Monday, July 16, 2012

Word Study Wowza!

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!

Where Do I Start?

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.

Test Procedure:

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 5 random people to give the unit away to for FREE!


  1. I like how you do your spelling assessments with 3 different lists:)

  2. Your post was awesome! Last year I had a wonderful partner who helped me with spelling lists, but this year I am teaching third grade for the FIRST time and I am a little terrified :) I'd love to win your unit! I love how you are able to administer the tests at the same time. Last year I spent a lot of time calling students up by group and giving spelling tests :)

  3. I am struggling with how to structure spelling this year. The first two years I used the Open Court. Last year,I tried Spelling Connections. It was differentiated, but not rigorous. I have heard about Words Their Way and have been blog stalking to find something that would work. Great ideas. FYI would so love to win the third grade word study unit.

    1. Sorry forgot my email:

  4. I really love how you are using different lists and really tayloring the word lists to meet individual student needs.

    email -

  5. I love the different spelling lists! It's such a smart idea but doesn't always get done in the classroom!


  6. I'm implementing a ton of new things this year and Beth Newingham's Word Study program (along with my county's Words Their Way) is number 3 on my list. BUT I was feeling completely overwhelmed by the process of organizing and implementing it. Your post is FANTASTIC!!!! SO helpful!!! AND you created EVERYTHING I will need...WOW!!!! I would love to be the lucky winner of this!!!!

  7. Very clever! I love that you are challenging all your students to stretch their abilities.

    Thanks for sharing!

  8. I love this idea! This will be my first year in third grade and I have many gifted students who simply ace standard spelling tests. I love the idea that they will be challenged and will be able to motivate others with partnering!

  9. Great ideas on differentiating spelling/word study list. I'd love to try this in my classroom this coming school year. The step-by-step explanation of how to implement this program is very helpful. Sign me up for the free drawing please! :-)

    Thank you!

  10. Thanks for the detailed explanation- helped me picture how you implement this in your classroom


  11. I started using this last year. I love hearing the way that you incorporate it into your class.

  12. I just found your blog and love it! I'm your newest follower. This is exactly how I did spelling last year! It was manageable and very powerful for the students! I started with two lists, but their different needs required me to create three lists.

    My school implements RTI and we are going to incorporate spelling into our groups! We are still going to pretest but we anticipate each class will only use 2 of the lists. (I doubt my group--the high--will need the easiest spelling list.)

    I recently just blogged about my word study and have a homework cover sheet freebie.

    Grade Three is the Place for Me

  13. wow! This looks great- I've been looking into doing individual spelling lists this year!

  14. Your word study post is so helpful! I started Daily 5 last year and I wanted to improve my word work block. Thanks for the great post!

    Look Who's Teaching

  15. WOW... this is AMAZING:) This will be my second year in 3rd grade (first full year because I was out on maternity last year) and I am looking to improve as much as I can this year. This looks like something I can incorporate and use along with the DAILY 5 I am planning on starting:) I have been following you this summer and can't wait to see the other incredible things you have coming:)

  16. This is great! Definitely makes me think about how spelling is done in my grade level. I'd love to win so that I can make this subject more meaningful for my kids!

    Third Grade in the First State

  17. I'm a home schooler and have been looking for a great way to structure my daughters spelling lessons. I love the look of your programme.

  18. This is wonderful! What a great way to differentiate.


  19. I love how WELL you explained your process! Looks great!
    ❤ Sandra
    Sweet Times in First

  20. My district is using Words Their Way in the fall. I like how detailed you were explaining the process. I can see this working in my room.


  21. I've read about Beth Newingham's program and have wanted to implement similiar program in my room. I love that you've created the word lists and incorporate "new" words for the test.


  22. Finding a good spelling program can be very tricky, as we do want our students to be able to spell their words more than just the week of a test and then be able to aply them through the year and beyond. I do like the way you have used different lists and given them tests in multiple ways.

    Shar W.

  23. Love the diferrentiation - I'll be doing 2/3 next year and this really helps.

  24. I saw Beth Newingham's site and really liked the idea. I was able to understand the mini notebook better after reading yours! Thanks for all your hard work! I can't wait to try this our with my second grade students next yeae!
    Melissa H.

  25. THANKS! I love your ideas. I have been doing Words Their Way with my gifted students, but I was looking for something better. Your step by step explanation gives me confidence to start this new spelling program for next year. Please enter me into your drawing. Thanks for such a great post!

    Teresa Eldredge

  26. I love the idea of moving away from students simply memorizing words for spelling. I think it is more meaningful when students are actually aware of the meanings of words. In doing so, they take ownership of the words. I can't wait to try this with my Grade Threes!
    Great ideas!
    Ruby St. Juste


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