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    Word Study
    By Anna R.

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    Word Study is the examination of words through sound, pattern or meaning, depending which level of understanding a student is at. Basically, researchers have identified different levels of understanding of words and then formulated levels of instruction for students based on that knowledge.

    Just like teachers understand that there are different levels of reading, soon, everyone will understand that there are different levels of spelling. And that would make sense, wouldn't it? Isn't reading and spelling naturally linked? The level of your understanding how to decode a word would be linked to how you spell a word, right?

    Identifying a student's spelling level through looking at their errors, will give you a window into their mind. Looking at a student's results of a word study assessment I find to be very exciting, as it can tell me how a student approaches words. If I know how they are thinking about words, I can create lessons that are designed to carry them to the next level.

    The first level is letter name. In letter name, students learn letters correspond to sounds. The instruction is focused on students listening for and feeling the sounds of letters in their mouth. Instruction centers around consonants, short vowels, blends, and digraphs.

    The second level is within word. In this level, students focus on learning long vowel patterns and other patterns found in single syllable words.

    The third level is syllable affixes. In this level, students learn how words change when endings are added. They also learn spelling patterns found within syllables. When students are able to identify syllable breaks and patterns, they can use them to quickly read and spell. I have found this level to be particularly useful in helping students become more fluent readers and advance into the intermediate reading phase.

    The fourth level is derivational relations. This is when the students are able to understand relationships between a word's meaning and the spelling of that word, as well as words that are similar to it. A quick example would be the word "pleasure." Although it sounds like a short e is in the middle of the word, a student in derivational relations would be able to see that it is related to the word "please" and use that knowledge as a clue to spell the word.

    This is a very "down and dirty" explanation. I use two main resources, Words Their Way by Bear, Templeton, et al., and Word Journeys by Kathy Ganske. I also use the small word sort books that are linked to Words their way. Each level has it's own word sorting book.

    Management can be intimidating to teachers who are used to teaching whole group, but once you get past that, you will never go back. It is so nice really knowing how each students processes words.

    I have also started a Facebook group (I am currently the only member) called "Teachers using Word Study" if anyone is interested in discussing Word Study further. :)

    If anyone is reading this from Reno, I miss you guys!

    View the original thread this idea was posted on

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