Words Their Way Worries

So, it's true confessions time.  My district has adopted Words Their Way and I am petrified.  I have used the assessment in the past to get to know my students, and I like it.  I also firmly believe that students DO need to study words and that traditional spelling programs do NOT work.  So what's my concern?

It's me.  My complete and utter lack of organization.  How will I ever manage having multiple groups for this . . . to be ready ahead of time with materials . . . to know how to squeeze this into an already packed day . . . sigh.  We do have a one day training coming up in a few weeks, but I don't know that the training is going to help me with all of those fears.  

I would love to hear from others who DO use Words Their Way.  Do you have any tricks of the trade? Organization systems that work for you?  Things that do NOT work?  I know I shouldn't even be worried about it until the training happens--perhaps all my fears will be washed away.  I'd love to hear from you!  I know I should be excited that my "patched together" word work from the past will be somehow organized for me . . . so reassure me please!  I will be posting more about this journey over the next year--so be ready for my successes and failures.  UGH.  I am not a fan of that word--or that concept.  So help me out, friends!  It can be your community service for the year!  Have a great day . . .


  1. Hi Meg!
    I don't think you will find it stressful once you start. My students ended up being in four different groups this year. I kept a chart in my day book that listed which list they were each on. I gave them each a stapled packet with their word list and activities for the week. They worked on it a bit each day during our literacy block. If you email me, I will send you examples of the activities that I made.
    Grade 4 Buzz

  2. I've used it before and it is not as overwhelming as it first looks. I set up a file folder for each student's chart and used a rack for drying dishes to store it by my kidney table.
    Grade School Giggles

  3. I have used this program in the past, but I didn't fully implement all of the program because it was overwhelming. I used the assessment to put my students (3rd graders at the time) into leveled spelling groups. I taught them how to sort and the different ways to sort the words, and I gave them their differentiated spelling lists. Most of the time, they sorted for homework as I could not find the time to have them sort in class. I have 3 different books with the program that each have different lists of words that I pulled from for their spelling lists.

    Giving spelling tests seemed to be very time consuming, which I did not like.

    This year, our school has adopted this spelling program with our new reading series (Pearson's Good Habits, Great Readers), so I will be implementing this program again. I, too, am not the most organized person, so I hope that I will be able to figure out an easier plan.

    Good luck!

  4. Hi Meg,
    This will be my third year using Words Their Way with my fourth graders. The program does take a couple of weeks to get up and going, but I have found the kids love the routine and their vocabulary, spelling, and word recognition skills really improve. I keep pocket folders for each book (red, yellow, green and blue) and keep the weekly sorts in those along with lists of who is in each group. Don't be afraid to adjust groups to make things work best for you. Start with only a few groups (I started with 1 group in each book) then maybe when it's more manageable, you can differentiate and have more groups. Another thing that teachers in my school did was to get a big file box with hanging file folders for each book and run off some copies (15-20?) of each sort in that book. Storage of these file boxes is a bit of a problem, but having the copies ahead of time saves last minute headaches. Hope this helps! Feel free to email me if more questions come up as you train and try it out!

  5. Our school has used Words Their Way for about three years. It is CRAZY, but it can be done. A couple of things that have helped to keep it organized/running are:
    1. We do not switch sorts every week. We only have about ten minutes to spend on word work, so adding the extra week helps.
    2. When giving spelling tests, we've used Spelling City so the teacher doesn't have to give a million spelling tests. If you don't have that resource, another thing that works is having the students partner up and give each other the test. (It may sound scary, but it works really well. The kids are very honest.)
    3. One of the teachers I work with, Charlotte from Fabulous Fifth Grade Fun, came up with the idea to use google docs for the activities and the kids love it!

    Please let me know if you find anything else that would help. Good Luck. I'm so glad you posted!

  6. Hi Meg,

    I second the recommendation for Spelling City. It was well worth the investment for me. I was able to upload students' spelling lists there, and it really helped with the differentiated activities and weekly spelling tests.

    Before I had Spelling City, I would choose 5 words off each spelling list (or some of the extra words that students hadn't studied but still fit the same pattern) and then give everyone a spelling test at the same time. Each group had their list printed on different colored paper, so when I gave the test, I would say "Red number 1 (insert word), Blue number 1 (insert word), Red number 2 (insert word)..." I had 5 different colors/groups, and in the end it didn't take very long because I didn't have to pause between words to wait for the kids to write them down. I just relied on them to listen for their color, and by the time I cycled back to their color, they were ready to remove on. I also created the rule that I wouldn't repeat words until the very end, so that also helped.

    It's a little intimidating at first, but well worth it. Keep us posted on how it goes and what you learn from your training!

    Eberopolis: Teaching Reading & Writing with Technology

    1. I just used the free portion of spelling city. You can search for the word lists and add them to your file without retyping them. AMAZING!!! We used the free areas of the site.

  7. I have been using words their way (word study) for the past 4 years- Invernizze and then a mentioned Picard have both been in my school.

    I have found that really you need 20 minutes. I use it as a rotation. If you schedule which group starts their sort and work that way. I have ended up having up to 4 - 5 different groups running. If you set up the routines and put them in place (just like literacy centers) this runs like a well-oiled machine.

    I find go by Day count not Day name. So if you are on a 6 day cycle- Day 1: Intro to group 1; Group 2- could be doing a game to review their words from the previous week; Group 3- Could be word hunting; Group 4- Could be finding and writing about the pattern they are studying.

    Then have them rotate through. I always end their cycle on either day 5 or 6 with a writing sort. I also create a schedule and have them glue it in their word study journals.

    Teaching them how to hunt and list words, and I have to say taboo, hang man, and trick my partner are great games!

    Good luck as you enter this endeavor!!! It has taken a lot of time to get into the routine, but it gets easier over time!

  8. Hi Meg, I found your blog through bloglovin'. Your Words Their Way worries caught my attention because I finally LOVE word study with this program. I think the other comments are very helpful and agree with:
    * using spelling city--take a look. Lists can be shared with other uses and I think other teachers have already typed in the Words their Way lists.
    * Do fewer groups and don't feel guilty (3-4 about all you can handle)
    * Spend two weeks on a list if the kids need it

    I hope your district is purchasing the words their way word sort books for you (they are color coded-red, green, yellow, blue). These were life savers for me and were when I finally started to enjoy word study because I was not creating my own lists and trying to go by their "developmental levels." With these, the work has all been done for us.

    I also learned that it worked better to have a staggered rotation throughout the week where the kids were not all starting their lists on the same day. I also made up my own daily things instead of trying to implement the games suggested in the books.

    My basic routine is:
    -Day 1: Word Searches (I have made word searches for all of the levels and sell the set on TPT)Students look for words that match the pattern they are studying, basically figure out their words before they get their word list.
    -Day 2: Get list, cut apart, sort, record
    -Day 3: Meet w Teacher
    -Day 4: Spelling City
    -Day 5: Buddy Test through a Blind Sort
    * Students in the blue book, highest spellers, do a few different things because their sorts deal more with vocabulary.

    At the beginning of the year, we do the same list together to go through all of the rotations, model, learn expectations, etc.

    Hope this helps, would love to talk more about it, and will enjoy following your journey.

  9. I've very curious to sit down and look carefully at everybody's suggestion. We've been using Words Their Way for two years now, and my biggest struggles have been the number of groups and the fact that my students don't seem to be making very much progress due to the limited amounts of time we have to meet with word groups.

    Our current set-up looks like this: there are actually four teachers, one reading specialist, and one instructional paraprofessional working together to provide appropriate groups for approximately 65 students. Our groups ranged in size from 6 student to 11 students, and we had students in every book (red, yellow, green and blue). Each teacher met with 2 groups while the reading specialist and paraprofessional met with 1. Our school runs on a 6 day cycle so we would introduce a sort on Day 1, a second new sort on the following Day 1, and then do a spell check on the second Day 6. We meet with these groups in lieu of our reading strategy groups, and the students are responsible for different activities on the other days during our Daily 5 times.

    We spent a ton of time copying, cutting and organizing teacher sorts for each level and copying plenty of colored copies of the student sorts. If you want more info about how we organized everything, I could definitely send you pictures and tell you more about it. I feel like we have the organization down, but what trips us up is what happens when some kids are ready to move on to new sorts and others obviously are not. And we're trying to figure out what we can do differently to help the students apply the patterns they learn more in daily writing work.

    I love the philosophy of the program, I'm just not sure I see it working for all of my students. Hopefully we'll be able to figure out more pieces to make it more effective this year.

  10. I am so touched by the time all of you have taken to try to help me make sense of all of this and to make me feel better! I DO have all the word sort books (whew!) and I am optimistic that I will feel better after that day of training. I appreciate the advice to start small (3-4 groups), especially to get started. Maybe we can keep this dialogue going this year and support each other as we discover new tricks and techniques! Thanks to all of you!

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