Thursday, December 11, 2014

~Words their Way Word Derivational Relations Notebook~

If you have followed my blog, you know that I am a big fan of Words their Way. {You might take a minute to check out my detailed post including 10 tips for implementing word study and a detailed explanation of my routines--this is great info for Word Study/spelling programs even if you do not use Words their Way.}

Today, I'm focusing in on my Derivational Relations Spellers (the blue group). Students who fall into this group are your best spellers. I have always felt that the Derivational Relations Group needed a little something more for their word study activities. Students who fall into the Derivational Relations Spellers group can often spell the words provided in their sorts with much ease. Typically, these students also find it easy to quickly attain word meanings and spellings for new words. In the past, I have had them complete Frayer Model-type activities (pick 10 words, record synonyms, draw an illustration, make a personal connect, write a definition or a sentence, generate other words that contain the word part, etc). I have also had them create crossword puzzles for others in their group to complete. However, these default activities never felt organized or worthwhile enough, so this year, I decided I wanted to get ahead of the game and have extension activities that made sense for each Derivational Relations Unit.

I created Word Study Notebook Activity sheets to go with each sort to help my Derivational Relations Spellers analyze spellings, sound changes, and meanings of their word study words. The activities are designed for independent exploration and reinforcement of concepts that are embedded in the unit of study. However, these activities could also be used to guide a lesson in a small group meeting. {Side note, I also think that the Derivational Relations Spellers sorts would be perfect for 5th-6th grade as a whole-class vocabulary/word study program combined with differentiated spelling/word study. If I were teaching 5th grade this year, I would be using these activities whole-group to expose students to prefixes, suffixes, and Greek and Latin roots--the main focus of the blue book.}

Using the Activity Sheets

These word study notebook activity sheets are meant to be a companion to Words Their Way: Derivational Relations Spellers (Templeton, Johnston, Bear, and Invernizzi). You really need the word sort books to implement this differentiated word study program.

Based on the level of difficulty of the activity pages and how progressed your students are with being “independent thinkers,” you may choose to have them complete some of the sheets independently and save others for their small group meeting with the teacher. These sheets can also be completed in partners. (You might specify how you want the activities completed prior to students beginning the set for each sort.) Allowing students to work in partners at the beginning of a unit (say the first and second sorts in the unit) and then expecting students to complete later activities in the unit independently is another way you can provide extra support and scaffolding. This week, I had students pair up and share their work after they completed the activities.

The Routine for Derivational Relations Spellers

I set aside 20 minutes for word study with the goal of having our word study block consistently 3-4 times a week.

Day 1 and Day 2: My students begin their individualized Words-Their-Way word study routine with my “blind” Word Search activity. Because I want students searching for word patterns and increasing their ability to recognize correctly spelled words—a major key to spelling improvement—these word searches do not contain the word list. (Word searches for each Words Their Way Level can be found in my store.) This routine activity is meant to be an engaging, fun way for students to discover their word study words. As students find words in the word search, they are required to record the words they have found, sorting them categories based on sound and/or look of the word, just as they do in other Words their Way sorting activities.

*At end of day two/beginning of day 3, you may give students their word study word list from Words Their Way: Derivational Relations Spellers to provide students with feedback on the words they have not yet found. I don't have my derivational spellers cut the words apart. They really just need the word list.

Day 3 and 4: Students work on the Word Study Notebook extension activities to build deeper understanding of word spellings and/or meanings.

Day 5: Meet with teacher: This meeting provides an opportunity to go over activities that students had difficulty with and to reinforce specific the word study concepts based on the word list students are working on.

Day 6: Assessment: Call out words and take a “traditional” spelling test OR complete a “blind sort” spelling test (this means students cannot see the words but sort the words into categories as they record them.) I love blind sort assessments because as I watch students categorize words, I see them actively thinking about spelling—erasing, moving words around, and correcting spelling.

I cycle my students through a staggered word study routine. Keep in mind that if sort activities require additional time or if my word study time is limited, I can have students cycle through the same routine twice for one sort. (Based on difficulty level and students’ prior knowledge, some sorts may require an extra cycle while others may not.)

Word Study Routine Tip: Stagger It!

I have found it helpful to stagger word study groups so that each of the activities (like “meet with the teacher” and “Spelling City”) happen on a different day for each word study group. This has allowed me to better manage the needs of each group and focus most of my attention on one group on their “teacher” day . Staggering the activities also allows me to further differentiate and tweak student activities without stigmatizing certain groups (usually needed for the highest and lowest groups). For example, my lowest group completes Look, Say, Cover, Write, Check with their words and I embed their assessment into their teacher day, while my higher group has a whole set of additional activities to complete.

Staggering my word study routine also allows me to target a major word study issue—the fact that organizing our schedule based on Monday-Friday often fell apart. In the past, I have created my word study routines/schedule based on a 5 day week, but we rarely get an uninterrupted 5 day week for word study. In my classroom, this usually meant that the assessment day didn’t happen and students just moved on to a new list AND it also caused students and me frustration because it was hard to be dedicated to the routines I had trained them for.

To visually represent this change in thinking, I display our word study schedule and place a magnet above the day we are on that says “We Are On…” This way, if we have a short week or a scheduled interruption, we don’t have to completely cancel word study or skip activities for that word list. Although we might take a week and a half to cycle through the activities for one word list, we value word study more because we know ALL of the routines are going to happen for that word list. When we are almost at the end of a quarter or close to a long break, I can start staggering groups out of word study.

Side-note: At the beginning of the year, it is important to model and complete these routines whole-group so that students understand the routines and expectations for each activity.

If you are interested in taking the Derivational Relations Activities for a test drive, I have uploaded the activity sheets for Sorts 1 and 22 on teacherspayteachers. If you download, I would love some feedback!

I would also love to answer any questions you have about Word Study!


  1. I love all your ideas. I am pondering on how you inform the students what they are doing each day. Do they get a couple of a schedule?

    1. Hi Thanks for stopping by my blog! I'm so glad something here is helpful for you as you think about your word study routines. In the post above, I have shared an image of a sample schedule. I post a little sticky note arrow that says "We are on" and put it above day 1, 2, 3, etc. Myself or a student rotates it each day that we have word study. Then, they know which group they are in and they check which activity the are to work on. After you have introduced the different rotations (I do all of the activities in whole group first with the same word list when I launch word study), students know what they should be doing when. You could also post the schedule on the smartboard as I've shown above. Another idea would be to make a slide for each day that still says "Day 1, 2, 3" etc and just post the schedule for the day that you are on. I hope that makes sense. You can email me at if I can help with anything!




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