In this post, I share a weekly word study instructional routine for kindergarten, first and second grade students and offer a variety of phonics activities students can do throughout the week to practice the skills you teach.
Let’s be honest, how many times in your own schooling did you find yourself cramming information for an exam only to forget all of it after the test was over?! I know I did it more times than I’d like to admit!
As teachers, we don’t impart knowledge just to have students regurgitate it on a test. We want them to internalize the information we teach, build upon it and use it to help them as they grow and develop.
This idea is particularly true when it comes to how we teach students phonics rules that help them learn to spell. Instead of just giving them weekly spelling lists to memorize, we emphasize word study which helps students to see the regularities, patterns, and derivations in English words — how words work in our writing system. This is important information that can help students when they read and write.
Today I’m excited to share with you a weekly phonics routine. It’s a schedule that offers students a variety of practice activities to help them grow as spellers, readers and writers! You’ll get a peek into what each day of the week looks like and have the opportunity to grab phonics resources that you can use in your own classroom!
It should be noted that there is some debate over whether spelling lists should be individualized or if the whole class should be given the same list. I support the idea of the whole class learning the same phonetic spelling patterns at the same time, as long as instruction is differentiated throughout the day.
So let’s take a look at what a week of word study instruction could look like in your classroom….
On Monday gather your students to introduce that week’s one or two word families or phonics patterns. Use a scope and sequence to determine what you will teach. If your school does not offer you one, you can download a free phonics scope and sequence for kindergarten, first or second grade here.
If you are studying long /a/ start by introducing the long /a/ sound wall card. Ask your students what their lips, teeth, tongue and voice are doing and how the air is flowing through their mouth. I recommend giving your students each a *small pocket mirror so they can see what their lips, teeth, and tongue are doing when they say the phonemes. After discussing the sound, add the graphemes and mouth articulation photos to the phoneme you introduced.
Next, introduce the patterns you are teaching, for example, _ay and _ai_. Explicitly teach your students that _ay is found at the end of a word with the long A sound, while _ai_ is a vowel team that makes the long A sound in the middle of a word. Examine different words with these patterns. Sort and display the word cards using a word study pocket chart.
It is helpful to have a word list with a bank of words that follow that week’s rule for you to reference. Wiley Blevins provides great word lists for each phoneme in his book, Phonics From A to Z.
After sorting the words, students can use a printable worksheet for independent practice. These activities are designed to promote orthographic mapping by helping students to connect the phonemes to the graphemes.
Tuesday and Wednesday
During a typical week, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays word study looks very similar. Direct instruction lasts about 10 minutes and then students engage in independent practice activities.
The whole group practice begins on the carpet. Each student has their own dry erase marker and whiteboard and I have my word list with me for reference. I briefly review and model the rule of the week with a few practice words. We sort them, if applicable.
For example, if the focus is on the long /a/ word pattern, call out words from our spelling list AND words that follow the pattern but are not on our list. This gives students the chance to apply their understanding of the rule to new words. Also make sure to include challenge words that follow the pattern. Words like “display” and “portray” excite higher-level students! These challenges provide opportunity to take risks without having to worry about making mistakes.
On Wednesday repeat the whole group practice but also try to weave in some grammar practice. For instance, if you were studying proper nouns along with the long /a/, you could give them a sentence like, “Jay is on the big gray train.” and have the students identify the proper nouns.
After whole group instruction students engage in a variety of independent practice activities that reinforce the phonics rules from that week. Suggested practice activities include:
Of course, only use practice activities that you have explicitly taught your students how to do them. If students need further support, this is a good time to pull a small group and provide extra targeted support.
Thursday is Dictation Day! It’s an interactive whole group activity that your students will LOVE!
First, project a blank dictation page on the board while students sit at their seats. Next, read a word aloud, have students echo you, and then write it. Ask students to tell you what they wrote and how they knew what to write. Elicit them to state the rule. Include words from previous weeks as a form of review. This lasts about 15 minutes.
Weekly dication can be done in a variety of ways. Here is one structure you can follow:
- Row 1- Sounds only. You say a sound, they echo and write the sound they hear.
- Row 2- Phoneme manipulation activities. Ex: You say “train, now delete the /t/ from the word then write the new word.” Or you say the word “wait” and then say, “Now change the beginning to make the word bait”.
- Row 3 & 4- You dictate and they write spelling words or challenge words using the rule of the week.
- Row 5-You dictate a sentence using spelling words and they write it.
Grab this FREE Dictation Paper download HERE so you can get started with this activity in your classroom ASAP!
After the dication, students can work on the independent phonics activities listed above.
Friday is assessment day. I love this assessment because it is not just a test of dictated words that can be memorized. Instead, students have to show they have a clear understanding of the phonics rule. This assessment requires students not only to spell the words on their weekly list, but also to apply their knowledge to new words, edit spelling mistakes in a sentence, as well as read and illustrate a spelling sentence. As an extra challenge, you can include “Star Words”. These are words that were not on the weekly word list, but follow the same rule.
Finally, if you are looking for a single resource that will help you implement this weekly word study routine, take a look at this blog post. In it, I share details about my SoR-aligned, NO PREP, Weekly Word Study Units for kindergarten, first, second and third-grade students.
This year-long word study resource includes:
💕 A SoR-aligned SCOPE and SEQUENCE for K, 1st, 2nd and/or 3rd grade
💕 Editable Practice Printables for Each Unit
💕 Editable Assessments
💕 A Teacher Assessment Guide and Master Word List
💕 A Family Letter for Each Unit
AND MORE!!! You can take a closer look at it here.
I hope the information and resources I’ve shared with you today will make it a little easier for you to provide meaningful word study and phonics instruction to your students! It’s valuable knowledge that they’ll carry with them and use as they grow as readers and writers!
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