Our spelling program is called “word study”. It is based on the research and materials in Words Their Way by Donald Bear and Shane Templeton.
At the outset, word study may be confusing to parents. For those of you who, like me, had a traditional spelling program in school, with a list of random words to memorize and a test on Fridays, this will be something a little different!
Word Study teaches students to look critically at words so they can build a deeper understanding of how spelling works to represent sounds and meaning. This is accomplished by sorting words into like categories based on the features they share.
What you will see is the following:
· Students who are grouped into appropriate level spelling sorts depending on their initial spelling assessment.
· Students being introduced to a new group of words with a specific feature as its focus each week.
· Students working on hands-on activities to sort words with common characteristics into defined groups.
· Students thinking hard about whether these features mean they have to HEAR what the words have in common or SEE what they have in common (or both).
For example, cat, big, rug would be sorted into one category because they all have one medial vowel that makes a short vowel sound. They follow a CVC (consonant, vowel, consonant) pattern. Road, speak, and rain would fit into the CVVC category (two vowels between two consonants which make a long vowel sound). By repeated sorting of words with similar features, students learn to examine and make judgments about new words they encounter based on what they have learned.
The best part of Words Their Way is that your child will be provided with instruction that fits their stage of spelling development and will move along sequentially in their instruction. It allows students to build on what they already know, to learn what they need to do next, and to move forward.
What does this mean for you at home? Your child will bring home a page of words. These words can be practiced a variety of ways, such as sorting, writing the sorts, and using the words in sentences. I do recommend you supervise or check their work at home and have a conversation asking them WHY they chose to sort them/use them the way they did.
I will assess how well the students learned the feature by taking a simple test that combines writing and/or sorting words from the word list. I will look at two criteria: correct sorting into categories and/or correct spelling of the words. The main objective is for your child to internalize the feature and carry it over to other curricular areas such as reading and writing.