Saturday, December 5, 2015

Words Their Way - Resources

Let me tell you about spelling in my classroom.

My first years of teaching, we had the regular spelling list.  I give it out, you study it, I test you on Friday, and we move on.  I tried to get creative with homework and such, but that was basically it.

Last year, we had no spelling at all, the reasoning being that students don't REALLY learn it, we are already learning spelling within the context of writing, no spelling was provided with our curriculum, etc.  Students - not surprisingly - didn't leave much better in spelling than they were when we got them.

So, this year, back to spelling we went.  I began the year with the standard list, which actually came from an old reading series.  I pretested on Monday, the kids studied, and then we posttested on Friday.

But what was happening was this.  About a fourth of my class aced the pretest - which meant they didn't have to study any words at all during the week.  Another fourth or so of my class STRUGGLED with the words - and regularly failed the posttests.  The rest of the kids were rocking along pretty well.

And I thought - don't ALL of my kids need to be learning words?  And don't these words need to be just right for them - so that they aren't studying for hours and then STILL failing the test?  I mean, I teach how to choose a just right book.  I differentiate my reading materials.  I scaffold their work in math.  What about spelling?

I know this may not be such a shock for many of you, but it really was an eye opener for me.

So, I got to digging.  I found lots of good stuff, but everything I read that I liked kept circling around to Words Their Way.  It had everything I was looking for - differentiated lists that matched kids' spelling development, an emphasis on learning spelling patterns rather than a random list, and a heavy use of sorts to practice spelling.  I also noticed that it was a lot of work, but what's a little hard work, right?


Well, so far, so good, and I'm far enough into it to feel comfortable sharing what we've done, where we are, and what I have planned next.  I'm planning a series of blog posts on Words Their Way so that if you, like me, are a little lost about the best way to implement the whole system, you can learn something from someone who's found a way to make it work for her.

Today I'm going to share what I've bought - which is really very little.  But I'm one of those who likes to have all of my materials in hand before I dive into something.

The first purchase you'll want is this:
Buy this now.  This is the latest and greatest edition.  I have an early edition I snagged for really cheap from Thriftbooks, and it works just as well.  This is your absolute must have.  Skim through it and read the parts that really interest you.  Don't try to read it cover to cover.  You'll find yourself reading chapters here and there later on.

Buy these later.  You won't need all of these, but you'll want to pick up the ones that most match your kids.  They have these books of words sorts for each level of spelling development.  Again, you can snag them pretty cheap on Thriftbooks.  You'll get these after you assess everyone and see where they are.

Buy this now and later.  You'll want to go ahead and get some so that you can get started with making sort cards.  You may need more later, depending on much you like it and how much you need.

Buy this now and later.  You'll want lots of these to use to file/organize your sort cards.

Buy this now and later.  You'll use these to store your sort cards.

Buy this now.    You'll only need one package, so go ahead and pick it up now.  You'll use these to label your sort cards.

These supplies will help you develop your entire spelling curriculum, so even though there may be some initial investment now, you won't need to buy anything else in years to come.  And even these supplies are pretty reasonable.  

But for right now, you want the book.  Get it, skim it, and check back in next week when we talk assessment!

Have a great weekend,


  1. Words Their Way was the required textbook for my reading method courses in college. I loved the book and I learned so much from reading it!