“That’s not how we did it when I was a kid.” One of the things that has changed most since I was a kid is spelling. I remember a weekly list of ten words that I dutifully wrote out each night in hopes of memorizing how to spell them in time for the test on Friday.
But there are too many words in the world to memorize... so we do our word study a bit differently. We focus on giving kids the tools to help them spell a variety of words. Using sorting and thinking about patterns, students learn the phonograms (vowel patterns), patterns, and rules for words.
Students start Monday by cutting out their new sort words and trying to sort them independently. This gives them a chance to think critically about their words and see what they notice. After they have a chance to look for patterns, each group gets a lesson. Building on their observations, students explicitly learn their pattern. They resort their words every day to help them continue practicing the patterns.
On Tuesday, use their words to write sentences. This allows them apply their patterns in real situations. It helps build vocabulary and gives the an opportunity to continue practicing grammar and sentence skills.
Wednesday, students go on a word hunt. They identify other words that use the patterns they are learning about. They can use words they know, or find them around the classrooms or in books. This way to practice is one of the most valuable. It makes them think deeply about their patterns and helps them notice other words that use those same patterns.
Thursday, students practice with a partner to resort their words. During a blind sort, students practice picturing the word in their mind, thinking about the patterns and rules, and spelling it.
On Friday, we see how well students can apply their patterns. Students write dictated sentences that utilize the patterns and rules they have been practicing, but use words that were in their sort.
The goal of the way we do word study is give students the tools to break words down so they can spell them independently. And this way, they only need to memorize the pesky 15% that don’t follow the rules.