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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)

Jayme (commnet #87),

Thanks for posting your comment! I'm so glad that my post has helped you create word study centers for your students. Kudos to you for providing an after-school opportunity for at-risk students to receive additional word study support!


Dear Beth, Thank you so much for this post! I found it just the right time! I am in charge of k-5th grade at-risk students at an after school program and just started looking into workstations/centers. This has been so encouraging and time saving! I recently graduated with a degree in elem ed but still have felt ill-equipped to truly reach my students on their individual levels. Thank you for your ideas and resources! Can't wait to see the next top 10!

Elizabeth (comment #78),

You asked for directions for long vowel tic-tac-toe. It is actually very simple. For each long vowel, we create 3 differenttic-tac-toe boards that have long vowel word families (-ake, -ame, -ain, -ay, -ail) in each section of the tic-tac-toe board. Students can use spinners or dice (with single consonants or consonant blends) to try to make a word with one of the word families. One studens uses blue chips, and one student uses red chips. When it is the first student's turn, he rolls the blend dice and tries to make a real word by combining the blend with one of the word families on the game board. If he can make a real word, he puts his chip on the board. The players take turns going back and forth trying to make real words and also trying to strategically make words with specific word families so that they can get three in a row to win.

Does this make sense? Let me know if you have any additional questions!


Ashley (comment #77),

You asked how long my read alouds are. Typically a read aloud in my classroom lasts for about 20 minutes. However, it is not part of reading workshop time. It is a separate (but related) component of my balanced literacy program. I choose books to read aloud that I will reference or revisit during my reading workshop mini-lessons, but I never read an entire book during the mini-lesson itself. My mini-lessons are 10-15 minutes, and I use them to teach a specific skill. I would take up the entire time if I tried to make my read aloud part of the lesson.

When I first started implementing a reading workshop in my classroom, I often tried to do a read aloud during my lesson and quickly realized that I was taking up the students' independent reading time. I choose very specific books for my read alouds. I read books that I know I want to use as mentor texts in my reading and writing workshop mini-lessons on the following days.

Here is a link to my daily schedule if you are interested in seeing where we fit in our read aloud: http://hill.troy.k12.mi.us/staff/bnewingham/myweb3/indexschedule.htm

Thanks for posting your comments! I hope I've answered your question!


Shannon (comment #76),

I'm sorry to hear you are unable to find a job. It is depressing to see how many highly qualified teachers are without a job as school districts are busy cutting their budgets.

At our school, we use a combination of Lucy Calkins, Ralph Fletcher, and 6 Traits for our writing instruction. Is your program a comprehensive program that can be used in a writing workshop, or is it a supplemental program that would be used in addition to the other resources I am currently using?



Chandler (comment #75),

You asked how I afford everything you see in my classroom. I will admit that I spend too much of my own money on my classroom. I share my classroom with another teacher, so we actually both buy things for our room. However, we also have a very generous P.T.O. that gives all teachers a nice amount of money each year and also has approved many "major purchase" items for my classroom in years past.

Even in this economy, there are still many grant writing opportunities out there as well. Our school district has a foundation that awards mini-grants of $500 two times a year to many teachers who present innovative ideas. I have received grant money from the foundation multiple times in years past.

Thanks for posting your comments on the blog!


Katy (comment #74),

I'm so glad your students are loving the Tic-Tac-Toe spelling. I like it because it gives my students creative ways to practice their words, and I can change the options every week. It also challenges my students to use multiple intelligences since they have to do a variety of activities to make 3 in a row!

Thanks for your comments! Good luck with your continued word study work!


Margie (comment #73),

You indicated that you are having problems downloading some of the Print Shop files on my classroom website. Instead of left-clicking and trying to immediately open the file, try right clicking and choose "Save Target as." Then choose a location on your hard drive to save the file. Now open Print Shop and try to open the file in the Print Shop program.

I have had many different versions of Print Shop over the years, so I am not sure which version I had installed on my computer when I created each word study game. However, I know that all of the old files always continued to be accessible in each newer version that I bought. The only version I am unsure about is the new Print Shop 2.0. I have not tried that version yet.

Hoefully my suggestion will work for you!


Marie (comment #72),

I added a link to the Prefix Spin-a-Word recording sheet under the picture of the board game in the post. I hope this is useful for you!


Christa (comment #71),

You asked about word study center games for your 4th grade students. Unfortunately, most of the word study center materials and games that are "pre-made" are geared toward primary students. For that reason, I find that I make most of my own games. Many of my ideas for literacy centers come from common board games and card games. Candy land, checkers, Uno, Go Fish, Tic-Tac-Toe, and other popular games are good places to start when trying to create your own. I just use tables in Microsoft Word to create cards for the games, and I use clipart from MS Word or Print Shop to create the board games. I wish I could direct you to specific resources, but there doesn't seem to be too much out there for grades 3-5. During my first year implementing my word study program, the majority of my time was spent creating my own activities and games!

You will find some materials for skills like prefixes & suffixes, Greek and Latin roots, stressed syllables, past tense verbs, synonyms/antonyms, homophones, comparatives/superlatives, and other higher-level word study skills at reallygoodstuff.com. You can just use the keyword search to search for materials related to the specific skill you are teaching.

I hope this helps!


Hi Beth--

Thank you so much for your wonderful information and your willness to share.

I am in the process of editing my own spelling/word study program to include many of your ideas and games. I do have a silly question...I cannot figure out your Long vowel tic-tac-toe game as pictured on your website. Would you mind explaining what you have students do at this center?

Thanks again and keep up all the great posts!

Hi Beth, I'm a new teacher trying out Reading Workshop for the first time. I was inspired after looking at your wonderful site. I teach third grade. I am wondering how long it takes you to do a read aloud? Do you do the read aloud during the mini-lesson? I notice that my read alouds can drag on and eat up all the time I have for independent reading. I only have one hour for reading. Thank you for all your help!

Hi Beth,

I was introduced to you back in January of this past year and have just gotten the courage to write you a message. The teacher with whom I student taught was and is absolutely wonderful and showed me your website for tips and useful ideas!

Unfortunately since finishing my student teaching, I have not been lucky enough to find a job as a teacher. But, I have come up with an idea that I thought might interest you and your classroom. My idle mind has been running wild with ways to stay connected to the classroom. Please contact me if you're interested in a writing program that I have come up with that is simple to incorporate into the classroom.

Beth, It is my first year teaching, and I have gotten a lot of great ideas from your website already. I have a question though. How do you afford to purchase/make everything you do in your classroom?

Thank you so much for posting the tic-tac-toe spelling! I give spelling homework three days a week and was struggling to find a successful way for the kids to practice at home.

With the help of some amazing professor friends, I am experimenting in the world of word work. My students get ten words a week, I assign 5 words and they get to pick 5 words. They pick words from their writing they are struggling with, anything they asked to spell during the previous week, or words they found in their reading. I teach a multi-age 2/3 class and this program is fitting all of my students.

My students are loving the addition of the tic-tac-toe spelling and are excited to see what new options show up in it week to week.

Thank you!!!

Does anyone have any helps on PrintShop and getting any of the files for resources downloaded successfully? I'd appreciate any help! Margie

Hello Beth,

I'm going to use the Spin a Word (Prefix), however did you create a recording sheet with this game as well. Thanks in advance.


I love this word study approach and am working on it for my fourth grade classroom. Any suggestions for games to go with the spelling lists for fourth graders. Can you recommend a good resource that can work for this age level? I love your site and I appreciate all that you share!!

Michele (comment #69),

What a small world!! I grew up in Waterford, Michigan and attended elementary, middle, and high school there! Where did you teach?

I am sorry to hear that your new location is more challenging in terms of teaching resources, but I'm glad my things have been helpful to you!


Thank you so much for all of your hard work. I recently moved from Waterford, MI to Bozeman, MT and it is shocking how few resources we have. Actually, most teachers are using a basal series and teaching whole group reading lessons. I went from Kindergarten to 3rd grade this year and without you, I would be lost!! Thank you so VERY much!!!

Crystal (comment #63),

I am glad my post has been able to inspire a new teacher. So often new teachers feel like they have to do whatever is currently being done at their school in terms of instruction (even when they know it may not be in the best interest of their students). Kudos to you for wanting to make a change! Good luck!


Kate (comment #62),

You asked how I keep things organized without a teacher's desk. When our class sizes started increasing and we started losing valuable room in our classroom because of the need for more desks, my teaching partner and I decided to get rid of our humongous teacher desk. When I actually took an inventory of what was in my desk, I realized it was mostly supplies and file folders of information I "might need" at some point (little of which was directly related to my current teaching or daily lesson plans). If you check out my classroom tour on my October Top Ten List, you will see a book shelf behind our computer table where we keep binders that store our materials for each unit of study we teach and for ongoing assessment. We also use a rolling file folder holder that we use to store important student papers and information. Behind our kidney-shaped reading table at the front of our classroom, we use plastic organizers to store supplies like staples, tape, sticky notes, pens, etc. I was hesitant at first to get ride of my desk, but I have not missed it for a minute. I just sit at the reading table when doing any "teacher work" I need to do during the day or after school.


Erika (comment #61),

You asked if I maintain a word wall in my classroom. We do not have a spelling word wall, but we do have a vocabulary word wall. Check out my December Top Ten List for more information about my vocab word wall!


Rachael (comment #57),

You asked a great question about centers. You noticed that I do centers 3 days a week, and you wondered how my students make it through all 6 of the centers I have listed for each unit on my "Year at a Glance" list.

First of all, many of our units last for 2 weeks. That means students actually attend 6 centers over the course of the 2-week period. That way they all rotate through the 6 centers. During 1 week units, we will often create enough resources for some activities or games so that two groups can be playing the same game at the same time. There are also some weeks where we have 5-6 centers for one week, but students only complete 3 of the centers. During these weeks, our centers are usually differentiated to meet the needs of both struggling and more advanced spellers, so we split up the students by ability.

Thanks for posting this question. I am guessing that was confusing for many other readers too.

It's exciting to hear that you have implemented parts of my program and are already seeing some success. That's awesome!


Amanda (comment #56),

You asked specifically about the "Words to Learn" list that students keep in their Word Study Folder.

First you wanted to know if some students were missing tons of words each week and what I do with those students. Yes, each year there are always some students who miss way more words than other students. Spelling is a constant struggle for these students even with an effective program. However, I thnk you will find much improvement in these students' performance once you switch from a "memorization" routine to a word study approach to spelling. These students do write all of the pattern words that they miss on their own "Words to Learn" list, but they also receive individual support outside of word study center time. You can learn more about how we differentiate and meet the needs of all learners by reading section #10 on my list: Strategy Groups and Differentiation.

You also asked if students cross out the words that they record on their "Words to Learn" list once they spell them correctly on a later test. The answer is yes.

I wish you luck as you work to implement a new and improved word study program in your classroom. When I first started teaching, my district also supported the weekly list from the basal. It is exciting to look at how much more progress my students make during the course of a school year with my current program!

Thanks for posting your comments!


Beth, Thank you for this post. As a new third grade teacher with a very differentiated group of children, I think that this is a great idea. I too am seeing students just memorizing for the spelling test and it not carrying over to their daily work.

Hi Beth, this is off topic but I keep reading about teachers that don't have a teacher desk. I don't know where I read that about you but how is that doable? Where do you put all your "stuff"? Are you just really good at filing/organizing? Any suggestions would be wonderful. Thanks, Kate

Dear Beth,

I really like your word study program. Do you still use a "Word Wall" in cyou classroom? Thanks, Erika

Linda (comment #55),

You asked if I could share the lists that my teaching partner and I have created for each unit. I know that it may seem strange to write such a detailed post about my word study program and not include the word lists. However, I feel like our program is a work in progress. Even though this is our third year implementing the program in our classroom, my teaching partner and I still make revisions to the lists each week based on what we learn from our students. Since posting the lists on this public blog would be like "publishing" our work, I am not comfortable making the lists available to download until I feel like they are "perfect."

I really do 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.


Allison (comment #54),

You asked where I purchased my large pocket chart that holds all of my word study center materials. I actually got it online from Calloway House: http://callowayhouse.com/home.asp Unfortunately, they no longer carry that product.

I wish I could be of more help! I tried searching for similar pocket charts but was unable to find anything quite like it.


Kim (comment #53),

You asked if I had my word study center signs available to download anywhere on my website. The answer, unfortunately, is no. Since we have 6 center activities every week, I have close to 40 Print Shop files saved on my computer that include multiple signs on each page. Since the file size is pretty large for each one, they are too big to post all of them here. Even zipping them into a file makes them still too large to email or post on my website without having to upload each one individually. However, here is a link to where you can download a sample template that you can use to make your own signs. On this Print Shop file, you will find 2 small strip signs like the ones on the word study center rotation chart and two matching signs that fit my large pocket chart that holds materials for each center activity. I hope these are helpful!



Hello Again,

I've started this program this week and it has been very successful! I'm excited to see how this will change my success with word study. I have another question, however.

I know that you only do centers Tues-Thurs. and that the kids spend about 25 mins. at the center. Are they going to more than one center a day? I noticed that you have about six centers for each week. If you only have the kids go to one center a day (which is what I am understanding from your blog), how do you have them get to all 5 or 6 centers if your only doing it 3 days a week?

Thanks again!


As I agree with all the other posters, thank you so much for this wonderful resource. I am already wishing it to be summer time so that I could try and get everything organized! So many ideas I cannot wait to try out.

I did have a question regarding the "my list to work on" spelling page where students place misspelled words from their tests. How does it work for students who are really struggling with spelling? Right now I have a basal spelling list, and I have some students missing 10-15 words out of 20. I'd think with an actual word study program there will be some serious help for these students, but have you found some students still struggling that much?

Also, do they check or cross off words they get correct after they've done a spelling test over those mispelled words?

I was just hoping for a little more information on that part of thei folder. It seems like it would be an awesome and incredibly important addition.

Thank you again so much. You are truly an inspiration and LIFESAVER to us all!!



I was wondering if you would be willing to share the spelling lists you have made up for third grade. I also teach third grade and it would be tremenously helpful if I saw what you are using as your words. I then could "tweak" the lessons to my class. I know this could save me a tremendous amount of time. Thanks

May I ask where you found your large pocket chart that holds your word study center materials?

Hi Beth,

I can't wait each week to check back in and read any new entries to your site. I am wondering if you have posted the signs for the word study centers somewhere on your site to download (eg. tic-tac-toe, smartboard, etc)? Since being introduced to your site just this year I have gone out to purchase Print Shop, However, I am just new to the program and I find it is taking me quite some time to learn how to make some labels/signs, etc. Definitely a work in progress for me. Thanks for inspiring so many of us teachers!

Rachael (comment #50),

You asked about when we teach short vowels. Since short vowels are a main focus of word study in first and second grades, we have found that our third graders are typically secure with short vowels. However, while the students are doing assessments for the first week of school, we do have them doing some short vowel (cvc) activities at centers just to get them comfortable with how center time works. Also, our first three units on consonant blends include only words with short vowel word families since the long vowels patterns are not introduced until week 4. That way, students are really reviewing the short vowels for the first few weeks of third grade.

Thanks for your question, and don't worry at all about posting multiple questions. I hope my answers are helpful!


Kay (comment #47),

You asked about how the Long Vowel Word Race works. (I am guesing you are referring to the Long Vowel Race Track game shown in the pictures.) I have now added links in the post (located under the race track game board picture) so that you can download the game board, word cards, recording sheet, and directions. I only included the downloads for the long a game, but the game board can be easily altered to work for any of the long vowels and their corresponding patterns. I just paste the two game board sheets inside a file folder, add a title, and laminate it. I also print the word cards on card stock and laminate those as well. You will need to create some circles that say "Winner's Circle" for each player. The game board file is a Print Shop file, and the word cards and recording sheets are MS Word files.

I hope this is helpful to you! I meant to add links to download those files when I first published the post!



I asked a question before a few weeks ago, but I thought of another one too. Hope you can help me out.

I was looking at your 3rd grade long range plans for your word study and I noticed that you focus on the long vowel sounds, but don't have a unit on the short vowel sounds. Do you cover the short vowel sounds when you talk about the long sounds? Or do you cover that somewhere else in another unit? Thanks!


Aurore (comment #46),

No problem! I'm glad I could help you out!


Diane (comment #45),

Isn't the SMART Board a great tool for word study centers! The time I save cutting, pasting, and laminating when creating the activities on the SMART Board is so valuable. Also, the ease with which students can build words and take words apart by dragging, dividing, and combining word parts is awesome! The inifinite cloner tool comes in handy a lot when creating word work activities too. I may post more of the SMART Board activities I've created myself on my website later this year.


Dear Beth, I also read your blogs regularly, teaching ESL in Germany. I was wondering if you can explain how the "Long Vowel Word Race" works? You wouldn't be able to provide the template by any chance?

Thanks - and there is not too much information on one blog. It is wonderfully informative! Thanks.

Thanks a lot !!!

Beth, Thank you so much for the site. My students love using the smartboard as part of word work. I appreciate ALL you ideas.

Diane (comment #42),

You asked about the SMART Board activity that the girl is doing in the video. It is an activity that I found on the SMART Exchange and altered to fit the unit we were studying at the time. There is a lot of unlocking and ungrouping required to make it your own, but it was a neat activity. Here is a link to the SMART Notebook file: http://exchange.smarttech.com/details.html?id=x9339ea38be574dcc94bff9e113a4821d

Let me know if this is what you are talking about!


Angie (comment #41),

No need to apologize! I don't expect readers to read all of the comments. It was just easier to refer to those comments rather than rewrite a few of the things I had written to other teachers.

That is so great that you are able to pull students out during word study time to work with them at their advanced spelling stage. Your teachers are so lucky! We have a gifted and talented pull-out program at our school (PACE), but we have to work around the PACE teacher's schedule. She works at three different schools, so her time is not very flexible. She also has a separate curriculum she is expected to teach. It sounds like you work with the teachers at your school to provide differentiation within their current instruction. That would be ideal!

Thanks so much for sharing! Keep in touch!


Beth, I love you ideas. I have been alot of the ideas into my classroom. Can you tell me how you created the smartboard activity that you have with a female girl writing on the smartboard.

So sorry! I some how missed your earlier posts by not hitting "more posts" at the bottom of the page. Your differenitation is very thoughtful and I appreicat so much that all of your students are getting direct instruction at their level. Right now the only thing different that I'm able to provide teachers as a gifted faciliator, is to actually pull and instruct students during spelling who are working at the higher levels. It takes collaboration, but it has been an effective use of my support.

Callie (comment #38),

You asked if I could upload the other word study lesson SMART Notebook files I have created. Since this is my first year having a SMART Board in m classroom, I am creating as I go. I will try to upload the 6 lessons I have already created later this week. I will leave a comment on this blog post when I have uploaded the files. I'm glad you are finding them useful!


Aurore (comment #37),

When I created the schedule strips you are asking about, I did not save each one separately. Instead I used the template (see link below) to create three at a time. I would then print out the 3 that I created and create 3 more using the same file. I used Print Shop to create the schedule strips, and I used the clipart inside that program. Here is a link to my webpage where you download the template: http://hill.troy.k12.mi.us/staff/bnewingham/myweb3/schedulestrips.htm

It's so exciting to hear that you have implemented both reading and writing workshops in your classroom using ideas from my blog!

Keep in touch!


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