Want To Unlock Amazing Word Study Secrets? by A Word On Third

Do you guys ever feel like your word study instruction gets BORING? I have felt that way. I am effective when I teach word study in many ways. I follow best practices, teach word sorts through an inquiry approach, differentiate for each student's needs... but sometimes it just seems too formulaic. I get bored. And you know what? If I'm bored with the same thing all of the time... so are my kids!

As I mentioned in a previous post, How To Best Help Students Transfer Spelling Skills, one of my goals has been to transform my word study instruction this year. I want to make sure this short period of instruction doesn't get neglected. A teacher who believes in balanced literacy in the classroom can't neglect this area and expect amazing growth. Today I tried something new in my room, and WOW did it feel incredible! I was engaged, my kids were in the zone... and it was FUN! So this will be Part 1 in a series of posts about word study. I don't know when the next post will be... but I am betting it will be soon! So here's my big "A-HA!" moment...

Use interactive writing during word study!

Interactive writing and shared writing are often confused. Here's the difference: shared writing involves sharing in the content creation of the piece you are writing, but the teacher is the scribe. Interactive writing involves sharing in the content creation and sharing the pen. The teacher's job is to write all the easy words and all of the words above the students' current ability levels. The kids are meant to write the words in their zone of proximal development.

One of my word study groups is working on adding the -ed suffix to base words. To notice the spelling principles here, we tried some interactive writing today. Here's what we came up with. This language is ALL the kids' language. I just guided them.

Want To Unlock Amazing Word Study Secrets? by A Word On Third

You can probably see that every single word which had the -ed suffix was written by a kid. It took me less than 10 minutes to do this, but it was super effective. The best part? ALL YOU NEED TO PREP THIS IS PAPER AND A MARKER. Yep, that's it.

Here's a basic lesson plan to follow if you want to try this in your class:
  1. Set the purpose. Tell the kids what genre you're going to write.
    We're study poetry in writing right now, so this was perfect for us! You might write a "How To" piece on a classroom routine you just learned or a fiction piece if you're teaching the "Somebody Wanted But So Then" framework for retelling.
  2. Find relevant topics to write about and take a very quick vote.
    In science, we're learning about chicks right now. In fact, our chicks are HATCHING right now! (Pictures to come soon.) This was a hot topic.
  3. Generate ideas for the piece and see if you can guide kids to use words that follow the desired word study principle you're studying. Write the words you're not focusing on right onto the chart paper.
    Now, of course we were going to use verbs/root words in this poem, so I tried to get the kids to make them past-tense verbs. That's really all it took. Most of the time, this barely takes effort. Long vowel sounds, short vowel sounds... those all come up in tons of words the kids will use. Once you get to the word kids are going to try writing, stop.
  4. Have all kids write the words that follow the word study principle on a dry-erase board.This does a few things. 1- It keeps everyone engaged. 2- You can quickly assess on the spot. When students make an error, have them look at a student's board with the correct spelling and find the change they need to make on their own. Have them make changes.
  5. Once everyone has written (or is writing) the word, have one student with the correct spelling write it on your chart paper.
    Make sure all of the kids get a chance to do this!
  6. Read your poem together.
    Oh, look! What's up, shared reading? Nice to see you on this fine day.
That's literally ALL. YOU HAVE. TO DO. It is so great! It can get messy. It's not perfect. And that's OK! It's FUN! My kids loved this so much that they begged me to let them publish it during quiet time tomorrow. So, that's what that word study group will be doing!

I can't wait for you to try this. It's so important to focus on the big ideas and not just staying inside of your sort. Kids need to see the bigger picture and apply this knowledge if you want it to truly stick. Let me know how you like this!

And, because I promised pictures, here's one picture of what my little egg looked like this morning. I wonder what I'll be walking into tomorrow morning! I'll post some more pictures soon. 

So, try some interactive writing! And remember, you don't have to finish your piece! Maybe you will write a few lines and then have another word study group add onto your piece! This is about getting the practice in and following a balanced literacy approach, NOT PERFECTION.

Have fun, and happy writing!
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