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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  • Reply Beth Ann Kempf January 25, 2013 at 12:44 am

    We use Word Study too! I LOVE it! It is so much more meaningful for the kiddos!
    Congratulations on selling your house!
    I would love to hear more about how you use this.
    ❀Beth Ann❀
    Taming My Flock of Firsties

  • Reply littlesthokies January 25, 2013 at 1:02 am

    Cutting of the sort…. UHHHHH! My least favorite thing to do! I dread it… it takes some forever to do this! And then some apparently don't see the lines and cut right THROUGH the pic/word. I really do love word study, though. You are such a great teacher, Mr. Greg!

  • Reply Ashley January 25, 2013 at 1:38 am

    We also do word study and are using Words their Way but I just CANNOT figure out a way to make it work. I am totally struggling.. and I am not the best writing teacher.. its a hard thing to teach!! I like your ideas though!! I teach 2nd grade and I'm interested to know if you did it very similar to this when you taught 2nd grade because it is just not working for me this year! And some of those sorts are hard!! even for me (sadly)

    Primary Teacherhood is hosting a Friday Funnies linky party!

  • Reply Erin Finney January 25, 2013 at 1:59 am

    It was suggested for us to do a word sort, unfortunately, with this being my first year, I have been so overwhelmed that I haven't given much thought to this. I appreciate you sharing your process and exactly how you do it! I am looking forward to your post on writing! THANK YOU!

  • Reply Elizabeth January 25, 2013 at 2:15 am

    I am very interested in this. I am a first grade ELL teacher. This looks like it could help a lot. I looked up the books on B&N and they run about $20. Which one would you suggest I should start with?

  • Reply Greg Smedley January 25, 2013 at 2:18 am

    Elizabeth, I would start with the book for emergent spellers. It has the most picture sorts.

  • Reply Greg Smedley January 25, 2013 at 2:19 am

    Hi Ashley,

    I did do it this way in 2nd grade. We did add in more writing activities such as ABC order but the same schedule and set up applies!

  • Reply Mrs. Parker January 25, 2013 at 2:22 am

    Great fact filled post! I will be looking into these books especially for my students who are struggling with sound symbol relationships and my ELL students.

  • Reply Elizabeth January 25, 2013 at 2:23 am

    This is what drives my spelling/phonics instruction. I know you mentioned that it strengthens their writing, but it strengthens their reading even more so. I did my thesis on DSA and how it impacts students reading and writing development. I also got to sit down with Kathy Ganske (she works at Vandy and I teach in Nashville) and interview her. The data doesn't lie…that's for sure 🙂 I have three groups as well. I have 3 kids in Within Word in K…it's amazing how far they come using this program! There are some great games that I do on Wednesday to go along with the sorts and they match up. I like how you put their sorts on different colored paper. If you are interested in any of the games…let me know! So happy other people are using this in their classrooms!!!!
    Kickin' it in Kindergarten

  • Reply Heather Shelton January 25, 2013 at 2:50 am

    I am very eager for more information! I have these two books and the main Words Their Way book, but never have found a way to make it work.
    Mrs. Shelton's Kindergarten

  • Reply Cheryl Ener January 25, 2013 at 2:52 am

    Such a great post! I now want these books! Thanks for sharing these great ideas!
    Crayons and Curls

  • Reply Kathy Nelson January 25, 2013 at 3:10 am

    Thanks for sharing! I've used WTW sorts in 5th grade but this is a totally different ballgame. I like how you color code your sorts. I have 5 groups now so I am working on a system that will work a little better once I introduce the sorts. Do you use the spelling inventory from Words Their Way?

  • Reply Lisa Mattes January 25, 2013 at 3:29 am

    You're rockin' it again, Crush! SO excited for you on the sale of your house! That is such a huge deal! Our district is hopefully moving to Words their Way soon…but we currently like to go rogue and use the spelling inventory and some of the sorting and other activities. Love the color coding…so much easier!

    Thanks for helping me out in my upcoming giveaway!!! Am getting it going this weekend.

    Hugs – Lisa
    Growing Firsties

  • Reply Carol January 25, 2013 at 4:29 am

    Thank you for the great post Greg. Living in Australia, I have never heard of this series. I just looked for a review on amazon for these books and someone suggested the book “picture this” a better book. Anyone have any advice on which series would be more suitable for 5 year olds?


    PS Congrats on selling your house.


  • Reply Lindsey January 25, 2013 at 11:11 am

    I've enjoyed word study on the Kindergarten level with pictures. My students use pictures only to sort so they really have to listen to the sounds. The other follow up activities have the printed word for print support. I have my Beginning sound, Digraph, and Short vowel units that match WTW I've made in my store. http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Mrs-Paulsons-Class/Category/Word-Study

    I would love to offer you the units for a giveaway for your next post on Word Study. Email me at lindseyjpaulson at gmail.com

  • Reply Jordan Barber January 25, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    My team and I are very interested in hearing more about this! We are considering adding into our curriculum and schedule for next year. Please post more information!

  • Reply Ms.M January 25, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    I love how you have got everything set up! Doesn't look like you need much help to me but I'll help out where I can. 😛

  • Reply Daphne January 26, 2013 at 2:31 am

    I have used WTW with great success in 1st grade and 3rd. I am now teaching kindergarten and have thought about implementing it, but am a little scared. Thanks for the encouragement. I might just give my students the inventory next week to see where they are. The inventory from WTW gives so much information.

  • Reply Kinderaffe January 27, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    What an amazing and detail filled post. So need support in this area. Will get the book you suggested. Can't wait to get started. Bravo for selling your house. So much more fun to look when you know that!


  • Reply Jo February 13, 2013 at 6:50 pm

    Post a video!! THis sounds great. I have a very old words their way but have been afraid to actually do the sorts with Kindergarten. It's only my second year (I had preciously been in middle school.) I am inspired! Thanks

  • Reply Lynn September 15, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    I am interested in the games!

  • Reply Kimberly Davis July 17, 2016 at 3:55 am

    Love your process!

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