Adventures in Literacy Land: word study

Showing posts with label word study. Show all posts
Showing posts with label word study. Show all posts

Word Hunts: The Cornerstone of Word Study Instruction

Word Hunts help to ensure that students really understand those features. Make sure they are done right with tips in this post.

For years, I taught third graders, and we focused on word study instruction quite a bit. After learning our features and how they work, the best part of the week was the word hunt. Students would use what they knew and really focused their learning on the features and not just the words.

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Easy Prep Word Study Games

Hi! It's Jen from An Adventure in Literacy. I'm here today to share a few ideas for easy prep word study games you can use with any word cards or word features. Cathy wrote a great post a few weeks ago on making word study meaningful, so make sure you check out her post if you haven't already.


As a classroom teacher with a zillion things on my to do list I appreciate easy prep activities. I'm not talking about worksheets that are print and go, but truly engaging educational activities. If you are currently using Words Their Way, Word Journeys, or another word study program then your students already have word cards to use in these game ideas. The following games are automatically differentiated for each group when the students use their own word cards to play. 

An important part of word study is making sure that students are understanding the generalizations and features.  Traditional spelling activities like rainbow writing and stamping may be fun for the kids, but true word study games should help students focus on comparing and contrasting the word features, not just provide memorization practice. 

At the beginning of the year I teach my students the "generic" word study game rules. Once they understand the concept, this game can be slightly changed to add new novelty while still keeping the same rules and routines. Here are the basic word study game directions.


Now on to the fun part! Here are a few variations using the basic game directions and student word cards.

1. Gameboards
When students get a feature match they roll and move on the game board. I bet every teacher has a bunch of old game boards in your room that you can turn into word study games.



2. Erasers
Any Target dollar spot addicts out there? When students get a word feature match they take a fun themed eraser. Whoever has the most at the end wins. Don't these eraser hearts totally look like the real candies?


3. Math Manipulatives
What? Use math manipulatives for word study??? When students get a word feature match they add a unifix cube to try to see who can get the tallest stack. Or take a pattern block. Or take a link. You get the idea.

4. Dollar Tree Games
The Dollar Tree is great for having seasonal tic tac toe games or 2 player plastic race to the top games. When students get a word feature match they get to place an x or o or move their player forward 1 space.


5. Seasonal Cooperative Games
These take {a little} prep but they are a fun way to have students work together for a common goal. There is one large paper shape and students add something to it when they get a feature match. Examples include: a pumpkin with black triangles to make a jack-o-lantern, a turkey body with feathers, a Christmas tree with ornaments. If you are fortunate to have large die cuts, they work great for this.  If not, it takes about 5 minutes to cut out a shape. 



6. Drawing Games
Recently we played "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?". Until this year the game was just called "Draw a Snowman" but the excitement factor got bumped up thanks to Frozen! If students got a feature match they got to draw a part on their snowman. I just gave them a blank piece of paper {super low prep} and they got to choose what to add to their snowman {student choice for high engagement}. These were by no means works of art, but the kids had fun while practicing their words.


7. Dry Erase Games
Ok, I did make these to use in my class, but once they were made they became low prep. I just change out the seasonal boards each month. When students get a feature match they write the feature on the game board in the dry erase pocket (or page protector). The first player to get to the end or fill up their side of the board wins. You can grab a free copy of "Shadow Shuffle" because Groundhog Day will be here before you know it!


So there you have it. 7 low prep variations on the same game, all focusing on word features. I usually provide several of these games as options to give the students choice. I store them in a 10 drawer cart and change them out monthly. Students just pick a game, grab their words and play. Easy peasy.

A few closing remarks...
  • ·       Make sure the biggest focus is on word study, not the game. The game should be simple enough to compliment the feature practice.
  • ·         Continually change out the games to keep the students engaged. A lot of these games can be adapted for a holiday or month. Same rules, just a new look.
  • ·         You can add an accountability piece to the games by having students write the words they read on a recording sheet or word study notebook.  
I hope you got a few new word study ideas to work smarter not harder while kicking your word study games up a notch. What are your favorite word study games?  Leave us a comment- we love hearing new ideas!










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Word Study Made New Again

Hi, it's Cathy from The W.I.S.E Owl sharing some ideas on Word Study...and making it new again.


In the fall of 2005 I transferred to a school that was one year into Word Study training, so that year was a trial by fire.  I learned the basics of the assessing, grouping, instructing, sorting, and assessing.  The routines were set and the cycle continued.  I felt pretty good about what I was doing.

As the years past, I added and deleted activities and routines as I thought I should.  I’ve taken classes here and there and was comfortable.  This summer I decided I needed to take an “official” class to update what I know.  I also wanted some credibility with the staff at my new school.  If I’m the one doing training, I wanted them to have confidence in me.

Feeling pretty good about myself and thinking I’d just sit back and take the class, I found myself taking page after page of notes.  All of the information wasn’t new, but some was a new way of thinking.  I did have an earth-shattering (almost) a-ha.  I'll post it at the end...stay tuned.  I was excited about word study all over again.  Here are some of my notes.
It is important to make sure students are given explicit and meaningful introductions to the sort.  Each word in the sort should be described and discussed carefully.  The headers should be used, not only, as the title of the column, but as a point of reference for the generalization.  Each picture or word should be matched to the header.  As the words are added to the columns, they are described as to why they belong in the column.  It’s not enough to say, “camp belongs on this column because it ends like stump.”  We need to make sure students are using the words to explain the generalization EACH time.  “The picture “lip” belongs in the “ip” column because I hear a short i in “lip.”  Students need to be able to explain the generalization as they sort. 
The practice activities MUST enhance the feature.  If they don’t, don’t do it!  Word triangles, pyramids, or steps don’t teach the feature.  They don’t explain the generalization.  Create meaningful ways to practice the sorting. 

1.  Labeling the sort cards is a valuable experience.  Students need to see the cvc, cvcc, or cvce codes when they sort, so the generalization is more concrete.  When students need to add endings to words, learning that most cvc words double the final consonant before adding the ending students will be able to spot a cvc word without much effort.   Labeling is a stairstep skill. 


2.  Word Hunts - Another meaningful practice is the word hunt.  Students can use their independent books, words in the room, or poetry folder to find words that match the feature they are studying.  If their feature is a short a sort, finding short a words in their environment is important to making connections.  As they find words, they should label with cvc.  When they share their word hunts, students should be asked to explain the generalization to prove their case.  Word Hunts are more effective if they are discussed and not just checked. 

3.  Speed Sorts - A new take on an old favorite would be: Speed Sorts.  That’s right, speed sorts.  Nothing new, right?  Wrong.  Students should not be racing against each other.  It puts the emphasis on the contest, not on the generalization.  The new-and-improved speed sort asks students to race against themselves.  It’s still a partner sort…one person has the timer, while one person sorts against it.  Each race is recorded for speed and each person races against their own speed.  (This can also be a great homework lesson with mom’s cell phone timer.)
Homework is another area where word study needs to be updated.  Teachers have fallen into a rut of sorts.  Monday – write your words.  Tuesday – triangle words (UGH).  Wednesday – rainbow words (double UGH).  Thursday – practice test.  Don’t forget the new rule:  If it doesn’t ENHANCE the feature, don’t do it!  This also applies to homework.  Without using, “It’s easier on the parents” or “But the parents don’t know what to do” as an excuse…it’s about the student and it’s about the feature.  There are great ways to practice the sorts that can enhance the feature. 

1.  Magic boxes are a great way to show the similar short vowel feature.  Students fill in the magic boxes with crossing vowels.  Vowels can be written with marker and pictures can be illustrated to show meaning.



2.  SAW – After Feature A students can use the SAW to practice.  Students SORT, ALPHABETIZE, AND WRITE.  Students should sort their cards.  Alphabetize each column individually.  Then, write the columns alphabetically.  Highlighting the features of the words in each list is mandatory.

3.  Sentence Triple Threat – This is not the usual “Write a sentence” activity.  This activity requires students divide their list into thirds and write three types of sentences.  One-third of the words need to be written as a declarative sentence.  One-third of the words need to be written as a question.  One-third of the words need to be written as an exclamatory sentence.  Students should make sure to highlight the feature.
Of course, assessments are crucial.  We have to know what the students know and what they don’t know to be able to move them forward.  One of the biggest shifts in thinking is the difference between teaching in learning.  Teachers need to know if the students understand the features and are able to transfer their understanding to their own writing.  Frustrated teachers will come to me saying, “They know it on the test, but they aren’t using it in their writing.”  Well, I take a deep breath and ask, “If they aren’t using it they don’t know it.”  The teachers need to make the distinction between what they have “taught” and what the students have learned.  One way to make sure the students are applying their knowledge is to have one word that demonstrates the feature on the test that the students have not practiced.  The easiest way to do this is by cutting off the bottom row on the sort and saving it for the test.  With good practice and homework, students should be able to recognize the feature and sort it appropriately on the test.  Another shift in thinking is about the score the students get on a test.  Students should always get a 100% (or very close) on the test.)  If they don’t, they don’t know it and they haven’t generalized it.  Sooooo…Do it again.  Yep, do the same generalization with different words.  If everyone in the group makes a 100% except one child, then that child will need a review and a retest while the group moves on.  The bottom line is:  it doesn’t matter what you teach…it only matters what they learn.

By the way, here's my EARTH-SHATTERING change in thinking.  
Yep, I was in the awful habit of interchanging the terms "word study" and "spelling."  I am so so glad I took that class last summer...and I'm not afraid to say it.

I hope you have something new to try in your word study.  If you do, let me know how it works.

Click here if you’d like a Classwork/Homework Idea Sheet.

Click here if you'd like a Magic Squares Worksheet.





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