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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 (338)

Lisa (comment #181),

All students complete word sorts regardless of the spelling stage they are at. In our classroom the Words Their Way word sorts are part of center time, but they are often woven into games and other spiced-up activities.

When creating High Frequency word activities, here are some ideas: http://hill.troy.k12.mi.us/staff/bnewingham/myweb3/spelling%20activity%20list.htm

The main goal for high frequency centers in ou classroom is simply for the child to write the word many times in some way or another.


AZING! Second, what do you do with their spelling homework? Correct? Hand back? Grade? Just wondering. Thanks so much!



I think your word study program is incredible! I would like to make games for my classroom, too. I saw in your post that you used Print Shop to create them. I don't have that program, but I want to purchase it. Would I be correct in purchasing The Print Shop 2.0 Deluxe? If that is not the correct one, do you mind pointing me in the right direction? Thank you!

Beth- I am new to the reading and writing workshop- I love it and I really like the new program that you and your partner has developed. But my question is, how can I adapt this for 5th grade? I am always concerned about making new things I develop to childlike but I also want to keep their attention. Thank you so much for sharing your information. I love your website. Robin

Sara C. (comment #180),

You asked about two of my word study centers: Tic-Tac-Toe and Word Search.

In the Tic-Tac-Toe game, 9 different long vowel word families are on a tic-tac-toe board. (The word families vary depending on what patterns we are studying each week.) Then I create a dice or a spinner with consonants and/or blends that can be added to the word families. Students spin the spinner or roll the dice and try to make a real word by combininga blend with a word family (tr + ain = train). If they can make a real word, they get to place a red or blue chip on the word family on the board. Just like tic-tac-toe, the goal is to get 3 in a row. Multiple game boards are made so that students can play the game for an entire center time.

The word search center is just a simple way for students to practice writing their high frequency words multiple times. They are given grid paper and are asked to "hide" each word 2 or 3 times.

I hope I've helped you understand the centers you asked about!


I still love this post and asked you a couple of questions back in December when I was at least trying to get some of this great stuff in this school year before I completely revamp my whole spelling program. Anyway, I have been doing the high-frequency folders since December and absolutely love it. The only question I have is how often do you reassess students for when they are finished with the pages they have. I know it took a lot of time at the beginning for me to assess groups of students (based on their spelling ability)to see which words they knew versus which ones they didn't know. Some students run out of words much quicker than others though, and then I have a hard time (time wise) reassessing them on harder pages.

How and when do you reassess students in the middle of the year? Do you just take the time to do most of the pages in their level at the beginning (because that can be a lot of pages for the whole year), or do you do a few pages at the beginning and then reassess in groups again whenever it is needed?

Also, can you explain what the high-frequency roll center activity and the scattergories activity are?

Thanks for the time you dedicate to all of us!

Beth, I just wanted to let you know that I was inspired by your Word Study post to write a grant entitled "It's Not Your Mother's Spelling: Word Study in Action!" I have a couple of requests that will really help me out in implementing my Word Study program. Firstly, is it possible for you to add your word study center icons? Also, I tried to print the long vowel race track game and only half of it will print (I have Print Shop). I appreciate any help you can offer. As always, thanks for your useful info., practical ideas, and inspiration for teaching the best way I can teach!

Beth, Thanks for everything! I have begun preparing my word study for next year... I tried out a differentiated plan this year with Words Their Way and it was hard to manage 3 completely different spelling patterns/lists going on in my room. I love your idea to do all the same pattern but create challenging words within that pattern. Do you do word sorts with your kids using the Words Their Way strategies also?

On another note, would you describe some of the activities/centers you do for high frequency words? If the kids have all different words they're working on how do you setup the center?

Thanks again for your inspiring blog! Lisa

Hello Beth,

I love your ideas! I love these ideas for word study. I have also struggled finding a good spelling program that helps the students transfer what they have learned into their writing. Thank you for always sharing your ideas with us. I am a second grade teacher interested in implementing many aspects of your word study program into my classroom for next year. I was just wondering about a few of your word study games that were not mentioned in your blog. Can you tell me how you use the tic tac toe center and the word search center? Thank you again!


Ashlee (comment #177),

You had some questions about how to play the long vowel dominoes game. Here are the rules and directions.

How to Play: • Lay all 20 pieces face down on a flat surface. • Each player chooses 5 pieces and keeps them secret from the others. • Roll the dice to see who lays down the first domino. • Take it in turns to lay a domino on either end of a line - (dominoes can be placed upside down, but they must be on either end of a piece). • Matches can be made between; a word and its matching vowel sound or two words with identical vowel sounds.

Important Rules! • Players can only lay down a domino if they can say the two words or sounds out loud. • If a player can't say the words or sounds or can't make a match, they miss a turn. • The first person to get rid of all their dominoes is the winner!

I hope this helps!


Kristin (comment #176),

You asked about some of the word study center games that I posted. In order to download them, you will need to have some version of Broderbund's "The Print Shop" software installed on your computer. I created the games in The Print Shop version 23, and I have been told that my files will not open in the new version of Print Shop 2.0. Here is a link to the version I would recommend: http://www.broderbund.com/p-145-the-print-shop-231-deluxe.aspx


Hey Beth! First off thank you SO much for all your wonderful ideas and resources that you are giving away to help fellow teachers. I can't begin to tell you how much we teachers appreciate it! Can you tell me a little bit more about the dominoes? I finally printed them out on labels and found enough dominoes for all the labels. Now that I am looking at it I am wondering if they all get the same sound (long a) to play with or do they get a mixture of the dominoes? If they do use them by sound how do you manage that (are the sounds kept in seperate baggies, etc?). Thanks again for everything...I look forward to your monthly blog every month!!:)

Hi Beth! I have been following your website for years now...using MANY of the ideas you post! I recently noticed the long a vowel race track game and the spin a word game board. I can't download them for some reason. Can you tell me how you made those boards? My computer tells me it doesn't recognize the program needed to open them! I can't wait to get started using them! Thanks for the amazing ideas year after year!

Julie (comment #173),

You asked about the dimensions of my SMART Board. The dimensions are: 77 1/2" W × 49 1/2" H × 5 1/8" D. I belive the model # is 685.


Kristen (comment #172),

I use Print Shop Deluxe Version 23 to create all of my stuff, but you can open the files in any previous version of the program. Unfortunately my Print Shop files can't be opened in the new Print Shop 2.0. Because of this, I am avoiding updating to the new software.


What size of Smartboard do you have? It looks like it is much wider than mine. What is the number of your Smartboard? The information you have is helpful. Thanks, Julie

Hi Beth,

Can I ask exactly what program you use to make your game boards? I tried looking up Print Shop, but there are many different versions. Thanks so much for your help!

Cindi (comment #163),

I'm so glad this post has been helpful to you as you prepare to move from 2nd to 3rd grade. Good luck with the move, and thanks for posting your comments on my blog!


Shawn (comment #162),

Unfortunately my Print Shop files can't be opened in the new Print Shop 2.0. Because of this, I am avoiding updating to the new software. My files can be opened in any previous version of Print Shop, however.

Here is an article about converting Print Shop files that may allow you to open my resources as PDF files: http://www.ehow.com/how_6149569_convert-print-shop-_sig-file.html

I hope this helps!


Susan (comment #161),

You asked if I had any word study materials for grade 5. Unfortunately I do not have any of my own materials to share. You are right that most of the word study materials that have been published are for grades K-3.

However, I think you will find this post by Angela Bunyi, my Top Teaching colleague, very useful: http://blogs.scholastic.com/top_teaching/2010/09/expanding-your-roots-through-greek-and-latin-word-study.html


Kristina (comment #160),

Thanks so much for your nice comments! I am flattered that you would even suggest that my ideas would be useful to enough teachers that I should write a book. I'm not sure where I would find the time to do that at this point in my life, but it is something I would love to do in the future!


Lauralee (comment #159),

If you are talking about the gameboard files in this post, try right clicking on the link and choosing "save target as." Then choose a location to save the file. Now launch Print Shop and then open the saved file within Print Shop. Hopefully that will work! I do know that my files will not open in Print Shop 2.0.


Karen (comment #155 & 156),

Thanks for sharing your ideas about your own word study program. I really like how students create their weekly lists from the pattern words that they miss on your comprehensive pre-tests.

You asked if I have high frequency word lists past 700. I have not created my own lists in the format like the ones you see posted on this blog. However, here is a link to the master list I used to create the lists: http://school.elps.k12.mi.us/donley/classrooms/berry/sitton_spelling_activities/2ndgrade_spelling/sitton_word_list.htm

I hope this helps!


Amy (comment #158),

You asked where I keep all of my SMART Board files for my phonics lessons. I'm not sure exactly what you mean. I assume you are referring to the weekly lessons I create for my word study units. I shared a couple of lessons in this post, but I have not yet shared any other lessons. I may add a section to my website over the summer where I share my SMART Board resources.


Tammy (comment #157),

I have not had the problem of my students looking around the room for words on their high frequency list when working with their spelling partners during the test (at least not that I have noticed). However, I do not have a word wall in my classroom. You could always cover your word wall during the test, but I do understand that many high frequency words are going to be on anchor charts and other materials around your classroom. Since my students are working with a partner during this time, I think they are less likely to "cheat" since they know that their partner would be witness to such behavior. Perhaps you could discuss this with your class and ask students to make sure that their spelling partner is not looking around the room when writing their spelling words during the test.

Thanks for posting your comments!



This was so helpful to me. I am going to be making the move from 2nd to 3rd grade next year. I have been trying to find a way to make Words Their Way more useful but found it difficult to mesh the "old" with the "new" which you and your partner have done so wonderfully here! Thanks for sharing all your work with us!


Beth, I teach K-5 students and I was wondering which Print shop I needed to download the different center ideas. I'm unable to download them, I'm using the Print Shop 2.0 Deluxe. Thanks

Do you have any resource suggestions for the 5th grade level? I noticed that the F & P books and the website only go up to third grade. Thanks!

Hi Beth, I really love all your ideas and the lessons you use in the classroom. I was just wondering if you have written a book that has all of your teaching tips and hints. I think it would be so worthwhile for you to publish something because you're teaching is very meaningful and relevant to me. Thanks for sharing your ideas and taking the time to put all this information out there!

Thanks for all the wonderful information. I think you are amazing! I am having a difficult time getting the gameboards. When I try it states that either it was sent by email and damaged or its not capatable. If you can help me with this that what be awesome.Either way thank you for all you do.

Thanks for all you do! You have truly reinvented my classroom with all your ideas. I was wondering where you keep the smartboard activities for the phonics?

Hi Beth! I just recently found your website on the Internet and LOVE it. I do have a question about your Friday spelling test. When the students are giving each other their high frequency words and writing them in a sentence, do they not look around the room for the Word Wall or do you not have a Word Wall up in your room? I have a lot of ESOL students in my classroom along with low SES students. Our district has been big on Anchor Charts and Word Walls so that the students can refer quickly. What are your thoughts? Thanks so much for all your hard work. Your site is fabulous.

do you have the list of 700-800- 800-900, 900-1000, 1000-1100 and 1100-1200 word lists? Thanks

Hi Beth, I have enjoyed your site for several years and find so many great ideas for improving my program. I use many of the same resources for spelling as you do and find your program very comprehensive. Nice job. One thing I do differently is that I give a spelling pretest on the pattern words...about 25-30 words from easier to harder. Then, I create a list for each student with the words they missed. If they need more challenging words than the ones on the pretest list, I add them on their list. On Friday, spelling partners test each other. I also give three dictation sentences with pattern words. I find that this way,they have a personal list containing 10-12 words they missed on the pretest.

Suzanne (comment #149),

You asked for directions for my Word Family Candy Land Board Game. Did you print the playing cards that go with the game? If so, a student draws a blend (or single consonant) card from the deck and moves to the first word family space on the game board that will make a "real" word when combined with the blend card. The candies are also included in the deck, so sometimes a student will have to move ahead or go back to get to the candy space depending on where they are on the game board. Here is a link to the page on my website that has the cards that go with the game: http://hill.troy.k12.mi.us/staff/bnewingham/myweb3/literacy_centers%20Final.htm

I hope this helps!


Karen (comment #150),

Thanks for your encouragement and your compliments! It's teachers like you who keep me going and make me so willing to share!


Kelli (comment #146),

You asked if I had any additional game boards to share. Since I change the directions and rules for each game that I create for different units of word study, I tend to use the game board you see multiple times in this post. (Of course not every unit has a board game.)

However, here are some great websites that include resources and templates for creating your own board games: 1. http://www.theschoolbell.com/Links/Dolch/Directions/gameboards.html 2. http://jc-schools.net/tutorials/gameboard.htm 3. http://www.carlscorner.us.com/Games.htm 4. http://www.toolsforeducators.com/boardgames/ 5. http://donnayoung.org/homeschooling/games/game-boards.htm

You can also do a Google search for blank game boards. Here is what I found: http://www.google.com/images?um=1&hl=en&rlz=1T4GGLL_enUS323US323&biw=1276&bih=599&tbs=isch%3A1&sa=1&q=blank+game+board&aq=f&aqi=g5g-m1&aql=&oq=

I hope this helps!


Retired35 (comment #148),

Thanks for posting your comments and your encouragement. I hope that I too will still be helping teachers even after I retire. Thanks for the inspiration and for giving back!


Beth- You always amaze me. 3 years ago I switched to 3rd grade. I goggled info about the grade to help. I came upon your site. I have to tell you thank you. Not only are you an inspiration to me but also my goal to be as half as good as you in 3 years. I feel I meet my goal and now I'm taking on a word study program. Thanks for posting yours- I feel I may be 1/2 as good as you in this in 2 years. Keep up this amazing site. Do you ever allow vistors to your classroom. I would love to spend a week with you and assist your children. Thanks again.

Do you have the directions for the Word Family Candy Land Game? I made the game, but cannot find the directions. Thanks Suzanne Blank


I taught over 35 years; I found the best way to teach spelling was the way you also discovered. I had a mixed group with many levels;some were just learning English and others were above level. You are on the right track!

I am still making materials for teachers; I have a resource room that I am working on. This is my way of giving back. You are helping so many teachers and children.

Enjoy your little ones!

Erin (comment #143),

Thanks for posting the link to the website with the pocket charts!



Do you have any game board templates other than the ones posted? Is there a good website for game boards you use?

Thanks, Beth, I appreciate you getting back to me. Yes, I do have the new version Printshop 2.0. It is the only version sold in Australia. I am unable to receive any from online stores as most countries don't send/deliver software overseas. Thanks for your timely response. Look forward to reading your February blog.


Regarding comment #139, I am still unable to get that file. I have tried it again on both my home and work computer. It sends me to http://hill.troy.k12.mi.us/staff/bnewingham/myweb3/Printshop%20Files/Center%20Signs.sig but then you get the page not found message. Would you be willing to email it to me at LCostello@hotmail.com? Thanks!


Hi, for those people asking for pocketcharts like Beth's try www.homeroomteacher.com

I have found their pocket charts to be most useful for storing the word study games. They also deliever to most countries around the world. Good Luck

Erin (comment #136),

I am not sure why the Print Shop (.sig) files are not opening on your computer. What version of Print Shop did you buy? I have heard from some teachers that my files will not open in the new Print Shop version 2.0. I know that I am able to open the files in all versions prior to 2.0.

I wish I was able to provide you with more help, but it is hard for me to diagnose the problem:(


Sarah (comment 134),

You asked if I do a new unit weekly or monthly. In section #2 of this post, you will find a link to download my yearlong plan where you will be able to see how long each unit lasts. Most units are 1 or 2 weeks long.

You can find suggestions games in the resources books I mention in section #3 of this post, and I also list tons of resources for creating center activities and games in section #7 f this post.

You also asked how to fit word study into your schedule. Here is a link to my own daily/weekly schedule to see how I fit it all in every week: http://hill.troy.k12.mi.us/staff/bnewingham/myweb3/indexschedule.htm

I hope this helps!


Lesley (comments #132, 133),

It sounds like you are really excited about creating your own word study program. I'm glad my post was useful for you in your endeavor!

You also asked about my LD/inclusion students. In our school, students who have certifiable disabilities and qualify for services in reading/writing do a very individualized word study program with a different teacher during a pull-out language block each day. However, my regular lists are generally appropriate even for my struggling readers and spellers.


Elizabeth (comment #131),

I think I fixed the link to the center labels. It is working now from my computer. Try it again and let me know!


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