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How to Plan Effective Word Work Even if You're Teaching Remotely

Updated: Jan 4, 2021

Oh word work. Word work is one of my favorite things to teach. I love doing word sorts with my students and seeing the lightbulb moment when they catch on to spelling patterns, I love it when my students really get their sight words. Each school year my word work centers shift just a little bit to meet the needs of my students. Each year it is my mission to create word work that is as easy to prep, engaging, and effective as possible- no matter where our learning takes place. In person, hybrid, remote? We got this!

Word work is teaching sight words and decoding skills with spelling patterns. This is a critical skill for students learning how to read. For some students, sight words come easy and for others the phonics skills come easy.

How to Assign Effective Word Work in any Setting!

Step #1- Choose your Focus

As I mentioned above, sight words and spelling patterns/phonics are both critical skills for learning to read. Sometimes one or the other comes easy to students. When you are thinking about word work activities, choose your focus. It may make the most sense to make student dependent activities and differentiate that way, or focus more heavily on one.

In my classroom, I teach about four new sight words each week. We learn the sight words whole group and students complete 1-2 sight word activities during their word work center. I also have a parent come in and do sight word check in with students when possible so that I can track student progress. I teach mini lessons about spelling patters/phonics several times a week as well. I choose to target my small groups to specific student needs. This small group time is so valuable for hitting spelling patterns again as needed.

Step #2- Mini Lesson

Teach the skill! If you are focusing on sight words for word work, introduce the new sight words to your students. Show the words one at a time, have students echo read the words with you, then have students spell the words out loud as they write them on a dry erase board. Also, display a sentence on the board to display fluency and point out the sight word. Later in the week, have students practice a dictation sentence using the sight words.

If you are focusing on a specific spelling pattering, review the sound and a word that makes that sound so that students can make a connection. For example, ch /ch/ like chicken. Throughout the mini lesson or over a few days, brainstorm lists of words with this sound, read fluency sentences with this word, decode simple words with this sound, during whole group time.

These mini lessons can be taught in the classroom, on a live video lesson, or pre-recorded. If you are recording your lesson, remember to allow think time for students to write words, decode, and complete tasks.

Step #3- Student Independent Practice

After the lesson, students will continue the skill of their sight word or spelling pattern work. I am all about engaging centers and word work, but I am not all about lots of prep and switching things out all the time. Whether your classroom is centers based or not, Boom Cards and Google Slides are a great way to create routine and consistency with effective word work. Before students do these independently, we always do them whole group 1-2 times so that I can model the routine I expect (using the audio clips to hear the correct word, saying the word aloud, etc).

I use these tools so that my students can see their sight word, hear and repeat the word, then tactically move and build the word with letter tiles. This works on Chromebooks and on tablets, it is self checking, and my students love the reinforcement as they work on building their words.

For phonics, my students use Google Slides to view a picture, decode, and then click to hear and check the word as they type it out. This is a great way for my students to practice decoding and typing, too!

Beyond this digital work, I always have paper activities on standby that my students can grab and use when they are finished. My students like being able to choose between a few fun paper activities. The paper activities match the sight words and spelling patterns for the week so that the skill continues to be reinforced.

Step #4- Progress

To track student progress, I do sight word checks to ensure that students are retaining the sight words they are practicing. I have a list of sight words by quarter. I expect that students will be able to read the word within about 3 seconds to show automaticity. When I can, I have parents come in to do sight word checks with some students to help this process along.

For spelling pattern progress, I have students read and spell decodable words with basic spelling patterns and the more complex patterns that we have been practicing so that I can recognize if there is a specific pattern that is tricky. This helps guide my small group instruction. For example, it might help me recognize that several students are having difficulty spelling and reading words with beginning and ending digraphs. I will make sure that group of students can join a reading group with a heavy digraph focus.

Word Work is Possible Anywhere!

Students can enjoy practicing word work and effectively practice it anywhere. Teach the skill, reinforce with practice, and track student progress. It’s that easy!

Are you ready to bump up your word work?

You can get a free set of sight word BoomCards by clicking here. You and your students will love how easy they are to use!

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