So, today is my 19th day of Christmas vacation! I absolutely love this time to relax and hang out with my family, but it's hard to get back into the swing of things, isn't it? I'm actually not very good about just relaxing. Yesterday I was wishing I had brought more school stuff home with me to work on, so instead I started working on my taxes. Isn't tax preparation on everyone's snow day activities list?
My other Tried it Tuesday topic is word work. Okay, it's not the most exciting thing that we teach, but it is actually so important yet hard to fit in!
Anyone else ever feel like there just aren't enough hours in the day to touch on all the aspects of word work that we should? Silly question, right? There aren't enough hours in the day for anything that we do including lunch! (Other business professionals would be amazed at how we can catch up on everyone's personal lives, get a few teaching ideas, make a couple copies, and oh yeah, eat in 30 minutes or less!)
I have felt like I'm just not doing enough in word work for too many years to count, so this year I decided to make a few small changes to my word work instruction to try to make it more balanced. For a few years now, I have been using the Words Their Way spelling program.
What I like about this program is the way that it differentiates instruction. By using a spelling inventory at the beginning of the year, you are able to determine the appropriate instructional level for each student. Unfortunately, the students in your room don't always test into two or three manageable groups. One year I tried to juggle five different spelling groups, and I just about went crazy! I have decided that I have to do the best that I can as one individual and put my students into three groups which I am able to manage efficiently. Depending on where the students fit, you will work with them on phonics, spelling patterns, suffixes, word origins, etc.
I put this word work into my warm up and writing workshop time. Each morning I would have a warm up for students to do with their words. On Mondays, I would meet with each group individually on the carpet to make sure that they understand the patterns in their words for that week. The two groups that I wasn't meeting with would be working on an independent writing activity at their seats during this time. Meeting with each group would pretty much eat up all my writing workshop time for that day. Then on Fridays, I would give a word work test to each group simultaneously ("# 1 red, choose. #1 blue, geology. #1 yellow, their.") This would take about 15 minutes.
I also created a Word Work Menu homework sheet for students. I give this on Monday when the words are introduced. Students are required to choose at least three of the activities to complete and return the sheet with the activities attached on Friday. My Word Work Menu is a freebie at my TPT Store!
In years past, I have done these word work groups every week, which took quite a chunk out of my warm up and writing workshop time. I also felt like we were missing out on vocabulary work. I don't mean content vocabulary, because that is happening in the content areas. I'm talking about learning new and interesting words that enrich and expand a student's general vocabulary and working on understanding their parts of speech, meanings, synonyms, antonyms, and incorporating them into our writing and speaking.
So, this year I tried something new. Every other week I do the Words Their Way word work groups as I have done them in the past. On the off weeks we do vocabulary enrichment. The students get a packet for the week that contains five vocabulary words. The words are from a couple sources including the National Reading Vocabulary list. The students complete one page of work for each word.
They give the definition, part of speech, synonym, and antonym of the word as well as write it into a sentence. Then they draw a picture showing the meaning of the word. Throughout the week I try to incorporate each word into lessons or discussions a few times to give them more exposure to how the word is used. On Friday they turn in their completed packets and take a quiz on the words. The quiz requires them to match each word with its definition as well as place it into an appropriate sentence.
An added benefit to doing spelling word work one week and vocabulary work the next is it's providing grades for me in both reading and writing. The week I do Words Their Way work I put those grades in as part of the overall writing grade. The week I do the vocabulary work I get grades for reading.
After the students are quizzed on a set of five words, I add them to our word wall. The students are encouraged to use these words in both their writing and speaking throughout the year.
I put short definitions on the word cards so that if students forget what the words mean they can check out the word wall and still try to use new, interesting words in their writing.
You can find my 100 Vocabulary Words for the Wise Graphic Organizers and Quizzes and 100 Vocabulary Words for the Wise Poster Set at my TPT Store.
Make sure you see what everyone else is trying this Tuesday at Fourth Grade Flipper!