Friday, June 15, 2012

Words Their Way & Spelling Test

I decided to start re-reading Words Their Way to kick off my summer reading list. As I read this I'm hoping to find a way to incorporate the word patterns we are working on (from WTW), with spelling test. Last year, I used a new spelling program our state has adopted - Zaner-Bloser Spelling Connections. I actually really liked this spelling program. The list were broken down by spelling patterns and were differentiated. This is the only way I'll do spelling tests. I don't see the point is spelling test that are just a group of words that may have a common theme (farm, seasons, science, etc), but not have a common spelling pattern. I'll be honest, I focus on spelling because I think that if students learn spelling patterns, it  will help them with their decoding!

 How I did spelling last year: Every Monday morning, I would give my students a 15 word spelling pre-test. This would determine which list they would be on basic 1, basic 2, or challenge. The program called the levels below level, on level, and above level, however, my team teacher and I decided that it we liked the other titles better. The lists overlap, so some words were shared with another list. The students list weren't static; they could move up or down levels depending on their pretests. As much work as it sounds like it was, it was actually pretty simple. The kids would have weekly homework. After attending a great GT training, I decided to make choice boards (tic-tac-toe) for their weekly homework. The kids loved it! They liked having a choice of which activities they wanted to complete. During centers, the kids would also have activities in word work. They had to complete word sorts and I also had their words on spelling city. On Friday, I would give everyone a test for ALL spelling words from each list. They would just note which list they belonged to by circling that number. They were only accountable for the words from their list, the others were used as bonus words (up to +5pt) but this also let me see who really learned the spelling pattern for that week. 

I'm not sure how I'll be able to incorporate my spelling program with WTW. I really, really like that my spelling program (ZB) was differentiated! I saw first hand how this helped my students. However, I would like to somehow keep my kids on the same spelling pattern (otherwise it seems like it would get out of control!). Our reading adoption, Texas Treasures, also has a spelling component that was created by none other than one of the authors from WTW (however I haven't been able to verity that!). I'm thinking that I may stick with my current spelling program from ZB, but use WTW during guided reading. I also want to somehow incorporate vocabulary as well! How am I going to merge all of these?!?! How do you manage your spelling/vocabulary? 


  1. Hi Audrey,

    First, I love Words Their Way! I think it really helps kids, but I had a hard time working the program when it was used inconsistently in the school. It was easiest when I looped with my 4th and 5th graders...worked beautifully then. Love it though!

    Also, I wanted to thank you for stopping by and commenting on my Web 2.0 Tools. I replied back on my site, but I wasn't sure if you would see it, so here it is again.

    Thanks for using the sticky. The board looks so much cooler when there is more than one post on it.

    I think you are TOTALLY right about giving the kids time to explore and I'm glad you said it because I would have just jumped right in. I know better than that, but I always feel pressured for time, ya know? Thanks for the reminder. Can you remember to remind me again in the fall when things get hectic? :)

    The Teaching Thief

  2. Amanda -
    I would love to hear more about how you used WTW in your classroom! I'm a bit overwhelmed trying to merge all of these programs.

    I will remind long as you remind me too! I always feel rushed for time - and always end up rushing my tech projects! Sometimes I even abandon projects (I HATE THAT), this year my goal is to give kids that time to explore and not be so rushed.

    Thank you again for stopping by, I look forward to sharing tech ideas (and WTW) with eachother!

  3. I teach 3rd as well and cannot, for the life of me, find a spelling program that works! It either takes up too much time, is too much work to prep (only to have it take the kids 10 minutes to do), doesn't differentiate, blah, blah, blah.... I just wish there was a program that did it all!

    (That's not too much to ask, right?!)


    Our principal likes Primary Spelling by Pattern- which does teach according to a pattern, but doesn't differentiate, so it's better than themed words, I guess. I brought home the books this summer to read through them and figure it all out in my head, but so far I've only used them as a coaster for my coffee when I blog ;)

    I'm interested to hear how you merge these programs and make it work for you! Best of luck!!

    3rd Grade Thoughts

  4. Hmmm, by the sounds of it you may already have a spelling "program" that works for you, but if you don't mind my asking, does it work for your kids? By that I mean did you see a transfer into their writing, did you see that it helped with decoding or was it just another way to identify the "Friday Spellers" in your room? The reason that I ask is that I incorporated Words their Way in my classroom and felt a little mixed about it. I gave the pretest and found that my 17 students fell into 8 different categories so as you can imagine that didn't quite work so I made some adjustments and had a total of 4 spelling groups. We were on a two week rotation. The students got their new list on Monday and then not that Friday but the following Friday they had their test. I only tested the students on ten of the words from their list but they never knew which words would be on the test so it was critical that they learned the pattern and therefore all of the words. But I didn't see the magic that I had hoped for. I didn't see the transfer into writing unless during a teaching conference I said something along the lines of, isn't that an old spelling word of yours and they could usually fix it. I should admit to the fact that I did not spend the amount of time devoted to deep conversation with my students that is recommended because I do not have time in my day to have 20 minute conversations with each of my four groups to talk about spelling-perhaps that is a me problem and not a Words their Way problem but the time just isn't there. I tried devoting one full 20 minute rotation to each group during the two weeks to have that deep conversation but I noticed that for some of my kids (the lower students) they still didn't transfer the information into writing even though they could "talk the talk." I don't say any of this to discourage you or anyone else from using Words their Way because I am planning on revising my methods and trying again for the upcoming year I just want to make sure that you have all the info. If you have something that really works you may want to hold onto that. Thanks for letting me get all of that out of my system.
    : ) Nicole

  5. Like Nicole, I too implemented WtW in my classroom last year. I had 5 groups of students. Students worked on their pattern for two weeks before taking a spelling test. I saw great growth in word knowledge from my more advanced spellers, but I did not see much (if any) growth from my lower spelling. Also, like Nicole, I did not have the time to spend 20 min with each group during the two week period, but I did meet with each group at least once during the two weeks. My lower kids practiced their words and pattern during Guided Reading Plus.

    I am working this summer to create more activities to bolster my WtW. I do think it can have some value, it just became a little too much. I really work to enforce with parents and students that it is word study not spelling practice, but I do still have some kids who just spell right on the Friday of the test. :(

    My tests were given with 5 sentences which contained usually 10 of the words. Students wrote the entire sentence from dictation and were scored on the correct spelling of their words as well as capitalization and punctuation of the sentences,

    Looking forward to following your class's progress.

    Lifelong Learning

  6. Thanks for this post. I love your ideas for leveling tests each week. My teammate and I are considering doing something similar next year, but wanting to incorporate more student choice & differentiation into the lists. For students who master the "beyond" list on the pretest, we want them to add in words of their choice that fit the week's pattern. I LOVE the idea of giving one test to the whole class - and giving bonus points for extra words spelled correctly!

    Donald Bear (of WTW fame) is, indeed, one of the authors of Treasures. We've used Treasures the past 5 years in our district. I got to meet him at a dinner when we were in the process of adopting the program. He is quite a dynamic person!

    I look forward to seeing your ideas for incorporating WTW into the routine you already have in place, as we'd like to do that, too, in our 4th grade classrooms.

  7. You should try
    Here, you can create your own word sorts digitally. There's hundreds already created, but you can also make your own, create student logons, and monitor student results. This is how you can use your own weekly spelling lists with their specific rules. A list of all of the created word sorts is available at:

  8. Audrey,
    Thank you for posting about this!! My district is adopting WTW and I am trying to figure out the same things you are.

    I used the old Spotlight on Literacy spelling book because it had specific patterns each week. The students needed to write 10 of those words down. Then I supplemented with more challenging words in the same pattern, which I got from The Reading Teachers Book of Lists. Some students needed to choose their 10 words from this list, and others didn't choose any. Then, every two weeks the students needed to learn 7 Word Wall Words, from Month by Month Phonics Grade 3. If they got them correct the first week, they didn't need to put them on their lists the next week. THEN (golly, this sounds more complicated than it was) the students got to choose 3+ words to round out the list of 20 total words. They could be words they consistently got wrong during reading/writing, a vocabulary word from our unit of inquiry (I teach at an IB school), or simply just a word of their choice. Now, for my struggling readers/spellers, we had lists based on their needs. I got lists from 1st and 2nd grade teachers that went along with our patterns, or we worked on word families.

    Even though the resource I used (Spotlight) is old, the patterns are still relevant and good for the students (to see that pattern). Now, like you, I need to figure out how to incorporate the stellar parts of each program.

    Thanks again!

  9. Hi Audrey,

    I wanted to let you know that I have many lists for WTW on SpellingCity. I labeled them by color to help my with classroom management, but anyone can go to my lists and use them! You may find the lists here:

    I'm still trying to figure out an efficient way to use WTW without killing myself, but incorporating Spelling City has helped because the kids love the activities.

    Let me know if you have questions - I also teach 3rd grade!


  10. So what do you do with a student who does not pass a spelling test of that sort and all the rest do? We use spelling city to test the kids and a few times I have had either only one student pass or only one student not pass. I don't want to have more than 5 groups or it will become unmanagable but you also don't want to just pass kids along. Any suggestions??