Saturday, August 17, 2013

Words Their Way: The 5 Day Plan

If you don't know much about Words Their Way, start here for an overview of this Word Study system. Then you will be ready for a lesson plan format, which is what this post is all about!

With Words Their Way, students will be given a word sort every five days. You will have up to three groups in your class - I will talk in a future post about the assessment and grouping, so hang tight for that.

Don't think that your word study groups need to be on a Monday - Friday schedule. For starters, there's always three day weekends, so that will throw you off, but also, you'll want to meet with your group for day one of the lesson plan, so it's best to be staggered anyways! (You'll also need to be with your groups on day five to assess....I'm still figuring out how this will all play out scheduling wise in my head!)

Here is a place to start with your plans:

Day 1: Introduction
Introduce the word sort with your group. This involves a few things - first, you may want to tell them the pattern for the sort but you might want them to figure out what the patterns are themselves. So, introduction begins with going over the patterns if you choose.

Introduction also means going through the words - saying them aloud and discussing meaning. You can start this with kids - perhaps highlight the words that they may not know, and then let them finish on their own (in pairs or triads within their group). It is very important though that they know how to say the words aloud.

After the introduction, the children will sort their words into the patterns. They will also write the words in their notebook. Notebooks: Some teachers devote a whole notebook to word study, or this could be a section of your Reader's Notebook. Up to you! (Note: I don't think primary kids will be writing - probably just reading the words or pictures and listening to the sounds. I'm justing getting into working with the primary grade levels, so not 100% on some of this stuff for kinders, 1st, and 2nd grade....please leave me comments if you've done this with the little kids!)

Day 2: Building Vocabulary
First up - sort the words. The kids will always sort the words first thing each day. While it may seem repetitive, the goal here is to develop speed and automaticity. The sorting will change as the week goes by, but always - sorting is first thing.

The other thing children will done on day two is work on  vocabulary with the words. They can draw pictures of the words or find pictures online to represent the words. They could act out words for a partner(s) to guess. They can basically do any game that focuses on word meaning.

Day 3: The Reading-Writing Connection
After students sort the words again, day 3 is when the word study goes even more authentic. This is a non-negotiable part of word study - kids have to find vocabulary in context.

Students may look for words that are in their sort or that fit the patterns in their sort in their Just Right books, in poems that the teacher shares with them, in leveled readers....whatever authentic reading materials they happen to be working with. They are essentially becoming word detectives - looking for new words and adding them to the lists they already have.

Be prepared though: They will find the "Oddballs." Oddballs are the words that should following a pattern (either for how it sounds or how it looks) but don't. Don't hide the oddballs. Use these words - talk about them, and then just have the kids file the words in an oddball category.

Day 4: Blind Sort and/or Games
On day 4, kids will do a Blind Written Sort with a partner. With this exercise, child A has the words in front of them and child B has a notebook and pencil. Child A reads the words to Child B, who writes them in their notebook with the correct pattern. The purpose here is that you'll want the kids to have the words in their vocabulary so much that they don't need the visual cue. When the words from their list are done being read and written, Child A checks the work from Child B and then they switch.

Now, you'll have to change things up - after awhile kids are going to get used to all these procedures. Day 4 can also be a day for word games - the Words Their Way text has lots of ideas for games, but you'll have to create them.

If you're not wanting to make tons of games for your Word Study but you'd like them - check out Teachers Pay Teachers. There are tons of docs you can buy on this website that other teachers have made - if you're in a pinch for time (or just don't want to make the games) there's so much on TpT that you can buy. You can also create an account there and sell your games! Extra money, whoohooo!

Also: day four could be the time of the week when the upper elementary kids begin to use the words in context - writing stories or sentences with their words.

Day 5: Assessment
On day 5, you will assess the group. They will create the columns with the headers as the word patterns. You will choose three to four words per pattern to dictate to them and they will write them in the correct column. If you assign grades: one point for spelling it correctly and one point for placing it in the correct column with the correct spelling pattern.

Also: add one word per pattern that wasn't in the sort but fits the pattern. You'll add these words to see if the kids get the generalizations that they worked on over the course of the week. Make sure to use that clearly fit the pattern - don't pick tricky words that could maybe be in two categories or fit in oddball. All you're trying to see by adding words is if kids get the generalization.

And that's it!

So there you have it! Now the vision is that most of this is small group work that fits in your Reading Workshop as part of the work students do each day. Of course, it won't happen magically over night that they know how to do all of it's okay to start with a super easy sort and do it all together as a whole class for a few times first. Teach the procedures. Remember: Go slow to go fast.

Don't get stressed, either. Transformation in your reading instruction (or any area of your life) isn't a's a marathon. As long as you are moving forward in your journey, you're on the right path. As much as we'd like to have everything perfect the first time and on a super quick timeline, it's just not possible.

So that's all for Saturday morning! Have a great weekend!

PS - One more (HUGE) thing that I didn't mention. Not sure what sorts to do? You can buy these books and it's all done for you - sequenced in a great order, building on one another...etc. Although only four are pictured here, there are five - one for each of the five stages: Emergent (kinder), Letter Name (first), Within Word (first-second), Syllables and Affixes (third-fourth), and Derivational Relations (fifth and up).

Emerson teachers: I have the original text of Words Their Way and I have the third, fourth, and fifth stages of word sorts. We will be ordering the others, just don't have them yet....


  1. Hi Michelle!
    So excited to now be following your blog! This post is super helpful because some of the teachers at my school are just getting going with Words Their Way, so thanks a bunch!
    Learning to the Core

  2. Thanks! This is helpful as I start to use Words Their Way this year in my classroom. I have a questions- about how long does this take each day, once they have the system down? I'm trying to decide how to fit it into my day.

    1. Did you get a reply about this? I'm thinking about changing how I'm doing things, and would love some other ideas.

  3. Thanks so much for this, really helpful!

  4. I love these ideas! Question, on day 2 do the kiddos complete the vocab table for each word in the sort or do you tell them to choose 3 words? I do word work as a rotation in my literacy block and I don't think 20 min will be long enough for the kiddos to get each word done, just curious. Thank you!

  5. I am starting WTW. What do you do if the don't "pass" your weekly assessment? Do you keep them with the same sort? Or, how about if one person "fails" but the rest of the group "passes," do you hold that one student back on move the rest forward? Help! I am confused with this part.

    1. Hey Diane - You are a no-reply commenter - can you please email me at so I can forward the response I just composed? Thank you! :-)

  6. Oh, another question: how do you manage WTW groups and guided reading? Thank you for your time:)

  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  8. How do you meet with the students on day one and also assess students that are on day five?

  9. Hi. I really like your ideas for incorporating WTW. How do you use WTW and guided reading in your literacy block?

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