The last two years of teaching second grade has shown me there is a serious decline in students' spelling and phonics abilities. Adding in word study activities to my classroom is essential to help get students caught up to where they need to be.
Getting Started - Assessing Students
Within the first week of school I like to give my students a spelling assessment using the Primary Spelling Inventory from Words Their Way. It can take awhile to give the assessment - I give it across two days. It also takes me awhile to grade the work but I highly recommend not skipping this step.
After giving the PSI, I like to then give pre-assessments of the Dolch words. I use my own product, the Sight Word Spelling Program, to help me do this. In the beginning of the year I just use paper and pencil to assess but as the year continues I switch to the digital videos and it saves me so much time.
With my second graders this past school year I only needed to do the first and second pre-assessment to determine almost everyone’s levels. The students that were higher were pulled aside to be tested 1:1.
Related Post: Differentiating Your Spelling for 1st and 2nd grade
Now that I have all the assessments completed I can place my students in small groups. Last year I had quite a few students in one group so I split the group up to be more manageable. Students just had duplicate assignments which made planning easier.
The next step before I dive into what word work activities I use is to talk a bit about finding the activities. I look at where my students are at using the Primary Spelling Inventory. Then I look through materials I have on hand and free activities online to fill in the gaps. I aim for 2 weeks of activities for each phonics focus.
The first word work activity my students do is a blind sort. I gather one word study group at my teacher table (this is why the groups need to be smaller) and provide them with a list of words. They study the words and use their whiteboards to figure out what the words have in common. Not technically a blind sort but I wasn’t sure what else to call it.
I use Lanesha Tabb's Word Study Workshop for the word study lists. I highly recommend her product for the lists if you teach lower elementary. Students take home a duplicate list that is labeled at the top and glue their unnamed list in their word study notebooks. At this time they will write the pattern at the top.
Sight Word Notebooks
Using my data from their sight word pre-assessments, students are assigned one of the sight word lists. I’m pretty particular that they should know all the words on a list at mastery before moving on so I assign their list accordingly.
On a Monday I will call all students on the same sight word list to the front of the class. I will demonstrate how to complete their first sight word notebook page and have them do it with me. The next day I will do the same thing but they will do it afterwards. Of course this depends on how quickly they pick it up.
Phonics Focused Worksheet
After students have been introduced to their word study lists, the next day they will be given a worksheet or small game to complete that focuses on their phonics pattern. For example, my students needing more instruction in short vowels will see me for 5 minutes or so for a quick vowel review. Then I’ll pass out a worksheet on finding or writing words with short vowel a.
I also have a lot of Lakeshore Learning phonics boxes that are helpful to use when showing students their phonics pattern. During my intervention time I will also repeat some of these same phonics patterns for students in RTI.
Sight Word Centers
During my reading block my students will do their word study groups and sight words after our whole group instruction. For the sight word centers students will work on their individual sight word lists but will usually have a partner to work with.
I’ve done sight word centers for many, many years so I have a good accumulation of activities. Here are my two favorites (also available in my TpT shop):
Play Dough Mats
Made for older students, these play dough mats require students to spell the word using play dough, write the word several times, and write the word in a sentence.
Sight Word Letter Boxes
Again created with older elementary students this activity requires students to read a sentence and find the word that will fit the letter boxes. Each word strip is picture supported for self-checking.
If you don’t have a lot of time for word study in your classroom, it doesn’t need to take a lot of time or be complicated. In fact the simpler you make it the easier it will be to manage and set your students up for success.