Thursday, June 1, 2017

Hands-on Words Sorts

We all know and appreciate the benefits of providing our students with hands-on learning activities. Not only does working with manipulatives keep students engaged, but they also help students retain what they are learning and foster a love of learning new WORDS.

As primary teachers, we often frequent the dollar stores and Target Dollar spots in our area. I have often times trekked to several in one day hoping to find a larger quantity of what I discovered for my classroom! It takes a clever teacher to turn the most simplest item into a classroom resource that will benefit our students learning.

But take a look at these beads! At $1 a bag an my local Dollar Tree, I purchased these alphabet beads (and pretty green tubs) for my Word Study Center. Making this purchase was a no-brainer.  

That is a lot of beads! And yes, we have had the beads spill to the floor once or twice so far. But my first graders quickly rescued each bead because they love having the opportunity to manipulate the materials, create something new and discover new spelling patterns.

There are numerous benefits to an activity such as this:

Recognizing the spelling pattern:

As my firsties worked through their spelling list. They began with hunting for each letter to make words from their weekly Words Their Way sort. After a while, it dawned on them that whenever they came across an "r" or a vowel they set it aside. Why?  ...because they were working with r-controlled vowels and it made the task of beading their words go so much faster. When students are exposed to a spelling pattern in a repetitive manner, they begin to understand phonetic groupings.

Busy Hands = Busy Minds:

In the primary grades, kinestethic and visual practice of words is necessary. Moving manipulatives around activate and strengthen the right side of the brain. The right side of the brain, in particular is where learning comes easily for young readers and is still developing at this young age. Kids are more able to construct meaning when manipulating objects. Having your students practice spelling patterns in a visual and kinesthetic manner help move those words into their long term memory. Children learn through using their senses. In such a simple activity as "Beading Your Words", students are visually constructing their words through manipulation of objects, and sounding the words out. They are more likely to retain the spelling pattern because they are using multiple areas of the brain.

Fine Motor Skills:

The best way to improve fine motor skills is through practice and more practice! Activities such as buttoning, tying your shoes, cutting and BEADING help strengthen young learners' fine motor skills.

I encourage you, visit that local Dollar Store, think outside the box and dream up new and engaging ways for your students to learn their spelling patterns in a hands on way to increase retention. They will love you for it!

I would love to hear how you engage your students. Please share the tricks you have to reinforce spelling patterns in your classroom below in the comments!


  1. Love this idea! It's also fine motor skills too! I have used all kinds of ways as well to engage them in learning those word study words! And the best part is it's not expensive to provide!

  2. Great idea! I may use this in my summer program! Thanks!

  3. This is a great idea and the benefits to your firsties are really amazing. Recognizing spelling patterns, being engaged and using different parts of the brain and working on fine motor skills is essential for these firsties developmentally. What a great find at the dollar tree, one of my favorite stores to find awesome things for my classroom. Thanks for sharing! I think I'll try this at home with my son this summer. My wheels are turning!!!