Words Their Way

a Parent's Guide

What is Words Their Way?

  • Words Their Way is a word study program that further individualizes the way students learn to spell words. It is a hands on approach to practice spelling patterns in words. It allows students to manipulate words and/or pictures into different categories. This sorting process helps students analyze and examine, compare and contrast, and differentiate the patterns in words. This hands-on approach not only motivates students to practice spelling words but it also helps students internalize the spelling patterns in words for the future. In the beginning of the year, students were given a Spelling Inventory that helped determine which spelling stage the students were performing at.

    Helpful Tips

    *Each spelling list has headers that show what the sorting pattern is for the week.
    *The sort is written at the top of the word list.
    *The sorting patterns are written in bold along with the first words for each pattern.
    *Students have to HEAR what the words have in common or SEE what they have in common (or both).
    *Words are not meant to be memorized or written in rote fashion. The objective is for students to learn and understand the spelling patterns.

    Words Their Way Language

    Sorting – organizing words into groups based on similarities in their patterns or meaning.

    Oddballs – words that cannot be grouped into any of the identified categories of a sort. Students should be taught that there are always words that “break the rules” and do not follow the general pattern.

    Sound marks / / - Sound marks around a letter or pattern tell the student to focus only on the sound rather than the actual letters. (example: the word gem could be grouped into the /j/ category because it sounds like j at the beginning).

    Vowel (represented by V) – one of 6 letters causing the mouth to open when vocalized (a,e, i, o, u, and usually y). A single vowel sound is heard in every syllable of a word.

    Consonants (represented by C) – all letters other than the vowels. Consonant sounds are blocked by the lips, tongue, or teeth during articulation



Types of Sorts


Closed Sort: Students sort words with given categories or guided words provided by the teacher (categories and/or guide words are in bold print). Students are encourage to say each word as they put them into the correct category so that they can hear the pattern being taught.

Open Sort: Students create their own categories for a set of words different than the categories set in the closed sort. Students are to find ways to group the words according to vowel patterns, meanings, parts of speech ,etc.

Blind Sort: Using given guide words, students spell or write words in the correct category as a partner calls each word aloud without showing it. For younger grades, students may point to the correct category after hearing the word called out.

Writing Sort: Students write their words under the correct categories.

Speed Sort: Students sort words quickly under the correct categories (use a timer to see how fast they can do it!) Students love to beat records and set goals for themselves.

Word Hunt: Students hunt through their own reading and writing for words that are additional examples of the sound, pattern or meaning unit they studying.

Answer Keys for Parents