I waste away my time on?