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My November Top Ten List: Word Study in Action

By Beth Newingham on October 28, 2010
  • Grades: 3–5

I’ve had many teachers ask about the word study program in my classroom, but have been hesitant to share until now because it is still a work in progress. My teaching partner and I evaluated many different spelling programs and resources looking for the "perfect" model, but nothing provided us with a totally comprehensive word study curriculum. And so we decided to create our own word study program that would incorporate word recognition, vocabulary, and phonics, as well as spelling.

READ ON to find out how students are introduced to new spelling patterns each week, take part in literacy activities in which they gain more exposure to the patterns, and practice making and sorting words. You will find word study games and activities to download, resources and templates for creating your own word lists, and a video that provides a detailed look at our word study program in action. (Hint, the video appears as a tiny player so just click on the "expand screen" icon at the bottom of the screen, second from last icon.)

Parents were very used to the weekly spelling tests that our school favored, but research shows students often memorize words for a test and then promptly forget them. Assigned spelling lists often require students to study isolated words rather than the phonics, the sounds that letters make within the words.Therefore, we tried to create a program that does not completely abandon weekly lists, but emphasizes opportunities for students to investigate and understand the patterns in words and build word knowledge that can be applied to both reading and spelling. In this post, I share the two-year process we went through to create our program and give you an overview of what word study looks like in our classroom. (While I teach 3rd grade, this post is not specific to a particular grade level.)


 Word Study in Action

 The video above will give you an overview of what word study looks like in our classroom, but the top ten list that follows offers a more detailed look at each component of the program and includes sample word lists, game templates, and center activities.


1.  Using Inventories to Determine Students’ Stage of Spelling Development

We find it important to assess our students before jumping into our word study at the beginning of the school year. In our classroom, we give two different types of spelling inventories to gain information about each student’s developmental spelling stage and also to determine where we will start with whole-class instruction.

Words Their Way Elementary Inventory: We administer the Words Their Way Spelling Inventory during the first week of school. I like this inventory because it provides the teacher with specific information about each student’s knowledge and application of specific orthographic features. For example, in the inventory below, I can tell the student has mastered short vowels and consonant blends, but needs more work on "within word patterns," etc. This student falls in the "within word pattern" developmental stage of spelling. We use the information from this assessment to plan strategy groups and also to determine where to begin with our whole class instruction/yearlong spelling program. (If we find that most students have already mastered initial consonant blends, we will skip that unit and address it in strategy groups with the few students who need more practice.)


High Frequency Word Inventories: While the Words Their Way assessment is great for obtaining knowledge about students’ ability to apply common spelling patterns, it does not provide information about their ability to spell words outside of common spelling patterns and words that they will likely use in their everyday writing. During the first two weeks of school, we divide students into two to three groups according to their estimated spelling stage (based on the Words Their Way Inventory and on recommendations from their teachers from the previous year) and administer high frequency word inventories using the list 1200 high utility words. (The words are listed in the order of their frequency of use in everyday writing.) Some of our 3rd graders are given the first 100, and others start at 200 or even 300.  

When we correct their tests, we highlight only the words that they were able to spell correctly on a recording sheet in their word study folder. Students will use this list throughout the school year to create weekly individualized high frequency word lists containing the words they spelled incorrectly on the assessment. We try to give students at least 200 words during the first two weeks of school (broken up into short testing sessions) so that they have enough misspelled words for their weekly lists. (Many students will need additional testing later in the year when they run out of misspelled high frequency words.)

Inventory Highlighting
Download high frequency word lists in sets of 100:

1–100   101–200   201–300   301–400   401–500   501–600   601–700


2. Creating a Yearlong Plan

F and P Word Study Lessons We used a variety of resources to determine the spelling patterns that a typical student should master in 3rd grade.  Fountas and Pinnell provide a plan in their book Word Study Lessons: Grade 3 that contains a word study continuum with a suggested order for teaching common spelling patterns. My teaching partner and I looked at this and then determined a specific plan for our 3rd grade class. Download 3rd Grade Word Study Overview

After a few weeks of administering inventories and learning about your students’ spelling stages, you may find that your students still need more practice with spelling patterns. Typically, some of our students are still in the late letter-name alphabetic stage, and others are already in the syllables and affixes stage. The majority, however, seem to start the year somewhere in the within word pattern stage. (Read more about the stages of spelling development.) Since it seemed overwhelming to start students at different units within our yearlong plan, we chose to differentiate our program by having a regular list and a challenge list for each unit. That way we can challenge the students who need more difficult words, but still focus on a common spelling pattern for our whole-class instruction.


3. Making Word Lists

There are many different opinions when it comes to weekly spelling tests. We know that students do not master spelling patterns or become good spellers by memorizing words each week, but many parents like having weekly lists to study at home because they want to feel that they play a role in helping their children become better spellers. We tried to strike a balance when creating our program. We do give students a weekly list of ten words that follow the pattern we are studying. They can use the list to compare and contrast spelling patterns, and we can use it in vocabulary activities. However, our word study activities in class do not require students to simply focus on these assigned words, but contain a wide variety of words that follow the pattern we are studying for the week. Also, the final test includes ten additional words that students are not assigned. This helps us assess how well students can apply the spelling pattern to new words. 

Once we determined our yearlong plan, my teaching partner and I began creating word lists for each week. This was a time-consuming task because we needed to come up with 40 words for each week. 

Below is a description of how we create a word list for a single unit.

Week 4- long aTen Pretest Words: We first choose ten words that follow the pattern we will be introducing for the week. Students who are able to spell at least nine out of ten words correctly on the practice test receive the assigned challenge words for the week and the others receive the regular list.

Twenty Assigned Pattern Words: All students are given ten words to study for the week that follows the weekly patterns. However, we create both a challenge list and a regular list. The regular list contains ten words that follow the patterns in a basic way. The challenge list contains words that follow the patterns, but are more complex. For example, when studying long a words, the regular list might have the word brake, and the challenge list might have the word hesitate. Both words have the "magic e" pattern, but they fall into different stages of spelling development.

Ten New Pattern Words: We also choose ten pattern words that the students are not given ahead of time to study. These words are unknown to the students until the day of the test, but they have been exposed to them during the lesson and during word study center activities. This part of the test shows whether or not students are truly able to apply the weekly spelling pattern to new words that they were not just able to memorize. We tend to choose words similar in difficulty to the regular pattern word list.

Additional Words for Center Activities: We use all of the words from the 40 described above when creating games and other word study center activities, but we also include many other words that follow the weekly pattern that may not be on the list. The goal is not for students to just learn how to spell specific words, but to expose them to as many words as possible that follow the patterns. In doing so, students can compare and contrast the words and begin to internalize the way certain letters work together to make specific sounds in words that share a common pattern.

Where Do We Get the Words?  We use a variety of resources to help us create our word lists including Words Their Way, the Words Their Way: Word Sorts series (with different books for each stage of spelling), Fountas & Pinnell's Word Study Lessons, and the First School Years Web site, which provides words lists for a variety of common patterns.

PhonicsWordLessonCoversPhonicsWordLessonCovers Words Their Way   Within Word Sort   Letter Name Sort   Syllables and Affixes word sorts   First School Years Website

As this is a work in progress, I am just sharing the process we used to create the lists, not the actual lists themselves. Also,  I believe that creating your own lists is the best way to most thoroughly “own” your word study program and create activities that are specific to the patterns you are teaching.


4. Word Study Folder

It is important for students to have a place to organize all of their word study materials. We use a duo-tang folder to hold the following resources:

Word Study Notebook:  Students keep a small notebook in the front pocket of their folder. They use this notebook to write the five high frequency words they will be studying each week.

High Frequency Word Lists: In the middle of the folder, students have their highlighted high frequency word lists.  When their corrected tests are returned to them, they highlight the high frequency words that they spelled correctly.  When they make their new list for the week, they choose the next five words that are not highlighted. (Remember, words that are not highlighted are words that they spelled incorrectly on the high frequency word inventory at the beginning of the year.)



Words to Learn List:  Students rewrite any pattern word that is spelled incorrectly on their test on this page.  This ensures that misspelled words are not ignored.  Every so often, students will have a week in which their entire spelling list is made up of these misspelled pattern words from their “Words to Learn” list.


Word Study Center Recording Sheets: Students keep all of their word study center recording sheets in the back pocket of their folder.  Every couple of weeks, students staple these sheets together and turn them in to be corrected.



5. Week at a Glance

Once your yearlong plan is in place, your weekly lists are created, and you have completed your individual inventories, it’s time to implement your word study program.  We usually do not begin our first unit until the third week of school.  Each week follows the same routine as described below.

Monday: Every Monday a new spelling pattern is introduced during a 30 minute lesson. Before the pattern is introduced, students take a pretest to assess their ability to apply the pattern to ten teacher-selected words. All students are then given ten pattern words to study at home. Students who score a 90% or better on the pretest are given more challenging words (that follow the same pattern) for their study list. On Monday they get a word study homework packet that explains the new spelling pattern to parents and describes the related word work activities. Students have all week to work on the packet at home and are asked to return it to school on the following Friday, the day of the weekly test.


Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday: In school, students rotate though a variety of word study centers, spending 25–30 minutes in each one. The centers help them practice both the pattern-based spelling words and their assigned high frequency words.

Tic Tac Toe Picture sort

Friday: This is the day of the weekly spelling test and when the weekly word study homework packet is to be returned.  The tests are corrected and returned to students so that they can record any misspelled words on their "Words to Learn" list and highlight any high frequency words that they spelled correctly. (Read more about this in #8: "The Weekly Test.")

Final Test


6. Introducing New Patterns

P1130283 A 30 minute lesson introduces students to a new pattern at the beginning of every week. This lesson is similar in format to a Reading Workshop mini-lesson. I first introduce the pattern and give examples of words that follow the pattern. Students then take part in a guided exploration that is similar to the "active engagement" component of a Reading Workshop mini-lesson. P1130281During this time, words are often sorted by pattern, and the different patterns are compared and contrasted. I often use my SMART Board to teach the lesson since it allows me to easily manipulate words while studying word parts and using word parts to make new words. All students bring a dry-erase lapboard and marker to the carpet so that they can be directly involved in making words and sorting words by pattern during the lesson. Download a sample long e lesson I created on the SMART Board this year.


7. Word Study Centers

Three days a week (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday), students go to word study centers in groups of four to six.  Our word study center rotation chart shows students which center they will visit each day, and features a picture of the location in the classroom where the activity or game will be played. The corresponding materials for the games are kept in a large pocket chart next to the rotation chart. The labels on the pocket chart match the labels for the games/activities on the rotation chart so that students can easily find the materials they need each day.

P1130408 P1130322


Candyland amanda We have personally created almost all of the games and activities that are directly related to the patterns for each week. Each game or activity also has a recording sheet so that students are writing words that follow the different patterns as often as possible. It takes some time, but creating your own activities allows you to have them match the exact patterns you are teaching and to differentiate them to accommodate students who may need to be challenged. We have also purchased games, templates, and word sorts from professional books. Following are some resources, including sample game boards, that can be used and altered to match the patterns you're practicing with your students. 

Long Vowel Word Race: We use this game for all of the long vowel units.  We just change the words on the game board each week to correspond to the different vowel patterns for long a, e, i, o and u. This game is great because it is a creative way to sort words that share a common long vowel pattern. It gives students exposure to many words and helps them begin to recognize general "rules" for applying certain patterns to words. (For example, students learn that ay tends to be used most often when the long a sound is at the end of a word.)

Racetrack gameboard Word Race

     Download Long a Race Track Game Board     Download Long a Race Track Word Cards     Download Recording Sheet and Directions  

Long Vowel Dominoes: This game helps students compare and contrast the different patterns that can be used to make the long vowel sounds.  The recording sheet requires students to record the word matches they make so that they are matching up words that share a common pattern.  To create, I simply purchased dominoes and attached address labels to them. (You may need to trim the labels to fit the dominoes.)

Long vowel domino chain Domino group

Download long vowel domino labels, game directions, and recording sheets (WinZip file).


Treasure blank "Trash or Treasure?" (Long Vowel Word Sort): This activity can be used to sort words for a variety of patterns, but we choose to use it for our long vowel units. It is basically a picture sort. Inside a mini treasure chest is a collection of pictures that all have common long vowel sounds. In the photo of the activity shown here, all of the pictures are long a words that fall into one of the long a patterns: a_e, ai, ay, eigh.  The words are actually written on the back of the pictures, but students are asked to look at the word AFTER they make a spelling prediction for the object shown on the picture. The word is then added to the correct column on the recording sheet. The game is called "Trash or Treasure?" because students will also find five words that are not long a words that must be recorded in the "trash" column.

Download long a "Trash or Treasure" recording sheet and long a word sort pictures.

Prefix Gameboard Spin-a-Word (Prefix Word Building Game)This game is created by attaching both of the game board files (see links below) to create a 2x2 game board. In this game, students build new words using prefixes and root words. The recording sheet also emphasizes vocabulary development as students must use the words they make in a sentence to show that they understand how a prefix changes the meaning of a word. You will need to create a prefix spinner with the prefixes mis-, pre-, re-, un-, dis-, and de- to play the game. This game can be altered and used for suffixes as well. (You would just need to change the root words and create a suffix spinner.)  

Download spin-a-word game board top &  spin-a-word game board bottom (The Print Shop files).  Download Prefix Spin a Word Recording Sheet (MS Word).


SB WOrd WOrk SMART Board Games: There are already tons of online games and activities for so many common spelling patterns, especially on the SMART Exchange. However, you can also create your own!  I learned that any board game I have created using The Print Shop can be exported as a JPEG and then inserted into a SMART Board notebook. Below you can see how I took my spin-a-word prefix game and turned it into a SMART Board interactive game board. I just had to add an interactive spinner. I also converted a Candy Land center game (used for practicing initial consonant blends) to a SMART Board game.

SMART Board Game
 Download spin-a-word SMART Notebook file and Candy Land SMART Notebook file.

Resources for Word Study Center Games, Activities, & Word Sorts:

Words Their Way: This book includes game board templates and tons of word sort activities. It also comes with a CD that allows you to easily print word cards and to alter games to make them fit the skills you are teaching.

Words Their Way: Sort Books: This series features words sorts for every developmental stage of spelling. The sorts can be easily copied onto card stock, cut into separate word tiles, and laminated, so they can be reused.

Scholastic Teacher Store: Here you will find many teacher resource books that contain "ready to use" word study center activities and games.

ReallyGoodStuff: If you have money to spend and no time to make your own games, this Web site has some great phonics games!

Lakeshore LearningThis Web site has a variety of interactive games and materials that can be used for your word study centers.

Online Games: Megan Power, my fellow Top Teaching blogger, put together this list of awesome online activities that students can play on individual computers or on an interactive whiteboard during word study center time.

8. The Weekly Test

Monday, October 18, 2010 (6) Administering the Test: On Friday, students take the final test to assess their knowledge and application of the patterns they studied during the week.  Since they have different words, students either write a #1 on the top of their test, if they are receiving the regular words, or a #2 on their test for the challenge words.  The test is given in the following order:

Assigned Pattern Words: The teacher first gives the assigned pattern words, going back and forth between the regular list and the challenge list (e.g., "Group #1, your first word is snow. Group #2, your first word is burrow").

• New Pattern Words: Next, all students are given ten words that follow the weekly pattern that they were not able to study.  These ten words help us determine how effectively each student is able to apply the spelling pattern to new words.

Test• High Frequency Words: For the last section of the test, students give their word study notebook to their assigned spelling buddy. Their notebook should have a sticky note marking the page where the student wrote his or her five high frequency words for the week.  The buddy reads the words to his or her partner, and the students must use the words in a sentence. This ensures that they are not only able to spell the word, but they also know the meaning of the word and can use it in context. (This is important because there are so many homophones in the high frequency word lists.) Download final test template.


Post-Test Spelling Work: The corrected tests are on the students' desks when they arrive at school on Monday morning, and they complete the following tasks for their morning work:

• High Frequency Word Highlighting: Any of the high frequency words that are spelled correctly on their test are highlighted in the students’ word study folder.  If they misspell a high frequency word, they do not get to highlight the word (and it will be on their high frequency word list the following week).

  HF test

• Make New High Frequency Word List for Following Week: Students then take the next “unhighlighted” high frequency words from their individualized HF word list and create a new list of five words in their Word Study Notebook inside their folder.

HF to Notebook

• Record Misspelled Pattern Words: Students add any pattern words that they missed on the test to their “Words to Learn” list in their word study folder.  During short weeks, we have students create spelling lists made up entirely of words they have missed earlier in the year that are on this list. This ensures that misspelled words are not ignored.

Test Words to Learn

9. Word Study Homework

I am not a teacher who uses many worksheets or assigns busy work in my classroom. That is why the phrase "word study packet" initially made me cringe. However, I do feel that what we do in class needs to be reinforced at home. Parents often find spelling to be one thing with which they can confidently provide assistance, so this homework packet is a direct link between our teaching and parent involvement at home. The packet goes home on Monday and is returned to class on Friday, the day of the weekly test. Our word study packet contains three parts:

Cover Letter:  The cover letter explains the new patterns to the parents and often gives them specific examples of words that follow (and do not follow) the patterns. The cover letter also lists the ten assigned words they will study at home (regular or challenge list). Students also copy down the five high frequency words that they are studying for the week from their word study notebook so that they can also study them at home.

Unit 4 Parent Letter HF Notebook to Cover Letter
 Download sample parent letter

Pattern Work: The first section of the homework packet is not specific to the assigned words that the student is studying for the week. Instead, this section often features an exploratory word-building activity or a word sort using words that follow the patterns we are studying in class for the week. Download the long a homework sample you see below.

Long a Homework Long a Homework 1

Tic-Tac-Toe: This section allows students to practice their assigned pattern words and their individualized high frequency words. We create many activities that encourage students to focus on the meaning of words so that we also promote vocabulary development.  When creating our word study tic-tac-toe activity sheets, students are asked to do any three activities in a row. We try to have rows that include a wide variety of activities that require students to use multiple intelligences and to also use their assigned words in the context of writing.


Download sample tic-tac-toe homework.

10. Strategy Groups & Differentiation

While having a regular list and challenge list allow us to differentiate one small component of our word study program, it is important to make sure that we meet the needs of students on a daily basis.  When creating word study center activities, we often make two versions so that students who are assigned the challenge list for the week are challenged when playing the games and doing the word sort activities.

Strategy Lesson Strategy Groups: These small groups are also a way for us to meet the needs of those students who are falling through the cracks. No matter how thorough my lessons and how purposeful and engaging the games and activities, there will always be some students who need direct instruction and additional guided practice with the teacher. We work with these students both individually and in small groups during center time to ensure that they are able to apply what they are learning to their everyday spelling. Of course this word work is often directly related to reading, so Reading Workshop is another time when we may teach strategy group lessons that are related to the word study concepts we are studying in class.

Record Keeping: We also keep careful track of students’ scores on the “new pattern words” section of the test each week.  As you can see in the chart below, we highlight students who spell fewer than 70% of the pattern words correctly. This allows us to quickly create strategy groups of students who struggle with common patterns and prevents us from allowing students to just "move on" when they are obviously not secure with patterns taught in a specific unit. This sheet is great to use for writing detailed report card comments and for sharing with parents at parent-teacher conferences.

Word Study Record Sheet Strategy Lesson Planning Sheet

These sample sheets do not contain information about our actual students.

I know we haven't created a "perfect" word study program, but it is one that my teaching partner and I have found to be effective with our students over the past two years. With that said, we are constantly looking for ways to improve upon and add to our word study program. I welcome all feedback and questions you may have!

Comments (339)

Hi I am trying to download your games but alls I get instead of words are question marks. Can you help me download the games and eliminate the question marks where words should be?

Sheila (comment #232),

You asked how I determine where to start with High Frequency word lists after giving the Words Their Way Inventory. After giving the WTW inventory, I typically break the students into 3 groups. The low group starts with the first 100 HF words, the middle group starts with the second HF list, and the high group starts with the 300 list.

I retest all groups mid-year since they start to run out of words. However, I make sure I take enough time at the beginning of the year to continue testing students so that they have enough words to get them through the first 2 semesters. It does take up class time during the first couple of weeks, but I find that it is worth it. Since I have a teaching partner, we come in on our days off and actually pull small groups of students who need to be tested at higher levels if necessary.


Maria (comment #233),

You mentioned that it looks like we do not pend much time on reading workshop each day. However, we spend an entire hour every day of the week. Here is a link to my daily schedule: http://hill.troy.k12.mi.us/staff/bnewingham/myweb3/indexschedule.htm

Guided reading is part of our reading workshop. The format out our 60 minute reading workshop is as follows: Mini-Lesson: 10 minutes Individualized Daily Reading (IDR): 45 minutes Closing: 5 minutes

It is during IDR time that I meet with guided reading groups and strategy groups or confer with individual readers. You can learn more about my reading workshop by reading this previous post: http://blogs.scholastic.com/top_teaching/2009/10/reading-workshop.html

I hope this helps!



I have been following you and Angela Bunyi's blogs for some time and have just now moved to a district that gives me the freedom to step away from the packaged programs that seem to be the norm now. I know that you and your partner spent many hours working on your spelling lists. I was wondering if you might share them with the rest of us. I did find the link for the 2006 lists that you shared with another teacher but it didn't have the challenge list with it. If you could post a link that would be amazing!

Thanks for all you do for your students and all of us out here in the trenches!

Quite an impressive website. I'm curious-how many word study groups do you have? I have 4 groups of students that vary in their spelling patterns. I'm just curious how you juggle multiple sorts and groups at once. Thanks!

I really like the pattern work! I will be teaching 3rd grade for the first time and was hoping to buy a set of these. Can you advise me where I might find them. Thanks, Jerie

I have noticed you don't spend too much time on reading workshop. Do you do guided reading? Do you have kids that are pulled out?

Beth, After you give the Words Their Way spelling inventory how do you determine where to begin with the high frequency word assessment? Also, at what point do you stop the high frequency word assessment?

Elissa (comment #226),

You asked if I would suggest going away from the basal and instead implementing your own word study program. YES!

When I first began taching in my district, I had to use a basal for reading and spelling. I was often frustrated with the order of the patterns because they did not build on each other. My students make little progress and did not apply the knowledge and skills they gained from one unit to the next.

I really suggest looking at Words Thier Way or Fountas and Pinnell's word study program to determine the order in which you present spelling patterns and skills to your students.

Thanks for posting on my blog! Have a great summer!


Sherri (comment #225),

You posted the most commonly asked question I get from teachers, "How do you fit it all in?" Fortunately, I have time in my daily schedule to fit 55 minutes of reading (5 days a week), 45 minutes of writing (4 days a week), and 25-40 minutes of word study 5 days a week). Here is a link to my daily schedule: http://hill.troy.k12.mi.us/staff/bnewingham/myweb3/indexschedule.htm Without that much time given o each subject, I certainly would not be able to do all that I do in my classroom.

Is there anything you can do away with in your current daily schedule? My teaching partner and I ended up getting rid of our 15 minute morning recess to make room for consistent word study. Since the students are often interacting and playing word study games during this time, they never complain about not having recess. We also got rid of a supplementary math program that we did not feel was helping our students and, instead, improved our regular math instruction by implementing math workshop. This freed up some time as well.

Since I do not recommend shortening your reading or writing workshops, my only suggestion is to see if you can eliminate anything else in your day to make room for word study. I know that this is easier said than done, but it was worth it to make more time for word study in my classroom!


Nancy (comment #224),

You asked a great question about where we fit in the teaching of grammar skills like nouns, verbs, adjectives, capitalization, etc. As much as we can, we try to teach these types of skills in the context of our writing workshop. However, most teachers know that many students need additional, direct instruction as well. For that reason, our morning work (usually the first 15-25 minutes of the school day) focuses on grammar concepts. It combines DOL (daily oral language), interactive SMART Board grammar activities, and even (when necessary) some worksheets that we use to assess students' learning. You can find our daily schedule here: http://hill.troy.k12.mi.us/staff/bnewingham/myweb3/indexschedule.htm

There are also skills like homophones, plural nouns, contractions, comparatives, etc. that are the direct focus of our word study units during the year.

Thanks for reading my blog and posting your comment!


Angie K. (comment #223),

You asked if I knew of any great websites or blogs for middle school teachers. Unfortunately I am not aware of many, but that is probably because I hve not taken the time to seek them out since I teach 3rd grade. My mom was a middle school teacher for 28 years and often complained about the lack of creative middle school resources on the web compared to those available for elementary teachers. Since you said that you teach ELA, here is a link to a great website: http://www.middleweb.com/mw/workshop/R_W_Project.html

Have a great summer!


Debbie (comments 221 & 222),

You asked a few questions about how I create my word lists. In section #3 of this post "Creating Word Lists," I provided links to the many different resources I used to create the actual word lists. To determine the order, my teaching partner and I used the scope and sequence in the F & P book, but we did change the order of a few patterns.

You also asked about the spelling inventory test sheet, HF spelling inventory test sheet, spelling pretest form, an the word study records & strategy lesson planning pages. These are all documents that I have saved on my school computer. I am out of school now, but I will see if I can go back in to school one day this week and get the files so that I can upload them to this post.

I am not sure if Print Shop Version 23 will work on Windows 7. Version 23 is the version I used to create all of my Print Shop stuff. However, I do know that none of my PS files will open in the new Print Shop 2.0.

You also asked how I used Print Shop to create SMART Board files. I just create the games in print shop and then export the PS file as a jpeg. I then insert the jpeg file into SMART Notebook and add games pieces, spinners, dice, etc.

I hope I've answered your questions!


I noticed that you said you teach spelling patterns in a certain order. I really would like to implement this word study program in my classroom. We follow a basal and I would have to use the patterns in the order that they are presented. Do you think it is a good idea to steer away from the basal and teach the patterns in a sequential way? I have always thought that the way they sequence the skills make no sense.

I am totally amazed that you actually do all of this in a year. I wish I had the space you have in your classroom. I teach 5th grade and our school has or is trying to implement the word study-balanced literacy approach. However, I am so overwhelmed with teaching all of the other subjects, I really don't know where I should start with word study. We only have about 2 hours to teach the English part (reading, writing, language, spelling). If you were I how would you combine all of the English using balanced literacy! I find myself wanting to do all of the activities. Help me!!

How do you incorporate LA curriculum such as capitalization, structure of sentences, homophones, syllabication, nouns, pronouns, etc into your reading workshop. I have just moved up to 2nd grade from K and am wondering how these expanded elements of the curriculum will fit into the Reading WS. Thanks for any help you can offer!

Hi Bet. I just love your website. I used to teach elementary, but now I am teaching 7th grade ELA in Texas. I was wondering if you have any links to other teacher websites that might teach the upper levels that have your same wit and creativity? It's hard to implement your cute ideas to my 12 year olds. They think they are "adults" by the time they enter the 7th grade. I miss putting together all my cute bulletin boards and centers. I want to make my next school year fun and exciting. Do you know any teachers in your middle schools that have a blog by chance. Keep up the amazing work. I truly enjoy your themes! Have a wonderful rest of your summer.

Beth, I just purchased PrintShop and was interested in how you create the fabulous games for your Smartboard on this site. Thanks so much for all of your hard work you have put forth for the rest of us to benefit from for our students. Debbie

Hi Beth: First, let me say how much I appreciate you sharing with the rest of us. I get so many great ideas from you, so thank you! I teach 2nd grade, and we want to implement your Word Study method. We have used WTW for several years, but many groups is overwhelming. I am in process of creating word lists, but wanted to know where you came up with yours. You said you used F&P. Did you use the LS or SP skills? Also, did you follow the Lesson Selection map, Month by Month, or the Continuum? Also, do you have the spelling inventory test sheet, HF spelling inventory test sheet, spelling pretest form, an the word study records & strategy lesson planning pages? Finally, does Print Shop version 23 run on Windows 7?

Thanks so much!

Danielle (comments #215 and #216),

You asked if I thought you should get the original Words Their Way book in addition to the word sort books. I really would recommend getting the original book. It will provide you with a detailed overview of the spelling stages and will give you a more thorough understanding of word study in general.

I'm glad you like my website! Thanks for posting your comments on my blog:)


Amber (comment #214),

By third grade my students are usually secure with the difference between short and long vowels. We do a short vowel review at the beginning of the year as a way to get students familiar with word study centers, and students then continue to work with short vowels as we review consonant blends with short vowel word families. However, we spend more time focusing on long vowel patterns in isolation. We spend two weeks on each long vowel. During the long i week, the patterns we study are i-e; ie; -y; igh; & i.

Thanks for reading my blog!


Melinda (comments 212 & 213),

You asked how I implement the intial testing of the high frequency words at the beginning of the school year. If you read through the comments in this post, you will find lots of management tips when it comes to HF word testing.

In short, I break the class up into 3 groups (based on recommendations from their previous teachers). Some students start at the first 100, and other students start at 200 or 300 so that I am not wasting their time by giving them 100 words that they can already spell.

This can be hard to manage, but I am lucky to have a teaching partner that teaches with me during the first week of school. We break our students up into 3 groups (with additional help from our ESL teacher) and assess them separately. However, I have also done it on my own. It just takes more class time.

If you read the "High Frequency Word Inventories" section in #1 of this post, you will find more information.

Let me know if you have any specific questions:)


Kesh (comment #210),

As this is a work in progress, I am just sharing the process we used to create the lists, not the actual lists themselves. Also, I believe that creating your own lists is the best way to most thoroughly “own” your word study program and create activities that are specific to the patterns you are teaching.

I hope you understand, Beth

Hi again,

I re-read my comment and I think I should be more clear before you take time to answer: When I said initial book, I meant the original Words Their Way book, not any of the word sort books. Essentially, I am asking if you think I would be able to manage with the word sort books alone to start out. I looked at the Fountas & Pinnell books and they are very pricey. So, with a limited budget, what do I need to start? :) Thanks! I have been living on your website since a friend sent it to me last week!

Hi Beth,

The ineffectiveness of the weekly word list has bothered me for YEARS! Your method is the first alternative that I think makes sense and will really work. Here's my question: To start my word study program for a 2/3 split, do you think I could get away with buying the Words Their Way books for all but the Letter Name/Emergent spellers? Do I need to purchase the initial book as well? I am on a budget and buying these myself. :)

Thanks for your time!

This is amazing! I just started teaching 3rd Grade Literacy, and I am so excited to use this. My only question is: Do you follow the sorts in Words Their Way...for example, sort 8 is "short i veruss long i in cvce...or do you do all short i together than all long i together?

Beth, I am a second grade teacher and I would like to include the high frequency words in my weekly spelling list next year. I am not sure how to implement the initial testing at the beginning of the year. Can you explain? Melinda

Beth, I am a second grade teacher and I would like to include the high frequency words in my weekly spelling list next year. I am not sure how to implement the initial testing at the beginning of the year. Can you explain? Melinda

Beth, would you happen to have a detailed list of all the words included in each unit posted? I would LOVE to have access to it :)

Beth, would you happen to have a detailed list of all the words included in each unit posted? I would LOVE to have access to it :)

Hi Beth--

I am not sure if this was previously asked in the comments section... Can you explain how you play Spelling Bingo/Lotto (I am assuming the are the same) on your Word Center days?

Thank you! -Elizabeth

Kim (comment #206),

You asked if there are game board templates in Print Shop. The answer is no. I created the templates myself and alter them to make new games for different units. However, I would still definitely recommend purchasing Print Shop! I use it for SO many things including my newsletter, classroom signs and banners, photo editing, projects, etc.

Please note that my files cannot be opened in the new version of Print Shop 2.0.


Allyson (comment #205),

You asked about my high frequency word lists and why some words are missing. I created those lists years ago and have been using them for a long time. I do not remember omitting specific words from the lists. However, I do know that "high frequency" words are listed in the order that they are used in the English language and not in the order of difficulty to spell. For that reason, if, for example, a word that follows a predictable pattern like "feet" was found on a higher-level list, I may have omitted it since I would expect students at that level to be able to easily spell that word.

Thanks for your nice comments!!


I was wondering if there is a template in print shop for the game board or if you had to figure out how to make it on that program. I was going to get the program and was wondering if you thought the program was worth the money you spent?

Hi Beth! Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for all of the wonderful ideas I've "borrowed" from you over the years. :)

I'm using Words Their Way right now. Well, a version of it anyway. I take their basic idea and tweak it to make it fit me and my kids. I'm going to work on adding the HF word piece that you do, for next year. I get very frustrated when a kiddo can spell our pattern words correctly, yet miss spelling the HF words! GRR!!

My question is this...I noticed on your HF word list that there are words that are omitted from the original 1200 list. How do you go about deciding what words go on what list?

I ask because I'm trying out a version of this right now with my current kiddos. (It's funny. I asked them if they wanted to help me try something for next year, and they are so excited to be my "guinea pigs". LOL) I have a couple of kiddos who can pretty much spell any word I throw at them, so this means that I may need to create more HF word lists for my higher-level kiddos.

Thanks for all of your help and wonderful ideas. I'm in awe of the things you do!!

Take care!

Anne (comment 201),

You asked if I could send you my "Uno card lists." I do not have any lists, just the cards themselves. I'm sorry about that! You will need Print Shop installed on your computer to open the cards.


Kim (comment #197),

I create most of the word study center games and activities myself (along with my teaching partner). However, if you reread #7 in this post, you will find a list of resources I use to create (and purchase) games. The link to the Scholastic Teacher Store will display some books with printable center games and ideas.


Kim (comment #196),

In order to download the board games, you will need to have Print Shop Version 23 (or earlier) installed on your computer.


Could you send me your Uno e card lists? We don't have anyway to download the actual cards, so we would really like to have what you put on each card.

Mindy (comment #194),

You can get Print Shop for your Mac. Here is a link: http://store.apple.com/us_smb_78313/product/TK312LL/A?mco=MTY3ODQ5OTY

However, I am afraid my files might not open on this version. I wish I could be of more help!



You asked how I know how many copies of the spelling packets to make since the students take the spelling test each Monday morning. My students take the pre-test first thing in the morning. Then I teach the word study lesson and explain the homework packet and centers for the week. While my students go to gym, I copy the corect number of regular and challenge packets and put them in the students' cubbies. At the end of the day, students empty their cubby and write their 5 high frequency words on their packet before they take it home. Great question!


Rachel (comment 192),

You asked when I teach students how to do the activities or play the games at the word study centers each week. At the end of my word study lesson each Monday, I take time to briefly explain the centers. Many of our units are two weeks long, which is nice because the centers then remain the same. Also, we try to do some of the same games and activities multiple weeks but just change the words to fit the pattern we are studying for the week. That saves time since the directions do not have to be explained.


I was wondering where you got the ideas for all your centers. Did you get them from a book or did you create your own?? They are wonderful and I was wondering where I should look for more ideas for my classroom next year. Thank you

Beth, Thank you so much for all the great ideas. I was looking at your word study and plan on putting it into place next year in my second grade classroom. I was wondering what program you used to create your boards for the board games such as long vowel race track. I tried to download them but it would not open on my computer.

Thank you again, Kim

You really should make your own book with copies of your games and stuff. It would be a great way to get great credit for your work, make some money and share your amazing ideas with others.

Beth! I am a new teacher who really likes using your material for guidance in my classroom. I am moving from 3rd to 2nd grade and I think a lot of you word study activities would work well with the 2nd grade curriculum here (2nd grade is not tested which means a lot more freedom to do hands on activities). My problem is I tried to download some things but they didn't work. I also tried to get printshop but can't seem to find it for macs, any ideas on what I can do? I want printshop myself! Thanks! :)

I see that you take your spelling pre-test on Monday mornings, and then give the students their hw packet. How do you know which child is getting the advanced or regular spelling words? Do you grade their pre-tests quickly, then pass out pre--printed hw sheets?

Beth, I was wondering how you introduce your word study stations to the students each week. Do you explain the games for each station, or are students just expected to read the directions and play on their own?

Thanks, Rachel

Robyn (comment #185),

I know that I would implement a very similar program if I taught 5th grade. However, I would be gearing my lessons toward higher spelling stages and creating games and activities that suited my students' needs at those levels. My Top Teaching colleague, Angela Bunyi, wrote a great post on Greek and Latin roots that is great for 4th and 5th grade word study. Here it is: http://blogs.scholastic.com/top_teaching/2010/09/expanding-your-roots-through-greek-and-latin-word-study.html

I hope this help!


Rachel (comment 183),

We reassess all students in the middle of the year and other students on an as-needed basis. However, it can definitely be time-consuming! After a student has been directly tested on at least 300 words, you might just consider giving the child the next level list and have him begin adding the next 5 words each week rather than testing him over the entire hundred. You can also pull students during center time every couple of months and test them on additional high frequency words. There are usually a few students who are ready to be tested at the same level at any given time during the year.


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