Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Words Their Way OUR Way PART 1: Getting Started

words their way, spelling, word study, word work, daily 5

As teachers, we are always searching for the most effective program, and designing our delivery to best meet the diverse needs of our students. At the same time, we aim to go about each endeavor in the most effective yet efficient and time-saving manner. This is not always an easy task.

When I was first introduced to the Words Their Way Spelling program I was motivated to get started right away. Words Their Way is a program that will help students identify spelling patterns in their reading and apply those phonics rules in their writing….Yup, I’m in!

I was instantly excited to learn how to implement the program, yet soon I was overwhelmed with the task of getting started. Boy, oh boy, am I glad I did! Let me share my experience, tips and tricks to help you start off on the right foot. I assure you, once you get organized and have your management procedures down pat, delivery is a snap. It took me a few years to get comfortable with the program. Let me save you the time. Read on to learn how I went about it. Or download the The Teacher Manual, HERE.

The Biggest Hurtle: Committing and Getting Started

At the beginning of the school year (or mid-year if you want to get your feet wet), administer the Qualitative Spelling Inventory for your grade level. The data you acquire from this assessment is extremely valuable. It is time consuming, I must admit. It will take you a good hour to complete the assessment data sheets for your class. But the information you learn about your students is completely worth your time and effort. You learn so much about your kiddos. The results will provide you with the information you need to organize your differentiated Word Study groups based on their spelling stage and readiness.

You will find some very interesting results. You will be surprised to learn that one of your struggling readers is in fact a very good speller. On the flip-side you may learn your avid reader (with a high reading and comprehension score on reading diagnostic tests) can not spell phonetically because they have excellent sight word fluency. Be careful not confuse the information you gather from the Spelling Inventory as their reading level.

Typically, we are used to organizing our small groups by their reading level for guided reading. Take it a step further…your Word Study groups will now be grouped by their spelling ability.  Not only will your guided reading groups be “just right” for your students, but so will their word studies! Differentiation for all….

I know, this may seem intimidating at first. Now you are going to have to plan for two different sets of small group instruction with 4-5 different groups in each set?!?! That’s 8-10 differentiated lesson plans! Don’t panic. Once you analyze the data, group your students and get organized (it’s a matter of queuing activities in a basket for each Word Study group…I’ll help you) you will love the program and your students will thrive.

You will feel like Super Teacher and your students will feel like Rockin’ Readers & Super Star Spellers! They will stay on task because the work you are assigning them is “just right” They won’t get bored because it is “too easy”. They won’t rush or shut down because it is “too hard”.

First things first. Let’s dive into the data! 

Administer the Qualitative Spelling Inventory

Administer the Spelling inventory (Primary or Elementary) for your grade level. If you are a kindergarten or first grade teacher you may wish to only test 10/20 words in one day. By mid-year first graders can handle taking the test all at once. As a primary teacher, you may also find testing the students in small groups more effective. It is also advised that if a child is truly struggling you may end the testing session early for that child to avoid hitting their frustration level.

Complete the Feature Guide for each student:

words their way, spelling, word study, word work, daily 5

Data Drives Instruction: Organizing Differentiated Groups

Once you analyze the student scores you are now able to form your Word Study groups. I find it best to mange no more than 4-5 groups. After taking a close look at the student data, you will find that the students who fall in each category are at varying spelling stages within that pattern. If this is the case, it will be beneficial to start them all at the beginning of that specific spelling stage. They will only benefit from reviewing the skills they learned the previous school year, familiarize them with the program, and boost their confidence. Not to mention it will make planning for your groups much easier.

Let’s take a look at my data (names have been changed to protect the identity of my students):

words their way, spelling, word study, word work, daily 5

If you look closely at each column, you will notice that I recorded each child’s score under the appropriate heading. Now I am ready to form my Word Study Groups:

words their way, spelling, word study, word work, daily 5

Let’s take a closer look at how this document looks later in the year. As you can see, I have organized my data tracking sheet to include the date the test was administered. The beginning of the year scores are in green, mid-year scores are in black and later I will input end of the year scores in red. This allows me to track their growth. It is important to note that students often make great growth the second half of the year! If you would like to download the Data Tracking Sheets I use, click HERE.

words their way, spelling, word study, word work, daily 5
Now that you have administered the Spelling Inventory, analyzed your data and formed your differentiated Word Study groups it’s time to set things in motion. But before you do, it is important to gather and organize your resources so planning for your Word Study groups is a breeze.

To learn more about how to organize your Word Study resources to better facilitate your differentiated groups, visit my blog post:
Words Their Way, OUR way Part 2: Getting Organized

If you are interested in utilizing the Data Tracking Record Keeping Sheet and the Rock Star Themed group labels, please visit my TpT store:


  1. I love your blog and your tips! Thank you so much for reinforcing the use of Words their way and ways to organize it. I love your TpT items also. It is all so helpful.

    1. I'm so happy to hear that you found this helpful! Thank you. :)

  2. I am really curious about the Words Their Way program. Which WTW book would you recommend starting with? Great post!

    1. Hi Carmen! There are several different stages of spelling readiness. What grade level are you teaching?