A Kindergarten Smorgasboard of Word Study

Why do short weeks seem to DRAG on?!  My monsters lost their minds today.  We struggled all day but we made it!  Hopefully tomorrow will be a snow day!  Before I get to my post on word study, some exciting personal news!  We sold our house!!  It went on the market Sunday night and we sold it yesterday!!!  Yep.  That fast.  Now we are on the hunt for a new headquarters for the kindergarten smorgasboard empire!

Today I want to share a strategy that I use in my classroom that has great benefits for my monsters writing.  A little history!   For years, our school was the recipient of the Reading First grant (lots of money spent on lots of waste!) and one of the implementations was Developmental Spelling Analysis (DSA) or “word study.”  This was in place of any spelling program.  Initially, I was very anti word study.  

Here’s why:  the program (for lack of a better term) does not focus on correct spelling of words, but it focuses on students spelling the feature of that particular word sort.  Yeah…wasn’t a fan because I’m a believer in the thought that there are just words you need to know how to spell.  However, I did see some benefits in the writing of my 2nd graders.  So I did it (reluctantly…with lots of kicking, screaming and of course, sarcasm!)

Fast forward to kindergarten.  4 years ago.  After successfully implementing word study in 2nd grade and seeing benefits, I was curious about using it kindergarten.  After I started it, I couldn’t stop!  Seriously, the improvement in my student’s writing was phoenemenal!  People, I am serious.  This year we have been delayed in implementing word study so my monsters are not good writers (I admit it.  I am a lousy writing teacher.  HELP!)  So here’s how we use word study in kindergarten and see HUGE benefits in writing.

Word study consists of students doing a picture (or word sort).  Our district uses the Words Their Way Books for our sorts.  There are four different books that get progressively harder.

These are the two books that I use in kindergarten.  They progress from pictures to words in the sorts.
The sorts focus on beginning sounds, medial sounds, rhyming words and word families.

Early in the year, I chose a sort that has the sound of the week and the sound we will learn the next week.  We do the sort whole group during our reading block.  I model the procedures and the students quickly learn the procedures and expectations.

After a month of doing it whole group, the students get to do the sorts on their own.  At this point, we do the same sort.  The students are building their first sound fluency skills and getting a solid foundation in word study procedures.

After a month or so of this practice, we add in the vital step of writing.  Each student gets a word study notebook (sorry…no picture.  I forgot.) .  After they finish their sort, they choose 5 of their pictures (or words) and write the words in their notebook.  After they write their words they sketch a picture.  This is the part of DSA or word study that I credit for my students writing skills.  This writing gives them almost daily practice in using their sounds to spell and write words.  As the year progresses,  the growth in student writing is amazing.

In November I administer the DSA assessment.  The assessment is a spelling test with 25 words and comes from the book Word Journeys.

Many of the words are simple CVC words such as jet or cap.  The other words are words such bump.  When scoring the assessment, students get 2 points for words spelled correctly and 1 point if the students got the feature for that word.  For example:  jet (the feature is j).  You add up how many words they spelled correctly to determine their stage score.  I group my students into 3 word study groups based on their stage scores.  This allows me to differentiate my word study.  I have a red, blue and green group.  The sorts can then be tailored to the needs of the group!  To keep groups organized, I copy their sorts onto colored paper to match their group.

With that being said, here is what our weekly word study schedule looks like.

Monday:  We get a new sort.  We cut apart our sort.  This is one of the most challenging parts of the whole process.  We spend lots of time working on cutting apart our sort quickly (this really means lots of hair pulling by Mr. Greg).  After cutting, the students complete their sort.   I don’t help the students with the sort on Mondays, I like them to do a cold sort so I can get an idea of their thinking.

After they complete their sort, we go over it and talk about any errors.  
Students store their sorts in plastic bags with their names on the bag.  The sorts are stored in a color coded three storage unit.  

Tuesday-Wednesday:  Students get their sorts from their drawer and do their sorts.  I meet with each group and we do the sort together.  

Thursday and Friday the students complete their sort independently and then choose 5 words and write the words in their notebook.
I will be doing another post next week about the notebooks and the writing.
I hope that this post makes sense.  I will do some follow up posts to clarify and highlight more of the process.  If you have any questions, please leave me a comment and ask away!

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