July 27, 2010

Making Your Own Word Sorts

Posted in Materials at 9:21 am by svalter

A lot of great word sorts are found on the CD, and even more are in the resource books (that we will hopefully be getting access to this year), but sometimes you just want to make your own sorts.  If so, here are a couple of ways you can do it . . .

First, if you subscribe to The Mailbox magazine, a blank word card set is one of the extras on the website and you can just type and print in about 30 seconds.  To find this resource, look back at one of the 2009 issues (which are still available).  Under Language Arts, click on “BONUS: Language Arts Helpers” and you will find it there.  Once you’ve located it, you can save a blank copy to your desktop to use anytime.  (I would love to upload it here, but I don’t want to violate copyright laws!)

The second-easiest way to make your own word cards is in Microsoft Excel.  All you have to do is follow these steps:

  1. Open a new Excel document.
  2.  Type one word into each cell (little box).  I would recommend doing 3-4 across and 5-6 down, depending on how many words you have.
  3. Click and hold your mouse and drag it over all the boxes with words in them to highlight them.  Then change the font size to something larger and click to center the words in each cell.
  4. At the top of the screen, click the tab that says “Page Layout.”  About 3/4 of the way across the screen you will see a box that says “Gridlines.”  Check the box that says “Print.”  (This puts each word in a nice little box that the kids can cut out.
  5. Preview your document to make sure it looks the way you want it to look.
  6. Print and send to copy center. 

You can also create a table in Microsoft Word and save it as a template if you are more comfortable using this program.  If you’d like to use this format, here is a blank template I created.

July 26, 2010

Fun Idea to Get Started

Posted in The first few weeks at 10:12 pm by svalter

I was struck by some random inspiration as I started planning things today, and I’ve decided to try something a bit different while I set up my word study routines this year.  I’ve decided that for the first few weeks of school I am going to have my students do a “name” study of both their own name and their classmates’ names. 

Prior to getting started with my kids, I’m going to make a set of word sort cards with each child’s name and copy it onto cardstock for each student.  I can then teach the routines of cutting out and storing the words.  I will also work with the kids to create an anchor chart of different ways to sort words that we can post in the classroom (beginning sound, syllables, vowel sound, ending, syllable breaks, etc.).  After that, my kids can spend a couple of days seeing how many different ways they can sort the name cards.  This will give me some good informal assessment data and it will allow me to pull back those kids who need additional testing (higher or lower).  While the kids are working with names I can also teach them how to use the word study contract, how to set up their notebooks, and go over all the procedures they will need while working independently throughout the rest of the year.  It will also help them learn how to spell all of their classmates’ names correctly!

I also want them to do some work with their own name to embed some important concepts.  During the first couple of weeks (before we really kick off Word Study), I would like to have my kids research their own names to find out where their name came from and the meaning and origin of their name.  I heard a speaker share this idea about a year ago, and I just love the thought of giving each child an opportunity to put meaning behind his/her name at the beginning of the school year, and I think this is a great way emphasize to my students that each word they work with has a meaning and an origin.

Does anyone else have an idea of something they are planning to do in their classroom this year to kick off Word Study?  If so, please share!

July 13, 2010


Posted in Materials, Uncategorized at 3:23 am by svalter

I am hoping to send some things off to copy center this week to get ready for school to start, so I quickly typed up these student response sheets to use when I start giving the assessment in the fall.  I am planning to run a class set of the Elementary Assessment for each quarter (in four different colors), plus about 5 or so of the Upper Level and Primary for each quarter in case I have to administer either to some of my students.  Please feel free to use these documents, too!  (I’ll upload documents as I find/create/use them, and would love to have you e-mail me documents as you make them, too!)

Upper Level Assessment

Primary Assessment

Elementary Assessment

Setting up your board

Posted in Materials at 1:10 am by svalter

The other day I was at the dollar store (Dollar Tree, I think), and I found library pockets in the teacher section.  There are 25 in a package, which is enough to make your whole board, and they’re really cute solid colors.  I need to redo my board (with increasing class sizes I don’t have enough spots!), so I’m planning to just number them 1-25, get them laminated, and put them on a new board (which I think you can also usually get at the dollar store next to the posterboard).  I’ll post pics once I have it finished!

July 9, 2010

Getting Ready to Start

Posted in Getting Ready at 2:42 pm by svalter

A lot of people have been asking, “How can I get ready for next year?”  So I thought it would be fun to start a blog to reflect on my own use of WTW in the classroom and to answer questions people might have as we go along this year.

In a nutshell, a lot of the specific things you will do for WTW are not possible to plan or prepare for right now because it is so driven by the students you will be welcoming into your classroom this fall.  Until I assess my students, I don’t have any idea what to copy or what I will be teaching.

With that said, for those who are spending their summer days thinking about WTW (as I’m sure we all are!), here are a couple of things you can do to begin preparing for the new school year:

  1. Start thinking about your grouping structure.  How many groups do you want to have?  (This will be somewhat dictated by the students who come into your room, but you may want to think about how many “rotations” of kids you can work in each day and how you want this to look.)  I like to try to group my kids into 4 different groups and meet with two each day because this allows me to see each child at least every other day.
  2. Sketch out how you would like to set up your scheduling.  Do you want to stay strictly with the structure set up in WTW?  Do you want to organize your instruction so that grammar lessons are woven into your schedule?  How long do you want a set of words to last in your room?  Many people do one set of words each week (often starting/ending on Tuesdays or Wednesdays).  I have tried a few different approaches in my room, and I have settled on a schedule that spans two weeks so I can incorporate grammar into my instruction.  Figure out what you think would work best for you and your style of teaching, and look back in the WTW book to get ideas for how you want to set this up!
  3. Glance through the book.  It’s definitely not the best summer novel you could pick up, BUT it gives a lot of important information that will really help you as you go along.  Most importantly, I would really recommend skimming through the chapters on the theory behind this approach, as it will answer the WHY behind the sorting and categorizing.
  4. Set up your organization system.  How do you want your students to store their words?  Where do you want to keep your copies?  How do you want to get each new sort cut out for the kids?  Do you want to store and save the sorts, or do you want to let the kids take them home at the end of a cycle?  What other materials might you want them to use?  I usually have the kids keep their words in small key envelopes that slip into library pockets on a board, and I keep my copies in hanging files in a crate next to it.
  5. Familiarize yourself with the different stages of development.  A quick glance over the chart on the inside front cover of the book is VERY helpful and easy to refer back to when you need it. 
  6. Get to know the assessment.  How will you administer it?  When?  I usually give it to my whole class within the first 2-3 days of school, stressing to them that it is NOT used for a grade.  If you’re tutoring this summer or teaching summer school, try out the assessment piece.  You’ll be amazed at what it shows you about your students, and it’s good practice.  You may even want to try out a lesson or two to see how it fits.
  7. Remember what a SMALL but important piece of your literacy block this is.  It’s truly only 20 minutes a day, so don’t stress out TOO much.  Start thinking about how what you will be doing here will tie in to other aspects of your day.  You can really reinforce what you’re doing in reading and writing and the content areas. 
  8. Relax and enjoy the rest of your summer!