March 21, 2016

Words Their Way, MY Way: Part 2

I'm baaaack!

My original blog post about running Words Their Way, called Words Their Way: MY Way, is my most-visited and most-pinned blog post EVER.

First of all, I'm totally flattered that anyone wants to read anything I have to say.

Second of all, I GET IT! Words Their Way is the monster under the bed that makes you decide that, well, you'd rather stay safely in your bed than risk getting out of it.

I love Words Their Way - don't get me wrong - but it can be completely overwhelming and consuming if you don't have an attack plan.

Thus, I present to you...

If you were directed here from my first post, thanks for reading! If you haven't read Part 1 yet, I suggest you start there first.

Let's dig in!

As many of you know, I started at a new school this year.

My new school does use Words Their Way, but I have had to change up my routine a bit to best fit my new classroom.


First of all, my school provides these awesome workbooks for each student:

How lucky are we? 

The workbooks are leveled. Inside are the numbered sorts, which students cut out every Monday. In other words, these books completely eliminate copying or printing different sorts every week and having to keep up with which group is on which sort! 

For each sort, there is also a sorting page and a writing page. Students use the sorting page to practice sorting their words all week. On Fridays, they glue the words down so that they are permanently sorted in their workbooks to refer back to when needed. 

If you don't have workbooks, you should definitely ask your administration if you can get them! They are such time-savers for teachers and are beneficial for students. 


I'm not a fan of generic spelling, during which students practice writing their words in different colors. In my humble opinion, those methods are boring, mindless, and ineffective. 

I'm not a huge fan of the games that come designed for Words Their Way, because you have to create them all (print, color, cut, glue, make cards, etc.). That is a TON of work to do for a game that will only be used by one group of kids for one week. Yikes!

So, I decided to create my own line of games that can be used with ANY and ALL word sorts. 

Yep, you read that correctly: ANY sort! I have been using most of these games in my classroom for over a year now and have yet to come across a sort that didn't work.

These games are available individually in my TPT store, or at a discounted price in my Word Study Bundle

Word Master was my first versatile game for Words Their Way. It incorporates a little bit of all aspects of word study: spelling, vocabulary, and pattern generalization. I allow up to 4 kids to play together, and they love it!

Spin It! is a line of spinner games including Spin It (Classic), Write It, and Define It. Spin It includes a little bit of everything, while the other spinners target specific skills. Students can play with a partner, and some spinners can be used independently. 

Beat Me to the Peak is the new favorite in my classroom. I allow my higher-level groups to play it, because it targets word meaning rather than spelling. I allow up to 4 to play at a time, and I just think it's so cute!

My newest addition is Word Study Memory, a twist on the classic memory game. It gets students thinking critically about spelling patterns and generalizations. 

All of the games are available at a discounted price in my growing Word Study Bundle


My team runs word study on a one-week schedule, so I do things much differently than I did last year. Every day, we do word study for at 15 minutes first thing in the morning. Later in the morning, students have a "Word Work" station that they visit during Daily 5 rotations. All students get at least 30 minutes of word study in each day. 

Here is what our word study block looks like first thing each day:

Monday: Students cut out new words during morning work. Then they meet with partners in their groups to attempt sorting their words correctly. They are also supposed to make sure they know how to pronounce each word and that they know each word's meaning. During this time, I meander around the room to assist any students that need help with their initial sorts. 

Tuesday: I put a timer on the board and kids do speed sorts with partners.

Wednesday: Students do writing sorts in their word work journals for morning work, then meet with a partner to play a word study game that I created.

Thursday: Students do blind writing sorts with partners to prepare for their quizzes. 

Friday: I give word study quizzes in leveled groups. 

Quiz papers are an exclusive product available only in my Word Study Bundle!

Students get to pick how they practice their words during Word Work time when we do Daily 5. They can practice writing words in their notebooks, or they can practice sorting, or they can pull materials from the bucket, including my games!

There you have it. 

If you are looking for more ideas about how to ORGANIZE and IMPLEMENT Words Their Way, please go read Words Their Way, MY Way (Part 1) where I explain all of my organization in depth. 

Questions? Ask in a comment below and I'll get back to you!

Please follow along on InstagramFacebookPinterest, and TPT for more ideas to make your teaching life a little happier!


  1. This is amazing, thank you for sharing! I have 2 questions: Where did you get the WTW books? Do you give a spelling test on Friday to have the students spell all of the words from that week (some lists have 20+ words) and do they write these words on their groups that they sorted them (appears this way in the photo above)?

    1. Hi Tara!

      The books were ordered for us by our administration. I love them, as they are such a time-saver for me, and would strongly suggest you ask your administration for them! They are available for purchase on the Words Their Way website. I did the math once, and it ends up being about $10 per book.

      And about the assessments... that's a great question. This year I have been giving my groups 10 words from their sort to spell. They do not know which 10 words they are going to be assessed on. And yes, I have them sort them as part of the assessment. Each word is worth 2 points: 1 point for being spelled correctly, and 1 for being sorted correctly. So each quiz is out of 20.

      Thanks so much for reading!

  2. I bought the Words Their Way free to do whatever I want for spelling this year. Although it looks like a lot of work, I think I'm going to try it. So each group has a different test on Fridays? How do they get the words home? Thanks so much...I am buying your bundle on TPT! :-)

    1. Hi Melissa, THANK YOU! It is a lot of work to begin with, but I seriously think it is so worth it! Yes, each group has a different test on Fridays. Last year, my kids kept their words in baggies and took them home to sort for homework every night. This year, however, my kids wrote their words in their agendas so they could practice at home if they wanted. We had plenty of time in class to practice and master the words, so I made at-home practice optional. Let me know if you have any more questions! Thank you!

  3. Hi:-) Thanks so much for this post. I was wondering when ordering for first grade. Do you order all level A workbooks or wait until the kids are tested to see what level workbook to order?

  4. Hi Kristin,
    Thanks for the detailed posts about WTW. I have been using the program for a few years and am interested in trying your approach for introducing the sorts. I currently pull each group to the back table for a more guided initial sort on Mondays. Although this is time consuming, I find it sets them up for success for the remainder of the week. Do you find that having them sort together with partners initially builds a strong enough foundation of understanding each week?

    1. Hi Laura! Great question. When I was taught about implementing WTW, I was told that students should sort the words on their own first. They may sort them in an incorrect way (i.e. number of letters, beginning letters, parts of speech, or something else totally unrelated), but the idea is to get students analyzing the words first and creating their own understandings. What I typically do now is have each group meet in a different part of the room so I can easily speak to the entire group at once. I give them time to sort with partners, and then I talk with each group briefly. I carry a whiteboard around the room with me so I can demonstrate the patterns with each group, but it's a very short amount of time. I find that most of my students are able to come to the conclusions on their own, especially the higher level students, which allows for authentic learning. I think that having two weeks definitely allows time for the patterns to internalize. Students that consistently have trouble are few and far between, but I pull them during my remediation time for extra practice. I know that was a lot of information... Hope that helps!

    2. I should mention that I am back to a 2-week rotation, similar to what I described in my first WTW post, simply because I don't have as much time for word study this year!

  5. How would they sort in an incorrect way if the headers are right there with the sorts?

    1. You would be surprised! Some headers are harder than others. For example, one of my current groups has a sort with sort o, long o, short i, and long i. The i headers are "film" and "mind." Not only do they have to look at the word to see which vowel is used, but they also have to pronounce the word correctly to determine the vowel's sound. Another group of mine has these headers right now: CVCC, CVCe, CVVC, and CV/CVV/open syllable. I had to teach them what open syllable means (when a vowel sound is at the end) and they were confused about why "crew" and "grow" fit in the CVV category.

  6. I am looking to implement WTW next year. I believe my administration with also order the student workbooks. Not everyone has the same workbooks correct? You have to wait until you test them to determine which books to order the students?

    1. True! Yes, we order the workbooks after giving the preassessment.

    2. Ok thanks! And one more, sorry! Would that be the work book they use all year, or do you end up having to order new ones as the year progresses?

    3. If you start your students at or towards the front of the workbooks, they will last all year. I believe each workbook has about 50 sorts in it!

  7. Needing some advice- I am a High School ELL teacher with a class period solely dedicated to oral language and vocabulary. One of the state standards for this course is word sorts and justification of those sorts. One standard I feel is missing is phonics, spelling patterns, etc. So as I have been looking for resources (God forbid they provide me with any) I keep coming across WTW. I know there is a program by WTW for ELs but my question is then- would this be a program that would benefit second language students that are literate in their first language at the HS level? I have learned over the years to tweak programs and activities designed for younger children to meet the needs of HS students that master these skills fairly quickly- so that is not a concern. I just want to know if a 16 year old would find this program demeaning.
    Thanks for your input!

    1. Hi Beverly! I totally understand where you are coming from, and I do not think that using WTW would be demeaning for older students. It is truly about critical/analytical thinking at all levels, especially when you get to the syllables and affixes / derivational relations WTW books.

  8. I am considering using WTW this next school year. I love your ideas! I do have a question though... What do you do when one student from the group still has not mastered that sort but the others in his/her group have? I hope I read that right.. each group stays on the same sort?

    1. Hi Kortney! Thanks! This has only happened a handful of times, and it's usually due to lack of adequate practice. My students that need more practice spelling know that they should be making responsible choices during morning work or choice board time. In the event that a student does not pass the quiz, I give them the weekend to keep practicing and I give them a quiz again on Monday.

  9. I have read so many recommendations, from many different sources, about WTW. Your posts on the topic have inspired me to try it with my 5th graders. But I'm wondering what the minimum teaching materials might be to implement the program. I'll have to pay for the materials out of my own pocket, so purchasing the student workbooks is not an option (54 students). I've looked on the website, but I'm confused about just what I would need. Can you tell me what teacher resources I would need to use WTW?

    1. Hi Cindy! So sorry that I am just now seeing this comment for some reason. I have the leveled sort books, but I have honestly never used them. I have always printed the sorts and then made copies. (If you Google "Words Their Way PDF sorts" you will find some.) The sort books and teacher manuals help you teach the skill, but most of the skills you - as the teacher - will be able to figure out easily without a teacher manual. (I literally haven't opened mine since college!) The games that I created have become the only piece that I cannot live without. The books are helpful, but not necessary in my opinion!

  10. This is awesome!!!! I do have a question, or maybe just a chance to pick your brain. I found last year with my 4th graders that they would master the spelling of the words when doing the actual WTW sorts, worksheets, and games provided (yes, I was one of those suckers who made multiple copies of each of the games for sorts 20 - 40), but when it came time to apply to their writing they would forget and not apply. I ended up holding them all accountable for the spelling of words that I knew they should know how to spell, but it didn't help much. Have you ever found the same? By looking at your games, I feel as though they will have the kiddos apply their spelling in a better way! Just have to get the go ahead from my curr. coordinator.

    1. Hi Tory! I'm not an expert, but I do believe that the activities you implement make a difference. Spelling activities that just involve writing the word or spelling the word involve and encourage rote memorization. I think using WTW's different types of word sorts are important for students to engage in. Additionally, all of the games I created require students to determine which category (or rule) the word fits in, why it fits there, and generalization for other words that follow the same pattern. I also think it's important to have a discussion with each group at the start of the week to talk about why the letters work together to make whatever sound, that way the students know the "why" as they are sorting and spelling all week. I hope that's helpful!! Good luck!

  11. Kristin- you are a genius! You have no idea how helpful this is. Thank you!!! Jana


Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your input!