Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Words Their Way

I think word study is great, but I'm curious as to what activities are developmentally appropriate for intermediate grades. I've seen tons of activities in K-2, but to my knowledge, I haven't really seen it in 4-5. Maybe I have, and I'm just not recognizing it as such. You see a lot of vocabulary, but where is the place for word study in the upper elementary classroom? How can you keep students from feeling like they're doing "baby work?" I think there must be a place for it because students still ask, "How do you spell it?" if it's a word with which they are unfamiliar. If they had stronger general knowledge, they would be able to at least attempt to apply the rules to new words (Caldwell, 2008). Maybe they just don't understand that there are rules.

Personally, I find the history of how the alphabet and spelling patterns in the English language have evolved interesting. I wonder if elementary students would as well. Probably not; I'm just a nerd. I love the idea, though, that students are reliving the historical development of our language in every step towards their own mastery (Caldwell, 2008).

Thinking back to spelling tests I've taken and ones I've witnessed in observation, I only remember being taught how to spell the words, not why. Not until high school do I remember much instruction on the relationships between words. Now, this doesn't mean it didn't happen. I just don't have any memory of it, and I haven't seen it in my most recent time spent in classrooms. Clearly, Caldwell (2008) points out how important and interwoven these things are, and I hope my future classroom can reflect this.

While it's a little dry, I love what Words Their Way really boils down to. It's the same as the idea of teaching through problem solving as we are encouraged to do in math (Vane de Walle, Karp, & Bay-Williams, 2010). We need to provide appropriate learning experiences to our students rather than telling them each and every piece. As Caldwell (2008) states, "We must fit our instruction to what our students are using but confusing" (p. 21).

I often wonder if we will even need the things we learn in the future. So much information is right at our fingertips, and all we have to do is "Google it." However, without the ability to spell, read, and comprehend we will be in the dark despite the light all around us.


Caldwell, J. S. (2008). Reading assessment: A primer for teachers and coaches (2nd Ed). New York City, NY: Guilford.

Van de Walle, J. A., Karp, K. S., & Bay-Williams, J. M. (2010). Elementary and middle school mathematics. Boston, MA: Pearson.

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