Saturday, August 25, 2012

Using Word Study to Teach Developmental Reading Skills: Introduction to Word Study (Part 1 of 4)

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I remember when I was in elementary school I had a spelling pretest on Monday- followed by rote spelling assignments throughout the week. This traditional way of teaching spelling taught us how to memorize spelling words, but I am not sure if it strengthened our reading abilities as developing readers.    Because this type of traditional spelling instruction can be based on memorization, some students may miss core concepts for reading and spelling. For a struggling reader, this may hinder them academically.  So my question is, how do you teach spelling? Reading? It is my understanding that both spelling and reading can be taught hand in hand; strong instruction in one area can strengthen students in the other area. I believe that spelling can be a window into a reader's mind. When I work with students to teach them how to read, I use the word study strategy. Word study, as a teaching strategy, is a routine used for teaching phonemic awareness and developmental reading and spelling strategies. It is an alternative way to teach phonics and is based on the teaching of word patterns. Specifically, word study is a hands-on approach designed to build word knowledge that can be applied to reading and spelling.

Over my next series of posts I will be sharing basic principles of word study that can be applied during your personal instruction (whole group, small group, or one-on-one). All of the materials for word study can be teacher-made, or, you can invest in resources that I have already created. When I first started to explore with study, it was with the book Words Their Way by Donald R. Bear. This became my instructional "bible" when teaching reading! I used it for everything. I paired it with Word Journeys written by Kathy Ganske and used these two texts to support a tutoring program I developed. After using this as a tutoring program for a fews years I decided to share this resource with other teachers. Foundations for Reading: A Word Study Approach Used to Teach Phonics, Vocabualry and Spelling is ideal for beginning and developing readers. It is great for teaching foundational skills. This is resource is also great when working with students who need individualized instruction and/or who need support with mastering basic concepts. This is not a program for reading, but instead a kit full of resources that can be used when implementing word study instruction. Again, a lot of the things I made can be easily constructed on your own if you use the two texts mentioned above along with other resources. If you prefer to purchase this kit, you can visit my Teachers Pay Teachers store for more information.

In closing, I would like to leave with you two important concepts:

  • Word study provides students with hands-on opportunites to manipulte word features in a way that allows them to generalize beyond isolated individual examples to entire groups of words that are spelled the same way (Bear, Invernizzi, Templeton & Johnston, 2004)
  • Through exploration, students are challenged to examine words. While doing this, they become familiar with regularities, patterns and conventions of English  orthography needed to read and spell (Bear, Invernizzi, Templeton & Johnston, 2004). 
Does word study sound like something you are interested in learning more about? If so, Using Word Study to Teach Developmental Reading Skills (Part 2 of 4) is scheduled to post on Wednesday August 29, 2012.  I will be discussing three major components of word study. Check in to read all about it!

 These are two great resources to invest in:


Bear, D., Invernizzi, M., Templeton, S., & Johnston, F. (2004). Words Their Way. (third ed.). Upper Sadle River: Pearson.

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