A Better Way to Teach Spelling (Word Study, part 1)

What was spelling instruction like for you?  If you’re like most of us, you had  a weekly list of words from a textbook.  Sometimes the words were related – and sometimes not.  You were taught to memorize each word by copying it until you knew it.

And of course, you had the same list as everyone else in your class – whether or not one of you needed extra help or was ready for a more challenging list.

What’s wrong with the traditional approach to teaching spelling?

  • Rote memorization is not an effective way to learn and remember.   How many kids forget their spelling words as soon as they finish the test?
  • With traditional spelling instruction, kids are passive learners.  Spelling is boring – for both the students and the teacher! We need to give kids an active role.
  • Children move through the stages of spelling development at a different pace.  Just a handful of kids’ needs are met when the entire class has the same word list!

better way to teach spelling2 590x590 A Better Way to Teach Spelling (Word Study, part 1)

 It’s called Word Study.

It works for kids in preschool through high school.

It’s interesting.

It’s hands-on.

You don’t have to buy an expensive curriculum.

It’s great for the classroom.

And it’s perfect for homeschooling.

How is Word Study different from traditional spelling instruction?

traditional spelling versus word study 590x739 A Better Way to Teach Spelling (Word Study, part 1)

What’s coming next?

Don’t worry – I’m not stopping here!  But it’s a dense subject, and we’ll take it step by step.  My end goal is to provide a giant set of free printable lists and games that you can use to save yourself some time as you teach Word Study in your home or classroom.

And if I’ve piqued your interest, this book is a must-have resource!

words their way A Better Way to Teach Spelling (Word Study, part 1)

For more detailed information about word study, see this post from This Reading Mama: Word Study: What Exactly Is It? 

Be sure to check out the rest of my Word Study series!  If you like what you’ve read, please share with other homeschooling parents or classroom teachers!

© 2013 – 2014, The Measured Mom. All rights reserved.

button print grnw20 A Better Way to Teach Spelling (Word Study, part 1)


  1. Great post on Words Their Way. I agree it is an excellent resource. I was one of those kids that memorized spelling words for the test and then promptly forgot them. When I began teaching, I knew there had to be a better way to teach spelling.

    We also use Alphaphonics as part of our curriculum. Quick organized introductions to word patterns. For those just getting started with teaching reading, writing and spelling Words Their Way goes more in depth than Alphaphonics.

    • annageig says:

      Thanks for the note about Alphaphonics, Jeannine. I’ve never heard of it. I’ll have to look into that.

  2. This looks like a wonderful resource. Spelling is so important, and it’s not easy to find the right curriculum for it. I’ll definitely be checking this out, thanks!
    Kristi @ The Potter’s Hand Academy recently posted…TOS Review Crew: Christianity CoveMy Profile

  3. Well, yes…you’ve piqued my interest! I tend to use more activities and word explorations that teach patterns in spelling…I should not be surprised there’s a whole philosophy behind it, lol! I’m so glad you shared this at Teach Me Tuesday at Preschool Powol Packets!
    Carla recently posted…Teach Me Tuesday 6-11-13My Profile

    • annageig says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Carla! I hope the rest of the series gives you some practical information.

  4. So I have a question(s), I have been looking at purchasing the “Word Their Way” book for homeschool use. I’m questioning what exactly to get. They have the “main” book but does that have all the word sorts or just the lists? I don’t mind typing up sorts in Word, if I have the lists to type. There are some used ones that are less expensive but no DVD and/or CD, do I need the DVD and/or CD? There are also the colored books, are those needed if I have the “main” book? What’s the difference between the colored books and the “main” book? Thank you, I really look forward to the rest of the series!

    • annageig says:

      Hi Len! I’m excited that you’re considering starting Word Study! In my opinion, the “main” book is all you need. You do not need the DVD and CD. Those are just intended to save you some time because they have some game patterns and a couple other things. I don’t remember using them much if at all. The colored books may or may not be useful — in reading online I see that they are also timesavers and may also have some useful lesson planning information. You are correct in assuming that the main book has all the word sorts, but that they are NOT written up as lists. (A very simple thing to do – just type them up as a table.)

      My guess is that the colored books are more of a timesaver for a classroom teacher who has several word study groups and a lot more prep than you would have with just your own child(ren) at home.

      Also, there is a newer edition of the Words Their Way book. Since I got out of teaching I have already bought a newer edition (the one I linked to), so I will probably not buy another new one. I linked to the second to last one because that is the one that I will be referring to in my posts. My guess is that you will be quite content choosing that one if you choose not to buy the brand new one.

      Another benefit to choosing the second to last one (that I linked to) is that I have it in my hands and can answer any questions based on page number. I love Word Study and am very happy to be your resource via the comments section or my e-mail: [email protected]. I am also available by phone should you need a longer consultation :).

      I hope this answered your questions! Now I should really go back to bed. :)

    • Nicole G says:

      I posted below, but personally, I found the colored books you refer to a huge timesaver in homeschool prep. To answer your other questions, the CD ROM has some printables of activities, but it isn’t thorough enough. The main WTW book is mostly the theory of word study. It has assessment tools and is the starting point. It has some activities, but it certainly doesn’t have everything (especially for higher levels). The colored level-specific books give actual, prepared word sorts (basically the prep work done for you). Hope that helps!

      • Nicole G says:

        Oh, and the main book has some word lists, but certainly not all.

        • annageig says:

          I’m sorry I’m late in replying here, Nicole – I really appreciate your comments about the colored books. I didn’t realize that the extra books have a lot more word sorts. I wish there was a preview of those books on Amazon. I really don’t want to buy them to check them out, since I don’t need them! Also good to know that they provide more for the higher levels. When I taught Word Study I only taught through the Syllables and Affixes stage.

  5. Visiting from Dollie’s link up — we’re just starting to read and spell, so this will be helpful! I also am anxious to check out your word family printables!

  6. Word Study sounds like a really interesting approach to spelling. You have “piqued my interest.” I look forward to reading more about it. Thank you for the information and comparisons.

  7. interest peaked! I was just telling my husband yesterday that I don’t think I’m going to buy anymore spelling curriculum. It seems like my son learns more spelling from reading and discovering new words than lists. I printed out a “mystery word” book mark for him to write down any words he doesn’t know, and then we’ll “investigate”!

    There are so many variations to phonics rules that’s it seems like once I teach one thing, there’s four hundred exceptions anyway.
    Adrienne recently posted…5 Tips for Finding the Right Homeschool Curriculum!My Profile

    • annageig says:

      Yes, the exceptions are crazy! Word Study teaches patterns and then calls those exceptions “oddballs” — it’s a nice way for kids to really examine those words that don’t fit the pattern without being totally frustrated by all the rule breakers!

  8. I have used the “scientific spelling” curriculum before. Is “word study” similar?

    • annageig says:

      Hi LaNell! Can you tell me more about the scientific spelling curriculum? That’s new to me.

      • Scientific doweling teaches by grouping the words into phonic patterns. For example, you might have words that use the different patterns for long a like a, a consonant e, and ay. You teach students about the exceptions that go along with that letter sound also. It breaks the word down by initial, middle and final sound. You also teach “rule” words, such as ” floss rule” ( words that have a short vowel before a final f, l, or s, double the f, l, or s- example stiff, well, glass).

        • annageig says:

          Hmm – what sounds the same is grouping words into patterns. However, Word Study doesn’t break words down by sounds, and one thing Word Study never does is teach rules. It teaches generalizations and exceptions. And it doesn’t get into nitty gritty phonics rules like the “floss rule.” That sounds a lot to me like Saxon phonics — have you heard of that? Some people truly love its regimentation but I taught with it and wow – I’m not sure I could despise anything more! But I’ll get off my soapbox before I get carried away!

  9. What great ideas! I can’t wait to try these with our 5 year old! We’d love for you to link this up at our party! http://www.housewivesofriverton.com/2013/06/riverton-housewives-round-up-69.html

  10. This is very interesting! I would love to get my hands on the book and see what they suggest. Spelling can get very tedious quickly if you dont do it right. Thanks for sharing this link of Jenny’s linky!
    Reshama recently posted…Three Tales of my Father’s DragonMy Profile

  11. Great post! I used Words Their Way and other companion books while teaching in the classroom, and I’m looking forward to taking a word study approach at home with my girls. I’m looking forward to reading your additional posts on this topic.
    Shaunna @ Fantastic Fun and Learning recently posted…Top 10 Ways to Remember the ABCsMy Profile

  12. You have piqued my interest. My child is heading into 1st Grade. And, to be honest, I never thought about how crazy the English language is until he started learning to read. There are so many rules and exceptions! From a 1st Grader’s perspective, it does seem excessive. Looking forward to seeing your free sheets… will be using them for the summer.

    And thanks so much for linking up to my Friday Flash Blog on The Jenny Evolution

    Jennifer recently posted…Friday Flash Blog Party No. 22My Profile

  13. Nicole Guzman says:

    Love Words Their Way! I discovered it during my master’s degree program… I used it in my classroom when I taught full time, and now I use it at home with my own kids. It is so effective and simple. Personally, I think their premade word sort books for each level are worth the cost for busy homeschooling families!

    • annageig says:

      Thanks so much for the tip about the premade word books, Nicole! I’ll add something to that effect in my post.

  14. Oh, that looks really interesting. Thank you for sharing at Sharing Saturday!
    Carrie recently posted…Song Inspired Art: Ride, Horse Ride by DariaMy Profile

  15. I have printed and read all of your posts on this. I went looking for the book and of course looking for the best price. It seems that there are two programs. One is by traditional grade levels and one by developmental stage, but both seem to be by Pearson. Help! I’m confused.


  1. [...] 8. A Better Way to Teach Spelling (Word Study, Part 1) [...]

  2. [...] and spell words by focusing on the patterns they share.  The Measured Mom also has a series on word study. {Sight words do need to be learned, but we want to keep it developmentally [...]

  3. […] A Better Way to Teach Spelling {The Measured Mom} […]

  4. […] A Better Way to Teach Spelling […]

Speak Your Mind


CommentLuv badge