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Words Their Way

Cherry Creek School District Guidelines for Effective Word Study Instruction:

  • happens routinely
  • is grounded in inquiry and authenticity
  • is followed by multiple opportunities to practice in the context of authentic reading and writing
  • provides access for all students to instruction and practice with grade level standards
  • is supported by multiple professional resources
  • increases students' curiosity about words


Definition of Word Study:

"Word Study has become an umbrella term used to refer to describe teaching practices related to word knowledge.  Teaching this knowledge supports students as they develop fluency and understanding in their reading as well as their ability to craft thoughtful writing.  An effective word study system helps students develop an understanding of orthography, vocabulary, word recognition, and decoding strategies." –Max Brand, Word Savvy, Integrated Vocabulary, Spelling, and Vocabulary and Word Study, Grades 3-6.


Word Study is taught using Words Their Way at Trails West.  Below is information about Words Their Way and resources that can be used to support students at home.


Words Their Way is a hands-on, developmentally-driven approach to word study that illustrates how to integrate and teach children phonics, vocabulary, and spelling skills.


Why use a Word Study program? 

Research studies indicate that memorization of lists of "spelling words" does not promote the development of spelling skills. In the past when we've used this traditional approach, many students who received a 100% on their spelling test could not spell most of the words in their writing.  The goal of spelling instruction is for students to be able to transfer words into their writing, and memorizing a list of words and getting 100% on weekly tests does not necessarily mean a child is a good speller.  Using the Words Their Way word study program also allows us to differentiate spelling instruction more than a traditional spelling program. 


Developmental Stages for Word Study

Stage of SpellingCharacteristicsAge/Grade Ranges
EmergentStudents spell words with random marks, representational drawing, mock linear or letter-like writing, random letters, and numbers.

Ages: 1-7

Grades: pre-K to mid first

Letter NameStudents generally spell with initial and final consonants.  They may use some vowels when spelling.

Ages:  4-9

Grades:  Kindergarten to early third

Within WordStudents spell most single-syllable words correctly and may use some long and short vowel combinations.

Ages:  6-12

Grades:  1-4

Syllables & AffixesStudents spell using inflected endings, compound words, consonant doubling, and common suffixes.

Ages:  8-18

Grades:  3-8

DerivationalStudents make meaning connections through the study of words derived from shared roots and bases.  They sort words  by Greek and Latin roots.

Ages: 10+

Grades:  5-12

Words Their Way by (Invernizzi, Johnson, Bear, Templeton)


The video below has additional information about Words Their Way.  The video discusses typical 3rd grade expectations and would look slightly different for other grade levels.



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