Developmental Spelling Analysis and Word Study: Day 1

If you’ve read my blog for long you know I’m not a rule follower and I’m not a fan of mandates, especially when those mandates are things that aren’t in the best interest of my kids.  I mean, I’m a teacher and it’s my job to give my kids the best education and do what is right and what’s best for them.    So when our district decided we weren’t going to teach spelling but use Developmental Spelling Analysis and word study…I wasn’t happy.  BUT I gave it a shot.  And here I am 9 years later and I am a HUGE advocate of word study in the classroom.
So what is this word study/DSA you speak of?
Instead of a traditional spelling list and test, word study offers feature inventories where students get repeated exposures to letter/sound correspondences which develops spelling ability.  
HUH?   Basically it’s word sorts.  Students are doing word sorts that are focused on a certain feature.  Beginning sounds, middle sounds, ending sounds, blends, digraphs, long and short vowels…etc, etc.
Word study is differentiated so it meets the needs of the student and builds on their previous knowledge of letters and sounds and words.
There is a writing component where the students have to write the words (in older grades they do a lot more writing of the words…) which helps them spell words and that leads to a noticeable improvement in their writing.  Why writing?  Because they’re getting dedicated practice at hearing the sounds and writing the sounds of words.
So….what does this look like and how does it work in kindergarten?   Well you’re in luck.  This week I am going to show you what word study looks like in our classroom day by day!  
So here we go…Day 1.
Word study is differentiated so I color code our word sorts.  3 groups.  3 colors.  
To place students in the correct groups we use the DSA as our screening tool.  After scoring the assessment we can group students so they’re working with the features that they’re ready for.
In our classroom there is a color coded list of names so the students can easily see what color their word study is and they know which sort to grab.
On Monday, we have to cut apart our word study.  Now, we all know with kindergarten this could take all day.  So we play a game.  Beat the bomb!  I set the timer for 3 minutes.  If you have your word study cut part before the bomb explodes, you get a treat.  Usually some Skittles or a sucker.  This means we’re not wasting our time cutting and we’re actually sorting!
After cutting their word study, the ‘staches sort.   On Monday it’s a cold sort.  Meaning they’re trying to figure it out on their own.  I am offering support in identifying pictures they might not know, but I am mainly observing to see if they can determine how to sort the words and if they are reading the words on day 1.   This gives me some valuable insight into what we might need to work on the rest of the week.   (TIP:  If it’s a particularly tricky feature I will give them a little help.  I might say:  “Blue group, you’re sorting my the middle sound…”).  
Once they finish their sort and I check it, I will pull out words or pictures that are sorted into the wrong categories and ask them to try again.  Or if someone is really struggling I might work with them one on one for a few words and get them going.
After they sort and it’s all good, they put their sort away.  We use the same sort for the entire week.  The sorts go into ZipLoc bags that are the same color as their sort.  They put their name on the bag and put their sort in the drawer for their group.  Of course, the drawer is the same color as the sort!  
And that’s day 1 of word study.  Takes about 15-20 minutes on Day 1.
Here is what Day 1 looks like from cutting to sorting:
Make sure to come back the rest of the week and check out all 5 posts to see who we work on our words all week.
We use Words Their Way for our word sorts:

And Word Journeys for the assessment tool and differentiation:

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