Mme G.C. -Work in Progress

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Word Study

10 Steps of PWIM step 5


Step 1    Step 2   Step 3    Step 4     Step 6   Step 7   Step 8  Step 9   Step 10


Based on the work of Emily Calhoun.


Word Study Instruction

I really like this list-it’s so clearly laid out as to where children are and where are they going. You might find you have a great variety in each layer, but it is a good starting point. Assess your students, figure out which layer they are in , decide what to teach next and what flexible groups you can create for a series of lessons. Then assess them again!word

No More Phonics and Spelling Worksheet

   no more

By Jennifer Palmer, Marcia Invernizzi, Curry School of Education, Edited by Nell K. Duke, Edited by Ellin Oliver Keene

This was one of my great finds of the summer. I read it twice. It made me reflect on my practice. I made notes as I went along….I’ve been trying to be more concise and colourful in my note-taking…


Here are some of the thoughts I collected. The authors say plainly no more work sheets. Children need to be doing more thinking than the teacher is. (Usually with worksheets, the person who created the worksheet has done most of the thinking, but that’s another blog post!!) Children need flexible groupings for spelling, the groups need to change based on need and growth.

If you are struggling with the concept of spelling tests, read this book!!

So what can you do when you’ve thrown out the worksheets for the year? This book suggests assessing your students word knowledge regularly.  Use the Words Their Way Assessment or the Monster Test. Decide what your students need and do word sorts (open and closed), play games, have a word study notebook, have a good word wall, use lists, poetry, songs and chants. Connect the word study to what they are learning in school and to what they are reading.

I have struggled for years both as a teacher and as a parent with the concept of spelling tests…I have tried so many kinds until I gave them up for good. There are so many questions!!! What are we actually testing- spelling ability or memory recall? Do students retain the knowledge once the test is over? Should students be spending more time at home memorizing lists or should they be simply reading and writing? Is this a worthy use of my time or my students time? Am I giving weekly test because parents want them? Aren’t there better ways to assess how my students are spelling than through a weekly test?

The more I read and research, the more I say NO to worksheets NO to the weekly test.. In simple terms, in order to spell we need to understand letter sounds and words. We need to know the parts of words and how they fit together. We need to understand word meaning.

For more information on this topic read No More “Look Up The List” Vocabulary Instruction

Extending Your Word Sorts

Once your students are becoming faster at open word sorts with their PWIM words, it is important to extend their sorts into other words in the classroom, as well as in the books and other material they are reading.

In the photo below, the student had classified the words three times, which I recorded on a recipe card from their  bag.

                        word samples

I tell students that the first time they classify is the easiest, the second time you are pushing your thinking a bit further and the third time you are making your brain work even harder. It doesn’t mean that the last category they sort is the best, but that they had to try harder.

Once the student has classified three times, I ask them to choose one of their categories. I write the category on a sticky note.

word study 2

The student then searched for the category in her book during silent reading. The student extended her thinking by looking for ing words. She added anything, bouncing, stepping and tying to the original category from her PWIM words. She was very excited to share her thinking with her classmates.

Students can extend their categories on their own or in small groups.

Exploring Words by Making Big Words

Choose a word that you can use to study word properties. Give each student the strip with the letters in alphabetical order.









Have the students cut apart each letter and manipulate and sort the letters to form new words as well as looking at word endings, prefixes, suffixes, and many word properties and word families. You can fill out the chart below as a group or give pairs of students the chart to fill out.  Tell students to keep the mystery word silent and not to “step on each other’s thinking” by yelling out the answer. The final word contains ALL the letters they were given on the strip.

1   letter words

2   letter words

3   letter words

4   letter words

5   letter words

6   letter words

7   letter words

Mystery   Word






1   letter words

2   letter words

3   letter words

4   letter words

5   letter words

6   letter words

7   letter words

Mystery   Word






bam bell












Once students are comfortable with the activity ask students to bring in a “challenge word” to try.

This activity differentiates instruction because there are so many ways to sort the letters. “By beginning with short easy words and building to larger words, it provides practice for your lowest level and a challenge for all”


Making Big Words

Patricia Cunningham


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