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Word Study

Page history last edited by PBworks 17 years, 5 months ago


Vironica Simmons




1. Introduction to Word Study


2. Choosing a Stage


3. How to Begin


4. Conclusion


Word Study




A word study is an approach to teaching phonics, spelling, and vocabulary that gives children the opportunity to see patterns in orthography. It is not memorizing lists of words or writing words three times each. (Word study, n.d.) Instead the field of word study gives students an opportunity to manipulate words (and parts of words) in meaningful and enjoyable activities and games. Reading ability can also improve as word study lessons develop experiences with letters and their corresponding sounds, components of words, patterns of how words are spelled and how parts of words often give hints to the meaning of a word, as well as its spelling or pronunciation. (Working with words, n.d.) Word study requires active problem solving. It has students questioning “What do I know about this new word, and how similar is it to words I already know?” (Working and playing with words, p. 1).


Choosing a Stage


Since word study is closely tied to student development, it is necessary to find an instructional level. A specific type of word study is called a word sort. This strategy requires students to examine words and to compare and to contrast them based on orthographic features such as sound or pattern, which they are currently using but confusing in their own writing. In words sorting, there are no spelling lists distributed to all students in the class on Monday to memorize and then be tested upon on Friday (Abbott, M., 2001). Instead students are given twenty to thirty word cards, each card displaying a single word, and the student compares and contrasts each word and places it into predetermined categories. (Abouzeid, M., 1994.)


Words chosen for students are based upon what developmental stage of spelling they are currently in. The stage of spelling can be discovered by using a developmental spelling inventory to discover a students' spelling stage. A popular inventory called the Qualitative Spelling Inventory (QSI) can be found in Words Their Way (Bear, Invernizzi,, Templeton, & Johnston 2000). An analysis of students’ spellings will show the teacher three important pieces of information. First, it shows what students know and can do independently. Then it shows what a student can use but confuses. This is considered to be the student’s instructional level, where the teacher can make the word study the most rewarding for the student when focusing on this level. Finally, it shows what students omit from their spelling. Having administered the QSI to students, it is also important to cross check the findings of the QSI with the students’ writing samples to see if they demonstrate the same level of word knowledge when s/he writes (Word study, p. 2). Using this information, teachers can profile their whole class and be confident in creating word study instruction that addresses the spelling features that need to be taught, as opposed to the traditional spelling instruction of whole group with no regard to individual development.(p. 2)


How to Begin


To begin a word study, students are grouped for instruction based on the results of their QSI. Once groups are created, teachers are able to differentiate instruction based on the stage of development achieved by each group. The teacher selects groups of words that show a certain spelling pattern to match children’s development. Spelling rules are are not dictated by the teacher, but the rules or patterns are discovered by students who are becoming word detectives engaging in ongoing attempts to make sense of word patterns and their relationship to one another (Leipzig, 2000). Because of the pace of children’s movement through the stages varies, it is unlikely that all students in a class would be studying the same list of words.


An example of a cycle of instruction for word study might look like the following: First, introduce the spelling patterns by choosing a spelling pattern and words for students to sort. The teacher then encourages students to discover the spelling pattern in their reading and writing and provides reinforcement activities to help students relate this pattern to previously acquired word knowledge. The teacher can then test students’ pattern knowledge rather than students’ ability to memorize single words (Leipzig, 2000). The patterns that will be discovered or explored are more complex and interesting than a spelling rule memorized or a worksheet completed (Word study, n.d.). Students become excited about the study of words. Word studies help students meet state spelling and decoding standards (Implementation, n.d.).




Using word studies in the classroom enhances student learning. By focusing on patterns, students will become better spellers due to the fact that they do not memorize a list of words that they later forget. Differentiating instruction leads to successful students because you meet them where they are. Further information regarding word study can be found in Words Their Way (Bear, et al.).



Other pages that correspond with Word Study written by V. Simmons


spelling stages

word sort


differentiate instruction

parts of words




Abbott, M. (2001, October). Effects of traditional versus extended word-study spelling instruction on students’ orthographic knowledge. Reading Online, 5(3). Available: http://ww.readingonline.org/articles/art_index.asp?HREF=abbott/index.html.


Abouzeid, M.P. (1994, November). Word Sort: An alternative to phonics, spelling, and vocabulary. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Reading Conference, San Diego, CA.


Implementation. (n.d.). Retrieved January 23, 2007, from http://www.wordsorting.org/Implementation.html


Leipzig, D.H. (2000). Word study: a new approach to teaching spelling. http://www.readingrockets.org/article/80


Word study. (n.d.). Retrieved January 23, 2007, from http://www.univ.edu/faculty/dhardman/wordstudy.html


Working and playing with words. (n.d.). Retrieved January 30, 2007 from http://litearcyConnections.com/WordStudy.php


External Links

www.worksorting.org: A website created with word sorting ideas and instructions for how to begin.


www.reading.org: International Reading Association’s website.


www.readwritethink.org: Find lesson activities for word study.


www.literacyconnections.com: A website devoted to reading definitions and activities.


http://www.eduplace.com/kids/sv/books/content/wordsort/: A word sort website designed for the McGraw Hill Reading series.


Commentary by Sara McGinnis


Vironica, Here is an error that I found in your first paragraph - It is not memorizing lists of words or writing words three times each (Word study, n.d.). (Word study, n.d.) Your page was very informative and interesting. When you dicuss word sorts, you may want to include or reference Bear, D. R., Invernizzi, M., Templeton, S., & Johnston, F. (2004). Words their way: Word study for phonics, vocabulary, and spelling instruction (3rd ed.). Upper Saddler River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall. Or you may want to give an example of a word sort. Also, when you are discussing the different spelling stages, you may want to link your page to each of the spelling stage pages. Over all it looks great!



Commentary by Christy S. Nobles


This is a great page full of useful information about word sorts and spelling in general. I think that your section of how to apply in the classroom was helpful in understanding that this is not an easy task. Having students on different levels is always a concern for the classroom teacher and knowing how to handle it is even more challenging. Having a strategy in place to address the needs of all students is ideal for the classroom teacher. I believe you did a great job on your page.


Commentary by Caryn Bell


Your Wiki page provides substantial data to educate a person regarding word study. In particular, I like the fact that you have covered three essential features of word study. It is not merely phonics instruction. As your article states, word study includes three quintessential components: phonics, spelling, and vocabulary. This is a great page, and you seem highly knowledgeable of the subject matter. As Sara suggested, you may want to expand on word sorts by including some information from **Bear, D. R., Invernizzi, M., Templeton, S., & Johnston, F. (2004). Words their way: Word study for phonics, vocabulary, and spelling instruction (3rd ed.). My page also had information regarding words sorts, and I found the data in this text to be highly beneficial. Secondly, I noticed that your page did not include a conclusion. I think adding a conclusion would give your article a more cohesive quality. I, likewise ommitted the conclusion from my article, and now I see that it needs to be improved.


Comments by Annette Gebhardt


You defined word study thoroughly and utilized your links well. A person unschooled in these topics would have a good understanding of them after reading your Wiki. I also noticed that you did not include a conclusion, and like Caryn, I forgot as well. I look forward to reading more from you.

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