Thursday, July 11, 2013

Year Long Word Study: Throw Back Thursday

Hello darlings!  I am linking up with First Grade Parade for Throwback Thursday!  You are suppose to repost a blog post from back in the day. I decided to reshare my Word Study Program info since it is one of my most popular units.


Original Post: Monday July 16, 2012

If you are crazy dedicated like me, you are already getting ready for the new school year! One thing I just finished was revising my Word Study (Spelling) words from last year.  My third grade team and I tried out a new "program" last year that we really loved!  It requires some work in the beginning, just like everything else we do, but it is totally worth it!  Hang in there for a LONG post!  Don't worry, if you make it to the end, there is something in it for you!


At the beginning of the year, you will be establishing routines and assessing your students.  For the first 2-3 weeks you will assess your students’ knowledge of high frequency words.  I get my HFW lists from Beth Newingham at the Scholastic website. You can of course use any set of lists that you want.  Now this may sound complicated, but bear with me. There are a few different ways you can assess your students.  First of all, copy all the HFW lists and put them into a binder or folder for each student.  We keep ours in our P.I.R.A.T.E. Binder.

1.     Whole Group: (this is what I do, as it takes a lot less time) 
Based on students’ DRA scores when they come in my classroom or other records I have, I start kiddos out on a list that I think will be challenging for them.  For example, Tommy gets list A, Sally gets list B, and George gets list C.  I do this for all kiddos.  I then tell them their list number.  I give the spelling assessment as a whole class.  I will say, “1A: neighborhood, 1B: picture, 1C: wear.”  Students are told to listen for their list only and to write down their words only.  You may be saying, “She is nuts!”, but believe me, it works and the kids love it because they really have to listen.  After I give about 20 words a day, we grade the words together as a class or I take them home and grade them.  Any words kiddos got correct, they will highlight on their High Frequency Word List.  Words that are wrong, are left blank.  These will be the words the kiddos have to study for their test.  They study five a week, in order of their HFW list.

Small Groups: While kiddos are reading or working on something else, call small groups of students that are on the same level over to a table and give the words like you would a regular spelling test. After I give about 20 words a day, we grade the words together as a class or I take them home and grade them.  Any words kiddos got correct; they will highlight them on their High Frequency Word List.  Words that are wrong are left blank.  These will be the words the kiddos have to study for their test.  They study five a week, in order of their HFW list.  Repeat for the other groups.

1    Parent Volunteer:  If you are lucky enough to have a parent volunteer, you could give her a small group of kiddos with the same list, or one kiddo at a time.

I DO NOT do all HFW lists at the beginning of the school year or else we would never get started on our real lists.  When I notice kiddos are running out of words, I will give a little informal test during a conference or I will assign them words based on the words they miss in their writing.

Once kiddos have a sufficient amount of words, you will teach them the procedure for the spelling tests.


Monday: Every Monday, you will give a pretest using the pretest words for that unit. These words can be found on the Teacher word lists.  Students will never see these beforehand.  All kiddos will simply write the words on a sheet of notebook paper.  We grade these together in class.  I am watchful for the couple of kiddos that have difficulty being honest. J  If students miss one or none, they will Study List A for the week.  This is the challenge list.  If they miss two or more, they get List B.  You would be surprised how many kiddos try really hard to get List A.  The best thing is, they will fluctuate between List A and B all year. 

 After this or sometimes during morning work, kiddos are given their test back from the previous week.  Any words they missed, on HFW list, automatically become part of this week’s High Frequency List.  They will write this on their Word Study Unit List where is says High Frequency Words.  If they need new HFW, they will choose them from the lists that they did at the beginning of the year.  Make sure all words that are spelled correctly are highlighted now. They love this part!

We also have a mini notebook where we write our five HFW for the week.  This notebook is used during the test on Fridays.  I will explain why a little later.

Still with me?

Tuesday-Thursday: Word Study Activities
These are the days that we complete all kinds of word study work individually, with partners, and in groups.  Students have a Word Study notebook where they keep any work or games.

Friday: Test day
Hand out a Spelling Test to every child.  Have them write List A or B at the top.  Now you will say the words for each list.

Test Words: For example…

“1A: happy   He was happy when he saw his puppy.  Happy
1B: saw   I saw my dog in the yard.  Saw”


“2A: serious  The expression on her face was very serious.  Serious
2B: look    Please look at me.   Look”


I say the words back to back with not much of a break between list A and B.  The kiddos may struggle at the beginning, but that is why you model, model, model and practice, practice, practice!  This will save you a lot of heartache and a sub will be able to come in and do this with no problem!

Applied List:  These are the five words that have the word family or pattern that students do NOT get a head of time or get to study.  Choose five words from the Teacher List of the Applied Words.  Everyone gets the same five.  When you grade these, only grade the pattern for the week, not the entire word!

High Frequency List:  Your job is over.  Now you are going to monitor your students.  Assign each student with a Spelling Partner.  This is where the mini notebook comes in.  At the beginning of the week, students wrote their high frequency words on a page in the notebook.  Now they will switch their notebooks with a partner and the partner will give them their five words.  Students will write the word CORRECTLY in a sentence. (so they have to know the meaning).  The bottom of the page was made so it can FOLD over.  This way, kiddos can only see the High Frequency Part and NOT the rest of the test.

Here is what it would sound like with Jack and Jill.

Jack: Your first word is “happy.”
Jill: Your first word is “octopus.”
NOW they stop and each write their word in a sentence.  This saves A TON of time instead of Jack waiting for Jill and doing all her words and then they trade.  NO GOOD!  It wastes so much time.  Again, you have to model and practice, but once you do, you will be so proud of how quickly they can do this!

Jack: Number 2 “jump.”
Jill: Number 2 “entertainment.”

They would continue with all five words and then turn the paper in.

Now you simply grade the tests and give them back on Monday.

If you made it this far, I think you will LOVE this program!  I know I do!  It makes my students much more self-sufficient and it really assesses how they apply word patterns and differentiates for each child.



Spelling in my classroom is based off of Fountas and Pinnell, Words Their Way, and Beth Newingham at Scholastic.  To get an even more detailed explanation and a video, go to Please know that I did not come up with this program, only the word lists and tests.  I tweaked things to fit my classroom.

So... do you want the words and test?   Check it out at my TPT store.  


Want to get this whole HUGE, year long unit for free?   Just leave your email and a comment about something you liked about this post.  I will be choosing 1 random person to give the unit away to for FREE! (**July 11, 2013)



  1. AWESOME!! I teach third grade in Wisconsin and try every year to "beef" up my Spelling. Most parents are so happy with 100%on the day of the test. I WANT TO SEE THE WORD SPELLED correctly the rest of their lives! And that rarely happens with rote drill and practice. Thanks for the chance =)

  2. Wow- this would be so good- Spelling is not so easy for my students. I love how the students take control of their learning and begcome more independent! What a great unit...thanks.

  3. I LOVE your posts! Thanks for the details on how you structure your spelling work with the students. I begin student teaching in August and I'm learning so much, and getting some great ideas! This is such a great unit! :) jdagenhardt @ gmail . com

  4. I really love that you are able to do this with your students. I work with special ed. and wish I could call off a number and a word but because some have issues with listening and processing the information, I could just see them writing down every word called off. I do love the information about using HFW, since those are the words my students need to learn the most! Thank you for always providing useful information!

  5. I attempted to do this last year after reading Newinghams's post. However, because I did not have all my lists ready, and I had to be out for a while last year, it did not go all year.

    I too am 3rd grade. I also have the Fountas & Pinnell word study books. The fact that you have all the lists ready is just AWESOME!!!

    Dare to!be Different - Teach!

  6. I did a similar style last year after reading your blog. It worked pretty well, but I always struggled to find the right words for my high achievers. I would LOVE to use the lists that you have already created. Thanks for the chance to win:)


  7. Thanks so much for the opportunity. I love the organization and all of the ideas. I also use a combination of the F and P. Thanks so much for sharing.

  8. I teach multiple grades and I think this could be helpful.

  9. I was really interested in your spelling approach. I've been debating about what I needed to do this coming year as I feel my third grade students learn the words for their weekly test, but then see them misspelling them in their everyday writing afterwards. It's frustrating and I wasn't sure how to revamp my spelling program to best benefit my students' learning. I am a huge fan of Fountas & Pinell, as well as Beth Newingham, and feel this word study approach would really help my students to internalize their words. Thank you for sharing this helpful information. I've put your product on my TpT wishlist if I'm not lucky enough to win ;-)

  10. I am really interested in your unit. I tried one year to do something like this with little support and it became overwhelming. I love how you gave the examples of Friday's spelling test. I needed that example. Sounds pretty simple. I usually have such a range of readers and spellers this would be great!

  11. I love the way you have the students test each other at the end- what a creative way to get around the potential waste of time of waiting for your partner to finish! And I really love all of the ideas in the unit. I'm switching to third grade for the first time next year and I could use all the help I can get!

  12. This is great! I use the same criteria for staying on List 1 or List 2. The only difference is that we use the lists from the basal reader. I love the insertion of the HFW and the partner spelling. I am going to try this for sure. Would love to win the whole package.

  13. I liked how you gave us a daily plan! Having the students write at the same time is a great idea too!

  14. Wow, this sounds amazing! I have been doing the HFW part for the last couple of years but never thought of the students giving the words to each other. What a great idea. I would love to use your list of words in place of or addition to the basal reader words we are using now. Beginning this year, I will be teaching a 3/4 combination class and this would be really helpful.

    Thanks for the chance and the great ideas!


  15. Thank you SO MUCH for going through the management piece of all students working on different high frequency words...this has been a huge stress for me. It's always been so overwhelming, but fortunately, not I think I can manage it this year! =) Our district uses Fundations Spelling, but I can completely incorporate this for high frequency work on top of it. Thanks a ton!

  16. Wow! This looks amazing! So detailed and well-thought out. I have struggled with how to differentiate spelling in my classroom and think this would be so helpful!


  17. Wow, You are so incredibly organized and on it! I recently took a class on word study last year and have really been wanting to implement differentiated spelling lists and using the word study approach. This though is something that I just don't know enough about and would definitely be much better off with this as a guide!!.
    Teaching in Paradise

  18. The best part of this unit is that it is differentiated. I can see the third graders "enjoying" the challenge of having to listen for their list of words. I have been searching blogs looking for a year-long spelling unit that is not just a "pattern of the week," and here it is!


  19. I actually used Beth's spelling program mixed with Words their Way the past two years also. I found it didn't work as well with last year's group who struggled with independence. I'm interested in the way you've mixed all of the spelling programs together.

  20. Thank you so much for sharing this!!! I was not a fan of Words Their Way this year,. It was very confusing and more of a hassle. I did not see the progress that so many others saw. But then again, my county/school didn't really train anyone and it was all kind of passed around by word of mouth on what to do. It being my first year here, my teammates told me what they were taught last year. In other words, it was the blind leading the blind. My kids were struggling with those HFW and I wasn't seeing any progress. I hope that what you blogged here and the link to the Scholastic article will help my teammates and I create a new spelling program for the 4th grade! Thank you

  21. I have just purchased your unit and absolutely LOVE the look if it and am so excited to start implementing it!
    Do you have one for Year One ( my teacher friends are envious) and if not would you consider putting one together based on a Year One level?
    Congrats on a top job - I can tell I'll be visiting you often :)

  22. I have just purchased your unit and absolutely LOVE the look if it and am so excited to start implementing it!
    Do you have one for Year One ( my teacher friends are envious) and if not would you consider putting one together based on a Year One level?
    Congrats on a top job - I can tell I'll be visiting you often :)

  23. I'm so glad I stumbled on your blog. I've already purchased so much from your TPT store and can't wait to implement the Word Study program next year. You said your students keep their words in their P.I.R.A.T.E folder and I noticed the pages were pirate themed. I'm just wondering what the acronym PIRATE stands for? Thanks so much!


We LOVE comments!

5-Star Blogger