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test_frustration.jpgIf you incorporate a Word Study program into your classroom, then gone are the days of the Friday spelling test! The concept of word study is that students learn strategies or patterns that will transfer to many words. Students are no longer required to memorize lists of unrelated or meaningless words. When I taught first and second grade, I utilized phonics and encouraged phonemic awareness. Little did I know I was using a new way of spelling called “word study”!   

Whenever, I have a student ask, “how to do you spell….?”, I would always turn the question back on them and ask how they spelled it so they could use the strategies they were taught.

How to get started…

Phonemic Awareness

Letters and sounds must be taught in a specific order for students to gain phonemic awareness. Teaching letter recognition, followed by sounds. This is key to understanding letters make sounds, sounds make words, and words make sentences and finally sentences make stories.  Reading and spelling go hand in hand for a balanced literacy program.

Word Families

I created charts for word families and students had a dictionary to copy word into.  For example “at” family.  We listed cat, sat, mat, vat, fat, that and so on together.  My students took turns writing on the large chart as well. They are forming the scaffolding for more advanced spelling by beginning to create words from familiar sounds.

Blends, Diphthongs, and Digraphs

Students need to hear all the letters in the sounds. By teaching blending, they can hear many ways that letters interact.


“Chunking” is a great strategy that allows students to sound out words.  If they have a solid phonics foundation, they will be fairly successful in spelling as well.  Say a word, and have them spell what they hear.  Then together, “chuck” the spelling. 


Take a few minutes out of your schedule to focus on the above basics.  You will be amazed and how much they know.


Word Study programs still require assessments. They just look a little different. I would still hand out blank paper like a traditional spelling test.  However, at the beginning, I would say the sounds or blends and students would write the corresponding letter.  Eventually we were creating words! 

Finding resources that support your Word Study program is easy with Big Universe. Here are just a few to get you started.

From the publisher, “This book features a particular word family and includes familiar images, word labels, direct picture-text match, and sight word vocabulary to help readers at Kindergarten reading level to develop phonemic awareness and phonic skills.”  There are more titles just like this one, simply search (name) family (example “at family”).
You will be surprised at how quickly your students will gain confidence with their spelling! Adding a Word Study is a great way to build literacy in your classroom. We love to hear from our readers. What other ideas have you used to teach spelling in your classroom?


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