Working With Words By Mitchell Waters

What is Word Study?

"Word study" is an alternative to traditional spelling instruction. It is based on learning word patterns rather than memorizing unconnected words. Word study provides students with opportunities to investigate and understand the patterns in words. Knowledge of these patterns means that students needn't learn to spell one word at a time.- Reading Rockets

Word study instruction can provide students with vital knowledge which they can then apply to the task of comprehending text. The nature of word study will vary with the developmental needs of students and the demands of the text

Why is it Important?

Efficient processing at the word level frees the reader to engage in higher order comprehension skills, such as making inferences about text, making connections and asking questions. Word study addresses not only word recognition, but also vocabulary, spelling, word-level grammatical concepts and effective word choice. Effective word recognition skills are fundamental to proficient reading. Vocabulary knowledge is one of the best predictors of reading comprehension.

Teacher Strategies

Word Sorts

There are two types of word sorts: closed and open. In closed word sorts the teacher defines the process for categorizing the words. This requires students to engage in critical thinking as they examine sight vocabulary, corresponding concepts, or word structure. In open word sorts the students determine how to categorize the words, thereby becoming involved in an active manipulation of words

Word Building

Have students use their understanding of word formation and word families to build new spelling words with the cards provided for prefixes, suffixes, and roots or with cards they make for other familiar word parts. As a self-check, ask students to look up each word they make in a dictionary.

Multiple Meanings

Homonyms are words which have the same spelling and pronunciation, but have different meanings. Homophones are words which have the same pronunciation, but different spellings and meanings. Homographs are words that are spelt the same, but have different pronunciations and meanings

Spelling patterns

The majority of words in the English language follow spelling rules and can be sounded out. Some words, however, also require visual strategies in addition to knowledge about spelling rules and phonograms

Literacy Centers

Word work should be practiced individually or in small groups. Activities could include: spelling words on a magnet board, beginning sounds board games, reviewing word walls, taking a picture of the use of the word, using letter beads on pipe cleaners to build words.

Online Word Games- Quizlet

Teacher creates a word list with the pronunciation, definition, and a picture that goes with the word. Students can play Quizlet Live as a team to try and be the first group to make matches with the definition. It’s interactive and all the class participates.


Games to Play to Build Vocabulary

  • Fly Swatter Vocabulary Game: Select vocabulary terms to display on the board. Give a clue.The student who smacks the word with the fly swatter first earns a point for his/her team. To see a video with a teacher explaining the rules of the fly swatter game, click here:

Description of Fly Swatter Game: (pg 39-40 of the PDF)

  • Can You Give Me a Clue? Inference Game: Select vocabulary terms to write on note cards. Introduce students to the language frames that they can use to give each other clues. Tape a card on each student’s back. Students walk, ask questions, and give clues. When students think they know their word they sit down. (pg 51-52 of the PDF)


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