Monday, February 4, 2013

Word Study - Word Sort + Writing in Kindergarten

 Hi! My name is Greg Smedley-Warren and I am the rambling dude over at Smedley's Smorgasboard of Kindergarten! I am so excited to be visiting you today! Debbie (editor-in-chief)  is one of my favorite peeps! In fact, she will be visiting my school and giving me a great big polka dot hug in March! She gets to meet the infamous "little monsters" as I affectionately call my students!! I have been teaching for 7 years, 4 of those in Kindergarten. Yes, I'm a rock star! Male Kindergarten teachers are a hot commodity! Kindergarten is my calling. My passion. My hobby. I have the BEST job ever!
Greg-in-a-hat Smorgasboard
Today I want to share a strategy that I use in my classroom that has great benefits for my students 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. For example:  if the feature of the week or sort was /e/ and they spelled "chet" for "jet" they got credit because they got the /e/ feature.   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 in kindergarten.  After I started it, I couldn't stop!  Seriously, the improvement in my student's writing was phenomenal!   People, I am serious.  It was a night and day difference. This year we have been delayed in implementing word study so my monsters are not strong 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.  I use composition notebooks because they hold up well.  We have also used regular spiral notebooks cut in half!   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.   Some of them start out with random letters and by the end of the year they are spelling words correctly!  

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 (if you got 14 words correct, your score is 14).  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 drawer storage unit.  

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

Wednesday- Friday the students complete their sort independently and then choose 5 words and write the words in their notebook.

Here is a little freebie for you!  Some fun, glittery notebook labels!  
Click on the picture to get your free labels!

You can find me all over the place! I tend to like attention! Be sure to come say hello!

Twitter; @gregsmedley
Instagram: kindergartensmorgasboard


  1. Greg...I love seeing all of your Kindergartners writing. They really do love working with words!
    Great POST!
    The Schroeder Page

  2. Wonderful background and logic. I love knowing how you have implemented this, and I think word work is so important. I does make a huge difference! What time of the day do you have Word Work? I am wondering if the beginning of the day would be good since I have Writers Workshop right after that.

  3. This is such a great post! You are such an awesome teacher! Thanks for sharing these great tips! :)
    Crayons and Curls

  4. It used to when we were kids everything still feels hard to do because we do not know how.

  5. Do you do word work whole group or do students work on their word work during center time/ daily 5? I have been trying to implement the Words Their Way sorts but am struggling with the organization, management, and differentiation of this activity so this post was very helpful!

  6. Thank you for the great explanation.

  7. Our district is offering a Words Their Way workshop this summer for grades 1-3. I teach kindergarten. Would attending a first grade workshop, be helpful in learning to implement this at the kindergarten level? I Thanks for your help.


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