Sep 12 2010

Spelling vs. Word Study: What’s the Difference?

Published by under Teacher Talk

As a teacher fairly ‘green’ to Word Study in my class, I need to get into the habit of NOT calling it “Spelling”. In our class, we either refer to it as Words Their Way (which is the actual name of the program adopted by our school), or simply ‘Word Study’.

What is Words Their Way?

Words Their Way is a developmental spelling, phonics, and vocabulary program.  It was developed by Invernizzi, Johnston, Bear, and Templeton.  Words Their Way is intended to be a part of a balanced literacy plan that includes fluency, comprehension and writing.  Word study is implemented as a small component of the literacy plan but it is also interwoven in actual reading and writing texts.

Words Their Way is an open-ended individual process. An assessment is given to determine where to begin instruction. Based on assessment results students are given words to study in order to discover the common attributes.  In this manner students are actively constructing their own knowledge of spelling patterns.  Students learn features by completing activities such as word sorting, word hunts, games and drawing and labeling.  Students work individually, with partners, and in small groups to encourage cooperative learning and individual responsibility.

Some of the students in the class have previous experience with this program because some of the Gr.4 teachers implemented it last year.  The students in our class currently fall into one of 3 categories: Within Word Pattern, Syllables and Affixes or Derivational Relations, and students can either be in the early, middle or late stages within those categories.   When I was growing up, the teacher often gave us a list of words that may or may not have been connected or related in any way, and typically it was on Fridays that we were given a test.  We didn’t really study word patterns or meanings of parts of words, so I became really good at memorizing.  This program called Words Their Way, I believe, is a better way at getting students to learn about these patterns and meanings so that when they do encounter unfamiliar words, they are able to apply their knowledge and understandings to decipher what that word might mean.

Take a look at some recent photos of the students practicing using their word sorts.

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