Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Words Their Way - Getting Started

It's the beginning of the year which means craziness in the Potter classroom with beginning of the year assessments, getting everything and everyone organized, and our county decided to also throw in an overnight field trip in the second week of school! (seriously, the second week??)

However, in all of this craziness I made myself get my Words Their Way pretest given so that I can get my word study up and running as soon as possible.

For those that don't know what Words Their Way is, it is a word study program that allows you to differentiate the words that your students study based off of a pre-assessment.

Image result for words their way

The above picture is the overview of the word study program. You can also find out more information at Pearson Website.

I have used this program for the past four years and honestly every year I learn something new or try something new. I say this so that if you have tried it and failed, or if you are interested in trying it, just know that it can be confusing or overwhelming at first, but stick with it and figure out how to adapt it for your classroom and your teaching style.

To get this program up and running in your classroom, you will need to give your students the pre-assessment. There are three levels of this depending on what grade level you teach. There is a primary version, an elementary version, and an upper elementary version. Even though I teach fifth grade, I typically start off with the elementary version, partly because our school has a high number of ELL learners and quite often they struggle with spelling, so the upper elementary version may be too hard and not give me accurate data.

After students are given the pre-assessment, then the teacher will score the assessment using something called the Feature Guide. The feature guide breaks down each of the words into different parts. When using the feature guide, we aren't focusing on whether the word is correct or not, but rather if they got a specific part of the word correct. Sometimes words will be used for beginning and ending consonants, vowel patterns within the word, word endings, suffixes, etc. The feature guide is broken up into 11 different sections for the elementary list. After determining what word parts the student got correct, you will total up the amount of word parts correct in each of the 11 sections. The place where the student first misses TWO word parts is the place where they should begin their word study.

After you have completed a feature guide for each student, it's now time to form your groups! When I first started out, I had a group for each section that a student fell under. However, I went to a conference and actually got to attend a session with Donald Bear and he said to stop making ourselves crazy with all of these groups. He recommended no more than THREE groups in a single class. This means that there are often kids who are not starting where they should. So his next suggestion, it is always better for a student to take a step or two backwards in order to fit into a group, rather than have a bunch of groups.

As you can see in the picture above, I do have a few outliers and I just had to use my best judgment to put them in the group that I felt they would most benefit.

Over the next few weeks I will create posts to show how I use Words Their Way in my classroom and share the resources that I have found or created.

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