Words Their Way Program

Oradell Public School

Word Study...

is defined as "A learner-centered conceptual approach to instruction in phonics, spelling, word recognition, and vocabulary, based on a developmental model."

"The purpose of word study then, is to examine words in order to reveal the logic and consistencies within our written language system and to help students achieve mastery in recognizing, spelling, and defining specific words." (page 4)

So...how is your child's sort determined?

A pre-assessment is administered to the students - much like an old-fashioned spelling test. The results are inputted into the web platform, which will provide the teacher with suggestions for which skills to focus on based on this data. Again, these are suggestions - our teachers will always use their expertise and knowledge of their students to determine what will best fit their needs. This spelling inventory looks for specific skills such as:
  • Initial and final consonants
  • Short vowels
  • Digraphs
  • Blends
  • Common long vowel patterns
  • Other vowel patterns
  • Inflected endings
  • Syllable junctures
and so forth...
Your child's group is not static, they will move through word sorts that meet their needs. Your child may have mastered blends, but struggled with digraphs. They will then be assigned digraphs until mastery is achieved, and not review blends at all. There is no order to the sorts - it is based on the needs of the children.

No more spelling tests?!!!

Yes, there are no more weekly spelling tests in word study. We want our students to apply their knowledge of word study to their reading and writing, and studying for weekly spelling tests does not promote this level of learning. Students will be assessed in some way at the end of each word sort - this might be a written sort, a glued sort, or just a regular sorting activity and/or reflection.
At the end of each unit, there is a spelling assessment. For instance, after learning the blends, there is a blends mini-assessment for the students to take. Based upon their performance on this assessment, the students will either have extra practice on that skill or move on to another unit.

Why picture sorts?


Why are there "oddballs"?

Not every sort has an "oddball" so don't panic!

Oddballs serve the purpose of pointing out specific word knowledge.
  • For example, if the sort includes "ar" words such as part and smart, the word heart would be an oddball because it sounds the same but does not follow the spelling pattern.
  • For short u words, the word put is an oddball because it doesn't sound like all the other short u words even though it follows that simple consonant, vowel, consonant pattern.
  • For long i words, the word give is an oddball because it has the silent e at the end, yet does not have the long i sound like the others.
  • For long a words, the word said is an oddball because it has the two vowels, ai, put together, yet it has a short e sound. In this same sort, the word want is also an oddball because it does not have the short a sound as in "cat".

In conclusion...

Remember, the important part is for your child to understand why the words are sorted the way they are. This way if your child is given another word that follows the pattern, he/she will be able to spell that word correctly. Please email your child's teacher with any difficulty they are having at home, so the teacher is aware and able to work with your child more closely at school. We are already seeing our students apply their word study knowledge to their reading and writing during our workshop periods. We are excited to continue to see their progress!