Monday, March 20, 2017

Words Their Way - How I Make it Work!

Words Their Way can be a bit of a daunting undertaking! Six years of working with it in my classroom has led me to the structure and set up that I currently use. In my second grade class, the students make dramatic jumps in their spelling pattern knowledge and WTW really accelerates their learning.

Let's jump into creating word study groups!

Spelling inventories help you to determine which spelling patterns students have a strong knowledge of, which ones they are using but confusing, and which ones they don't know at all.

The Words Their Way books provide you with different inventories (primary, elementary, and upper level inventory)

Personally, I prefer to use the spelling inventory version by Second Story Window. Check it out here! This version uses the same words, but changes up the format so that you can use the same sheet for the whole year. It makes it very easy to see individual student growth through the year.

Once you have the student inventories, it's vital to put the students into groups based on the spelling patterns they are working on. I try to keep my groups between 2 and 5 students because I want to make sure that students are getting an opportunities to talk through the sorting with a peer, and I want to make sure that all students are participating in the sorting.

Having lots of groups can be confusing (for me and the kids)! I keep a record in my Words Their Way binder, but I also keep a board up in my classroom that I can refer to easily and so the kids can remember the name and number of their sort.

Once you have your groups, then it's time to get started sorting and thinking!

Here's the rundown of a normal week of Words Their Way in my room.


Each Monday my groups receive their new sorts. They have to cut out their words, sort them as a group, and then raise their hands to show me they are ready to check over their work. I make sure that they understand the sorts and we have a short conversations about what the words mean. (This is an often overlooked component of Words Their Way that we go back to on Tuesdays.) Once checked, the students then write the words in the Sort and Search sheets.

Take a peek below at one of my groups working together to sort their words!

When finished with sorting and writing, my students have to think about a tip or a trick that will help them remember how to sort the words in the future. I've found that this section really makes the students explain the pattern in their own words. After that, they can work on the word search. This word search serves the purpose of occupying the quicker groups, giving me time to work with the other groups that require more help or time to finish.


On Tuesdays we take about 10 minutes out of our Daily 5 and CAFE language arts schedule to reinforce the meanings of the words with a Matching Meaning sheet. This is meant to be a quick review consisting of a definition/picture match section, a cloze sentence section, and a find the word paragraph. It helps to give the words meaningful context!

Tuesday - Thursday

During our Daily 5 time on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, my Word Work station is made up of games that help students practice sorting their words for the week. I put out the correlating games on the work work table, and students can reference the Word Sort bulletin board to remember which sort is their own. I have Connect 4 or Domino games for each sort all the way from Letter Name Alphabetic and Within Word Pattern to Syllable and Affixes.


On Wednesdays we complete another quick spelling activity to continue working with the words. Our Spelling Foldables address a variety of spelling and vocabulary skills. We only do one per week and so switching the 5 different activities keeps the students from becoming bored. 

The Consonants and Vowels Foldable is particularly helpful for students working with different long vowels patterns!

Spelling Foldables


On Thursday we head into the computer lab for about 20 minutes to practice our words with the SpellingCity website/app. My kids LOVE playing these games and the extra practice is GREAT for them! What's even better is that the site already has all the lists typed up for you! (Cause you do not want to be typing in 200 some lists of words...) I often assign my students SpellingCity for homework as well. A subscription to the site costs only 60 a bucks a year and is SO worth it!


Finally, on Fridays my students all pull their words out of their baggies and do a final sort. They then check the sort, either by conferencing with me, or by looking back at their Sort and Search sheet and then glue them into their notebook. When all members of their group have finished the final sort, I call them to me to take their spelling quiz. 

As of right now, the spelling quiz is nothin' fancy. I just call out 10 words from the sort, making sure that I hit on all the spelling patterns. I've got a few plans to jazz up my quizzes, but you'll have to wait and see!

And that's basically how I set up Words Their Way in my classroom! 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

How to Make Your Bulletin Boards Easy and Engaging!

I know many teachers that dread the task of designing and assembling new bulletin boards. Some struggle to think up what to post, others don't feel creative enough to "make it look good", and others claim that it just takes too long to put up! This post should give you some fresh ideas and a general format to follow in order to make your bulletin boards easy and engaging!

I try to create easy bulletin boards because, let's be honest, What teacher has spare hours to build elaborate, perfect bulletin boards?

But you also don't want to be just slapping up anything on your board! It needs to draw people in; it needs to be visually interesting. It needs to be engaging!

Let's start with my bulletin board story:

When I first came to my current school (four years ago!) I was greeted by the largest and blankest bulletin board I have ever seen.

I kid you not, this board is about 5 feet tall and 10 feet wide. It is a monster!

It was situated right outside my classroom and in the main lobby of the elementary building. Meaning that everybody who comes into the elementary lobby can see it, and it was my responsibility to fill it. A bit daunting.....

I began by backing it with a humongous brown piece of fabric. I've found that fabric is better than paper because it fades slower and I didn't have to staple a whole bunch of small papers together in order to cover it. The neutral brown color also means that I can leave it up regardless of what decorations I put on top. It looks good with everything!

When putting together my bulletin boards, I keep 3 things in mind:

1. Student Work

The whole point of the bulletin board is to show off the learning that is happening in your classroom, so the focal point of your bulletin board should be student work!

I find that writing samples showcase beautifully on my bulletin boards. At the end of each writing trait unit, my students complete a writing project. The final copies of these writing projects often make their way out to my bulletin board.

If you want to know about these writing projects you can check out my blog posts on them by clicking here: Writing Projects.

Student created visuals are another type of work that looks good up on the board!

Student created visuals could include:

Another form of student work that pops on a bulletin board is the use of student quotes about an activity or topic. Most recently near the end of our insect unit, I printed out giant speech bubbles (Thanks to Graphics by Sarah Beth! If you want to get her free speech bubble clip art pack, click here!) and had each student finish a prompt that I typed in the speech bubble. I then put them up on the board with a picture of the student doing an activity from our insect unit. (more on pictures later!)

2. Words

Each bulletin board I do has a phrase or sentence that tells the topic the students are learning about and draws in the reader.

To make these phrases interesting, I like to download fun and new fonts to use on my boards!

I buy fonts from TPT shops like Babbling Abby, Kimberly Geswein, Khrys Greco.  Another great place to look for fonts, especially if you just want to use them on bulletin boards and not for commercial things, is

I always make sure that these phrases are short and in SUPER LARGE font. When I say I use large font, trust me, I go up into the 200's or 300's in font size. This makes it easy for people to read even from across the lobby.

Short and snappy (or cheesy) phrases are best because I want the real focus of the board to be the student work, not my words.

Some phrases I've used:

  • Second Grade Super Spies! Can You Guess Our Secret Identities?
  • Dun dun, Dun dun, Dun dun dun dun dun dun. Shark Week Is Coming!
  • Wanna Come Cook with With Us?
  • Second Grade is Going Buggy for Insects
  • Get Excited About Second Grade Because Second Grade Rocks!
  • This Town Ain't Big Enough For All Of Us!

All of my big text I print, cut out, then glue on to bright colored paper, before cutting out that paper. Having that border of color around the words, helps them to pop on my board and makes it easier to read them.

3. Pictures

Most of my bulletin boards feature photos of my students. Kids LOVE seeing pictures of themselves, and the sillier the better!

During the school day, I am constantly taking candid photos of my students. Over the course of the school year, I probably take thousands. Some of them I use for our class website, others are for my TPT products, and others for this blog, and still others are for using on the bulletin board. It's like giving the whole school community a little peek into the everyday learning that takes place in my classroom.

I still love to dress up (Halloween is my favorite holiday) and of course my students do to! I often take pictures of my students in themed costumes at the end of our writing projects and it's always fun to put them up where everyone can enjoy them!

Another crowd pleaser is when I blow up the photos to life size or even more larger! In order to make my pictures this big I use a website called Rasterbator (I ignore the awkward name) This website lets you upload a photo and then choose how big you want to be. Then lets you print the photo on multiple normal sized printer paper. After that, you just line up the edges and glue the pieces of paper together. Voila! Giant pictures!

Here are a few of my recent boards in their entirety...

So get out there and start doing your bulletin board thang!