Words Their Way

Each week the kiddos get a new word list, their 'just right words' (determined by the spelling inventory completed in September).  There's none of that everyone working out of the same workbook.  They get a list that meets their spelling needs.  I've had to do some finagling with the groups because after the assessment I decided to stretch a couple of kiddos by putting them into a list a bit above what the spelling inventory suggested.  For a few it has worked out well for them.  For others, not so much.  That's all well and fine though, I just moved them into a list that works better for them.  

Once they've received their new lists they spend a bit of time each week doing a few activities.  They sort their words - at least three sorts - to get them familiar with the spelling patterns of the words they are studying that week.  They also choose whether to use the words in sentences or draw and label them.  I like this activity because they get to choose how they will understand the meaning of their words.  If they have time they may also play scrabble, and I'll soon be teaching them battleship.  They have more activities they do at home; like glitter words, 3x each, or Spelling City.  

Part of what works well is the time the kiddos spend with me.  I spend 15 - 20 minutes with each group each week.  We jam a lot into that short period of time.  I know that some of what I do with them may not follow the prescribed program or today's objective driven atmosphere, but it gets the kiddos doing the work and excited about words.  We laugh a lot during this time! 
  1. The kiddos state their word focus for the week.  I know...a lot of folks are about stating the objective up front.  But honestly, it states at the top of the word list what the focus (aka objective) is.  They are capable of reading that and then jotting it as their title in their word journals.  
  2. I give them a bit of background on the focus.  Depending on the group's list I may define prefixes or roots, or explain spelling patterns for sounds.  They jot this down in their notebooks as well as a few examples.
  3. This is a repeat after me activity! (I stole that from Ghoulie Games.)  I read the words to the kiddos and they repeat it.  This helps them understand how the word sounds.  Honestly, each week there's a word or two that I've never heard of before so I do my best.  But I figure I'm modeling for them how to sound the words out using what I know about word parts.
  4. Depending on the list we may sort the words, identify sounds, determine root words, or figure out word meanings using background knowledge.  Each group changes each week depending on the words in their list. 
  5. Dictionary work!  In the past I struggled to find time to incorporate ways for kiddos to use the dictionary.  But now, I make them drag those bad boys with them when they join me.  We use them each week.   Each kiddo chooses a word that they are unfamiliar with to define; each choosing a different word.  They look it up in the dictionary and jot the definition in their notebook.  They then share their new vocabulary with each other and jot the definitions in their notebooks.  Sometimes, when applicable, I help them find ways to use their words in every day circumstances. 
And then they're off!  There are a few things that absolutely crack me up when we are working together on the words.   First, I get to learn new words myself.  I've learned some interesting ones like interregnum, inter alia, expurgate, etc.  Without fail, each week at least one kiddo says, "I know what all of these words mean," then I pick one out and bam! they can't define it.  I love this because it shows them that we may have an idea of a word, but we may not be using it appropriately.  I have one group who literally repeats after me; with tone, inflection, and volume (and each week I get a kick out of it).  And you should see them when they are looking up new words!  They are like vultures swooping in to choose words, 'fighting' over which word to define, and scrambling through the dictionary to find the meaning.  Its loads of fun!


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