In my first year of teaching a combined classroom of grades 3-5, I had a struggling student who could never remember when to use silent e. It was a guessing game for her – she tacked it on at random as she wrote. I wish that I had known about Word Study back then!
If Word Study is new to you, too, I hope you’ll take the time to browse my 5-part series. You’ll learn that Word Study is a developmental approach to teaching spelling that helps kids make sense of the English language through hands-on sorts and games. I love it!
Read on for a simple spelling lesson that shows how to teach silent e.
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The heart of word study is word sorts. Word sorts are very simple — they are a group of words that can be divided into at least two separate groups based on pattern. When kids read the words, determine the pattern, and sort the words, they are active learners.
Where do you find word sorts? My go-to resource is Words Their Way, a wonderful book now in its fifth edition. After I stopped teaching (to raise my kids at home), I bought the fourth edition so I could prepare a Word Study presentation for a teacher’s conference with the newest resource. (I did this when my oldest was a year and a half and my second child was 6 weeks old. I do not recommend that. But moving on…)
Feel free to get the newer fifth edition, but the fourth edition is excellent, and you can get it used. Bonus!
Silent e spelling activity
To teach silent e, simply prepare a list of words that have both short vowel words (like rich, twin, and dish) and long vowel words spelled with silent e (like while, shine, and grime). Do this with short a, i, o, or u (you won’t find enough e-consonant-e words to make a sort). Include “oddballs” if possible. These are words that appear to fit one pattern but actually fit neither. In this sort the oddballs are “give” and “live” (as in I live in America).
I create my word sorts following the sequence in Words Their Way. I alter the lists so that they have 20 words. In the above photo you can see my Six (in first grade) read the words and sort them into two columns. The oddballs have their own column.
After sorting the words children should read the words again to check their work. You should also consider having copy the words into a word study notebook. In the classroom, I had students keep their words in a plastic bag in a central location. We passed them out each day so they could practice sorting. They also received a sort to take home for nightly practice.
One nice thing about sorting is that it doesn’t rely on rote memorization. Kids have to make sense of their spelling words instead of being passive learners.
Regular sorting is key! It doesn’t have to take long (fewer than 10 minutes!), and it doesn’t have to be the same procedure every time. Find out some different ways to sort words in this post from This Reading Mama.
I also like to do other activities through the week to promote understanding of the words and patterns. This week my daughter did Sentence Art. She wrote and illustrated sentences using her spelling words. I like to have her try to use two words per sentence, as this requires extra thought.
Another great way to learn the pattern is to do a Word Hunt. We found a chapter book she’s reading and worked together to find both short i words and i-consonant-e words. This is not her favorite activity, so it was a good exercise to do together.
We always play a spelling game, and this was one of my daughter’s favorites. You can read about my free Valentine’s Day spelling game in this post.
At the end of the week, give a spelling test in the classroom or at home. If your child is doing well, move on to another sort! Coming up soon… more short and long i patterns.
Be sure to check out the spelling lessons we’ve completed so far!
- Lesson #1: Short a, a-consonant-e
- Lesson #2: Short a, a-consonant-e, ai
- Lesson #3: Long a: a-e, ai, ay
- Lesson #4: Short e, ee, -e
- Lesson #5: Short e, ee, ea
- Lesson #6: Short e (e, ea) & Long e (ea)
And if you’re looking for printable games that you can use with any word list, we highly recommend this ebook. Many of the games are editable!
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