The Magic of Word Study with Sassy, Savvy, Simple Teaching

Word Study can look and sound different in every teacher's room. Sad to say, but sometimes it is non-existent! Manipulating words through direct instruction and various practice opportunities has huge payoffs when students independently transfer that knowledge and meaning of new words in independent reading. 

Some people are confused of what word study can be or is. This is how I infer it:

Term: Word Study
Definition: Alternative to spelling lists and traditional spelling instruction. Using multiple resources to teach students word patterns. According to multiple research, word study teaches children regularities, patterns and conventions of orthography needed to read and spell. Students transition from the alphabetic stage, to the pattern stage and lastly to the meaning stage.


As a 5th Grade ELA teacher I focus on the layer in this process of meaning! Students that are struggling in the pattern stage, I use a small group time for them to remediate.

My main focuses currently are roots, prefixes and suffixes.

I do a Root of the Week with my focus board.


Throughout the week, students work with their neighbors and independently to apply the root to known and unknown words in context. We practice writing with the words and spend time sharing new learnings. (To read more about how I incorporate my Focus Board, click HERE or on the photo above.)

Why are Roots so important to learn? Well, it's definitely an important part of building better readers. Misunderstanding words in text changes the meaning of the text. This is no good for comprehension. Plus, studying roots helps to prepare students for the meaning of specific vocabulary words in careers years after you have taught them. As educators, we all care about the people are students become. Well, adults come to a career path and having the background knowledge of roots will help them in their line of work.

I also go over prefixes and suffixes throughout the year. We learn the meanings and chart these together. Same as with the root, we spend time working with neighbors and independently to apply the new words in context. 

The biggest take-away I have learned, is NEVER to teach ONLY in isolation. When teaching any sort of Word Study, you always want to take it a step further and apply it to context. Either using it in writing or documenting it when read. When doing so in writing allow students to use a colored pencil, crayon or pen. Using colors helps leave a visual imprint in a student's memory. Therefore, repeated practices and occurrences help retain the meaning.


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