Words Their Way

  "More Than Just a Spelling Program"

What is Words Their Way?
3 Layers of Word Study
What Can You Do to Help?
Words Their Way Language
Why "WORD STUDY" instead of "TRADITIONAL" spelling program?

Words Their Way (WTW) is a developmental spelling, phonics, an vocabulary program.  IT was developed by Invernizzi, Johnson, Bear, and Templeton.  WTW is an approach to spelling and word knowledge that is based on extensive research literature and includes stages of development and instructional levels that are critical to the way students learn to read.  A word study program allows teachers to provide differentiated efficient, effective instruction in phonics, spelling, and vocabulary.


Word study teacher students to examine words to discover the regularities, patterns, and conventions of the English language in order to read, write, and spell.  It increases specific knowledge of words - the spelling and meaning of individual words.  Literacy is like a braid of interwoven threads:  Reading, oral language, and writing.  Words Their Way demonstrates how exploration of orthographic knowledge can lead to the lengthening and strengthening of the literacy braid.


Learning the relationship between letters and sounds.


Learning specific groupings of letters and their sounds


Learning the meaning of groups of letters such as prefixes, suffixes, and roots.  Vocabulary increases at this layer.

Closed Sort

Remind your child to sort the words into categories like the ones in school.  Your child should read each word aloud during this activity.  Ask your child to explain to you why the words are sorted in a particular way - what does the sort tell about spelling in general?  Ask your child to sort them a second time as fast as possible.

Blind Sort

Do a "blind sort" with your child.  Lay down a word from each category as a header and then read the rest of the words aloud - on at a time.  Encourage your child to spell the word and decide in which category it belongs.  The student cannot rely on the visual cues to sort.

Buddy Sort

Do a "buddy sort" with your child.  Lay down the pattern headers and read the rest of the words aloud.  The child must indicate where the word goes without seeing it and point to the pattern where the word belongs.  Add the word tot he category the student selected.

Word Hunt

Assist your child in doing a "word hunt" by looking for words in a familiar book or magazine that have the same sound, pattern, or both.  Try to find two or three words for each category.

Speed Sort

Do a "speed sort" with your child.  Sort the words into the correct category as fast as you can.

Writing Sort

Do a "writing sort".  As you call out the words in a random order, your child should write them into the sorted categories.  Add some words that fit the patterns but are not in the original sort.
  Encourage your child to write complete sentences that incorporate the words from each category and their meaning.


Organizing words into groups based on similarities in their patterns or meaning.



Words that cannot be grouped into any of the identified categories of a sort.  Students should be taught that there are always words that "break the rules" ad do not follow the general path.

Sound Marks / /


Sound marks around a letter or pattern tell the students to focus only on the sound rather than the actual letters.

The word gem could be grouped into the  /j/ category because it sounds like j at the beginning.



Represented by V

One of 6 letters causing the mouth to open when vocalized ( a, e, i o, u and usually y).  A single vowel sound is heard in every syllable of a word.


Represented by C

All letters other than the vowels.  Consonant sounds are blocked by the lips, tongue, or teeth during articulation.

Research clearly indicates that memorization of lists of "spelling words" does not promote the development of spelling skills.  In the past the traditional approach of "everyone gets the same weekly list and test on Friday", many students who passed the spelling test were not able to transfer the knowledge to their writing!  Memorization a list of words and getting 100% on weekly tests does not necessarily mean your child is a good speller.  It may just mean they are good at memorizing words for a test.