Words Their Way: MY Way

Words Their Way:

SO overwhelming, am I right?

We just started using Words Their Way this year. Although I was trained on WTW in college, I had NO IDEA how to implement WTW effectively in my classroom while differentiating to meet students' individual needs. Over the summer, my team decided that I was going to be in charge of word study, so I threw myself head first into Words Their Way. I read the books, read blogs, attended workshops, and watched videos. 

I finally figured out how to implement WTW in my room. Maybe it will work for you, too! 


First, you have to give your students the PSI or ESI test and score them using the WTW scoresheets. I don't fill out the scoresheets completely because I find that to be a royal waste of time. Instead, I circle the patterns that a student MISSES. When a student misses three in one column, I stop grading and plan to start the student on that skill. 

I have a spreadsheet on Google Docs that I use to keep track of my groups. It looks like this:

I created this FOREVER FREEBIE to help you organize your groups, which is essentially the same exact spreadsheet, just printable:

I grouped my students in August, then gave the PSI/ESI again in December. Based on those test results, I reworked the groups. 

I like to print my students' word sorts on colored paper. It makes the words stand out and less likely to be lost! My guided reading groups are colors, so I had to think of something different to name my word study groups that was still applicable to colors. Don't judge.

My kids have baggies stapled into their take-home folders to store their words in. Honestly - most of the bags didn't make it to 2015, even though I bought the most expensive ones! Most of my students have replaced their baggies and bring them back and forth; I'm beyond impressed that none have been lost! All of my students have their words every day.

The above picture is of the inside of my students' take-home folders. (Read more about the folders HERE.) On the right is my Word Sort Cheat Sheet that students can refer to at home.

Alright - that's it for the organization. On to the implementation...


I like to do two-week rotations. We only have word study for 20 minutes every day and homework is optional, so I want to make sure my kids have ample time to master new spelling patterns. 

Week 1 - Monday
Students cut out new words, write initials on the back, and try sorting them on their own. I pull small groups to give them a very brief overview of their sort and sort the words with them. Right now I have 5 groups and it takes me about 20 minutes to meet with all of the groups.

Week 1 - Tuesday
Students do closed sorts with partners. Students must be partnered within their predetermined word study groups. 

Week 1 - Wednesday
Students work with partners to determine the meaning of each word and use them in sentences. If students don't know a word, they look it up in the dictionary or ask me. 

Week 1 - Thursday
Students do speed sorts in partners. I project a stopwatch on the board for students to watch. 

Week 1 - Friday
Students play Word Master or Spin It! 

Week 2 - Monday
Students do word hunts independently. They flip to the next blank page in their word study folders and write the headers at the top of the page. Then they use books and magazines to hunt for words that fit under their headers.

Week 2 - Tuesday
Students do blind sorts with partners.

Week 2 - Wednesday
Students play Word Master or Spin It!

Week 2 - Thursday
Students do blind writing sorts with partners using dry erase boards.

Week 2 - Friday
Students glue down their words, sorted, into their word study folders.  I pass out notebook paper and the kids know to get their papers ready for the test. 

I call groups over to my reading corner one at a time. Students bring their papers and a pencil and grab a clipboard then I administer the test. I always print an extra copy of each word sort, staple the extras together, and use them to create the tests. Simple is best, in my opinion.

Word Master and Spin It! are both games that I designed and sell on Teachers Pay Teachers. There are tons of games out there for Words Their Way and phonics in general, but WTW is already way too much to keep up with. I designed both of these games so that they could be used with ANY word sort, so long as students can read the directions on the game boards. My students LOVE them!

OR, You can grab ALL of my Words Their Way resources here!


Honestly, I hope this post was helpful to you!

Want more Words Their Way advice? Read my follow-up blog post, Words Their Way: My Way, Part 2

What questions do you have about implementing Words Their Way? I'd love to help shed some light!

Please follow along on Bloglovin'Instagram, Facebook, and TPT for more fun ideas that make your life easier!


  1. Thank you for this post. We don't use Words Their Way but I'd love to include some of the activities into our daily routine.😃

  2. Kristin,
    Thanks so much for the link to this post. Saved it so that I can easily refer back to it. Thanks for sharing your WTW schedule and resources.

    Flip Floppin' Through...3rd Grade

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Hi Kristin,

    Thank you so much for your post! We have been struggling with WTW procedures in our second grade classrooms, and I would love to give this a shot! I have a couple questions for you: 1. When you are administering a test to one of your groups, what do all of the other groups do? 2. What score must a student get to "pass" the test? And if they pass, do you just continue through the WTW lists consecutively? If they don't pass, do you keep them on the same list? And if they keep not passing, how long do you keep them on the same list?

    Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Chelsea!

      Sorry it took me a few days to get back to you - I've been out of town.

      On Fridays that are assessment days, we begin the process by passing out notebook paper. Students get the paper ready for their tests. Once the paper is ready, the students know to get out their word study folders, grab a gluestick and begin gluing down the words, sorted correctly. While kids are gluing, I call one group to me at a time. The kids know to come quickly. Once they take the test, they hand the papers to me and return to gluing. Gluing actually takes some kids a long time, but of course some are early finishers. I usually left my morning work choice board projected on the board, so students could choose from those silent activities (reading, writing, etc) when finished gluing. It was never an issue.

      At my school, we decided 70% was passing. I typically move the groups through the lists consecutively, but some sorts I would skip if I felt they were too redundant or what not. I'll admit that I never "held back" a student that failed a test. In most cases, the failures were because students were practicing sorting them at home, but not practicing writing them. I talked to those students about being them needing to be responsible for their own learning, and usually performance improved. I already had five groups this year; It would have been too difficult to create more groups when students failed their tests.

      Let me know if you have any more questions!

  5. Can we please get that spreadsheet in the digital format? This teacher cannot keep up with paperwork to save her life.

    1. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Y-7XJ3tRlyrBOSJUlugLQaJRMVMMEcc86Uwu_cc0o-Q/edit?usp=sharing

  6. Thanks for the info and resources! One question: based on the amount of work you put in are you finding it helpful for students and seeing a huge amount of improvement?

    1. I absolutely think it is beneficial for my students! The progress I have seen has been great compared to years before when we used generic spelling words for all students. It's quite a bit of work on the front end to get materials ready, organize, and teach procedures. After that is done though, it becomes habit for both the teacher and the students and does not require much prep time. In fact, my new school provides the Words Their Way workbooks for each student, so I have NO prep time for word study AT ALL. It's great!! Look for a new blog post coming soon about new games and how I have changed my organization now that I have workbooks. Enjoy your winter break!


  7. Oh my goodness! This is exactly the post I needed to get my brain reorganized. I love how versatile it is. I keep moving grade levels and the games are perfect!

  8. Do you give your students all of the words on the sheet to practice and then quiz them on every word as well? I noticed you had numbers beside the words on your stapled sheets.

    Thanks for your post!

    1. Great question, Michelle! They practice all of the words all week, but I only quiz them on 10 of them. I occasionally give them a bonus. They do not know which words they will be quizzed on. I hope that helps! Thanks for reading!

  9. do you test them on all of the words or just a handful

    1. Hello! They practice all of the words all week, but I only quiz them on 10 of them. I occasionally give them a bonus. They do not know which words they will be quizzed on. I hope that helps! Thanks for reading!

  10. Just found your post and it is amazing! My school uses Words their Way and our system did not work for me last year. Love your organization and accountability. Question, how do you manage groups that might not have everyone on the same sort? Thank you so much!

  11. I am working through getting organized to implement WTW this school year! I've administered the USI for my kiddos and have them broken up into groups. Am I missing a direction in the books where it tells me which sort to star them on?

    Thanks for all your great information and tips!

  12. I looked through the WTW website that comes with the book when you purchase it. It is really hard to navigate. Did you download all of your wordlists off of that website? Could you make a Google Doc of how you organize all of your words. Do you use organize on GoogleDrive or in the documents folder on your computer?

    1. I love this program, but it is so hard to start up! I found another resource on TPT where the seller created a graphing chart and it actually broke up what sorts were considered early, middle, and late. Thank you for your reply:) Your blog really helped me get a headstart on this program!

  13. How do you assess all the sorts that only involve pictures? This is the part I'm struggling with! Thanks so much!


Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your input!