I had no idea what to do.
I just TRIED.
The easiest thing to start with was Word Work.
Yes, yes, I also used books with my groups, but I didn’t feel confident enough yet to make the READING the concentration of my guided reading time. I knew that if I could strengthen my students’ ability to read words and word chunks, sound out words, see connections between words they know and those they don’t…. I knew that would help them as readers. That much, I knew.
I have a drawer of magnet letters, Upwords tiles (a garage sale find), whiteboards, and my supply of word cards (from my Chunky Monkey Phonics series), and that’s enough for me. Simplicity is the key for me. I need to keep things simple or I get overwhelmed with the planning and searching for supplies and I end up not enjoying the whole process.
I want to share with you some of the word work activities I do in my classroom. Take what you can, try some of these ideas in your own classroom, or don’t. Hopefully you will come away with at least one new strategy to try with your students.
I am in no way an expert, obviously. This is just a compilation of ideas I have found elsewhere. Very few of these ideas are original. Some activities are designed for early emerging readers, and others are more advanced for my emerging or developing readers. I don’t discriminate, though. They usually get to try them all out at some point through the year.
Sometimes each group does a different activity with the same word chunk we are learning that week. We like to mix it up.
Keeping to these 16 activities and simple materials means I can provide variety and differentiation for my students without making myself crazy.
Why it works: Students practice reading words with word chunks they are learning. Matching words to pictures gives them support and builds their confidence.
Why it works: Students have to really sound out the words and hear the vowel sound or sound chunk in order to be able to place the picture correctly. This helps strengthen their auditory discrimination.
Why it works: Students practice visual discrimination– really checking all the way through the word to sort the cards correctly.
Why it works: Students practice visual and auditory discrimination simultaneously to sort the cards correctly.
Sound box cards have specific words or spelling patterns students are working on. Start with the cards that only add the targeted sound and then progress to the cards with all blanks. Use magnet letters or dry erase markers to fill in the missing sounds.
Why it works: Students focus on the target sound and/or combining the target sound with other letters to create whole words.
Practice getting started with blends, etc. Use index cards and write the words, then fold them in half after the onset.
Why it works: Students practice getting their mouths ready-focusing on the onset before blending it with the end of the word. This is especially helpful for students who struggle with getting started with unknown words.
I Can Top That!
Build and change words using Upwords tiles.
Why it works: Students practice changing letters to create new words- they focus on word similarities and differences.
Sound Box Practice
Write/spell words using blank sound boxes on whiteboards or paper.
Why it works: Students work on identifying common elements in words, especially targeted phonics chunks. They also get to practice adding word endings and exchanging letters to make new words.
Why it works: Students practice adding prefixes and suffixes, identifying rhyming words, etc.
Why it works: Students work on isolating beginning letters (and second or third letters, if necessary) and putting words in alphabetical order. This helps them develop reasoning and logic skills.
Give two words from a word bank. See how many steps or transitions it takes to get from one word to the other (adding or subtracting one letter is one step). Students can work together at first, eventually working toward indepedently creating a “word ladder”.
Okay, okay. I know you may be thinking, “How does she keep track of all of these activities?”
for your convenience in my freebie,
I’ve learned how to tackle the other aspects of reading, too, which I will address in future posts. But word work was first. It was my baby. It was my beginning. It was the first stage of my own growth as a teacher of reading. And so it has a special place in my heart.
I kind of hope I never get so used to the process that I fail to be amazed when that happens. Those are the highs for me. The moments that make all of this effort worth it.