Words Their Way

We’re in to year two of Words their Way (WTW) at our school.  Managing 4-5 groups within your classroom seems like a daunting task, but with a little planning, training, and organization, it’s possible!

words their way

I have created a SMARTboard file that houses all of our activity slides.  At the start of WTW, we use the first few slides to remind our selves:

  • which group students are in
  • what the WTW expectations are
  • what the WTW routines are
  • what the WTW schedule is

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download-icon Download the SMARTnotebook File

It’s important to note that the schedule is flexible.  While I may have four groups, they  may not all be doing the exact same activity each day; AND they may not move onto the next sort all at the same time.  I find that it’s important to be diagnostic with my teaching.  What this means is that students are observed and assessed.  They move when they’re ready.  This type of flexible teaching is important for student growth an development.  Would it be easier to keep every student on the same schedule and have them do the same activity and move at the same time?  Of course.  It’d be easier on me, but not my students.  It’s not what’s best for them.

Below you can see the activity slides, with a short description that detail


Basic Sort (above): Students receive their new sort.  They color the back (as a measure to indicate who the sort belongs to).  They then cut and sort.  In subsequent days I model the sort to demonstrate how it’s done (display category cards, read categories, read words out loud, sort words).  We also develop vocabulary knowledge in subsequent days too!


Words in Sentences: Students sort their words first.  Then they select at least four words and write a sentence for each.  I challenge my higher level kids to find a way to write a short story with the words, so the sentences are connected and form a story!


Book Look:  Students sort their words.  They then read a familiar book and look for words that follow/have the same spelling pattern.  This is definitely a challenging task, and so it’s done after a lot of modeling.


Illustrated Words: After sorting their words, they select at least four words and illustrate them (and add the word as a label).  For students that have pictures (instead of words) for their sort, they do the same thing.  They draw their word, but are then challenged to spell each word.


Sound Hop: This is done with me.  Students either create a work mat, or I create one for them.  The frog (math frog manipulative) sits in the middle on his lily pad and waits for the word to be called out.  Students then listen for the “target sound” and jump to the correct quadrant.


Sound  Hop w/ Video:  Similar to the above mentioned game, but we add a video from YouTube to the routine.  The video demonstrates/teaches the target sound(s) on which we’re focusing.


Blind Sort:  After a quick sort, students participate in a blind sort.  I’ve seen a couple of variations of this activity.  We do blind sorts by partnering up, preferably with someone who has the same sort.  Students create categories in their notebooks.  They then call out words for their partner to spell and spell words that their partner calls out to them.  Once a partner has written a word, their partner checks it and provides feedback.


Partner Memory:  Students must work with someone who has the same sort that they do.  The partners combine word cards, turn them word-face down, and then play memory.  Students read (out loud) each word they turn over and try to match words.  They keep the words they match.


Free Choice:  After demonstrating each of these options, students are able to self-select a way to practice writing their WTW words.

Working with Words Folders

I was recently asked where my “Working with Words folders (w/ pocket charts) were on my site.  This led me to discover that the page never was recreated.  Yikes!  I did find the photos on my computer and thankfully, Internet Archive Wayback Machine had an archive of my old site and I was able to find the original directions!


Materials Needed:

  • Pocket Charts ($1 from Target)
  • Notebooks
  • 3-Prong, 2-Pocket Folders
  • Sewing Machine
  • Thread
  • Scissors
  • 3-hole Paper Punch
  • Labels for Folders
  • Letter Cards
  • Letter Card Pouch Labels
  • Baseball Card Pouch Inserts

How did you create your Working with Words Folders?

I lined up the notebook on the pocket chart.  I cut off the bottom of the pocket chart (the part just below the last row).  I then cut up the side of the pocket chart and around the top, leaving the extra fabric above the top row of the student pocket chart so that I could fold it over when three hole punching it (added thickness).

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I then positioned the folder on top of the remaining pocket chart and cut up the sides and top (again leaving the extra fabric above the top row).  You can see the “extra pieces” in picture #3.  I threw away the sides and bottom part, but kept the top two rows part because I thought it looked useful (not sure WHAT for….though).  I then sewed the cut side (straight stitch and then a zig-zag stitch), and sewed the bottom (zig-zag).  Then, I three hole punched the top.  I had to make sure that I positioned the punch correctly (test one) and adjust if needed.

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Other Details:

  • I print the letter cards back to back, with lowercase on one side, and uppercase on the other side.  Laminating is optional.

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Downloads for Word Work Folders: download-icon

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Personalized Learning

We know that our students come to us with a variety of interests, skills, and learning styles.  We do our very best to meet their needs through differentiation strategies and perhaps even some individualization.  But what about personalized learning?  What is it and how can it help our students?


I’m not an expert on Personalized Learning, but decided to dive in and implement in it during our Writer’s Workshop last year.  I presented my classroom’s experience with Personalized Learning in Iowa last summer and again in Ohio last month.  You can view the presentation here:

Rather than write about how it worked for us, I’ve created a podcast to share the process we went through last year.  It worked well for us and I plan to continue implementing Personalized Learning next year during Writer’s Workshop.

download-icon Download the SMARTboard File


download-icon Download the Goal Setting Sheet

I’ve been collecting resources about personalized learning on a Pinterest board.  It will continue to grow as more content is added.
Follow Jessica’s board Personalized Learning on Pinterest.

Have you implemented Personalized Learning into your classroom?

I’d love to hear about it!

Classroom Library Apps

“I want to level and organize my classroom library.  Which apps are best for classroom libraries?”

I’ve noticed this question surface a lot this summer.


Library Thing houses my library catalog.  It contains information about book levels, book categories.  It’s also searchable (which is VERY handy when I’m looking up books to see if I have it or whether it’s one I usually get from the public library).  I’ve been using LibraryThing for years. It’s been around for a long time (way before device apps). I’ve been a lifetime member for 8 years. It’s a $25 lifetime membership.  You can see how a library looks by visiting mine if you like:http://www.librarything.com/catalog/jmeacham


When scanning,  you can:

  • scan your books into your library
  • add tags to each book
  • lend or check out books
  • add book covers for books (if one doesn’t automatically display)

For tagging, I tag by theme and book level. Next summer I plan to add book bin tags as well.  I absolutely love the tagging feature.  You can sort by tag to easily find books.  It’s my dream to also add “book feature” tags.  


The apps I’m using for finding book levels are Book Wizard and Level It.  Library Leveler is a new app for me, but I have found it to be as useful as Book Wizard and Level It.

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When using the apps, they scanned, but didn’t always retrieve the book. That happens because the same book may have a few different UPC bar codes. It is recommended that if a scanned book doesn’t produce and info page, that you can manually type it in. I tried this and it did work a lot of the times.

Book Retriever Points Scan Literacy Leveler

I haven’t tried Book Retriever as they don’t have an android version, and my iPad wasn’t available at the time.  And, recently they announced that they’ll no longer be supporting this app after October 1, 2015 (but to check back for “exciting new technology projects”).  Another option is Points Scan.  It gives you the accelerated reader points for a book title.  We don’t use AC at our school, but if I’m unable to find the guided reading level, I can easily find the level if I know the AC level.  I was recently given a copy of Literacy Leveler by Fikes Farm; however, I haven’t had a chance to test it out yet.  I’ll update this post when I do!

There are a few web-based book leveling sources that helped me as well.

Teaching A to Z Book Level Finder Book Wizard Level Finder Fountas and Pinnell Leveled Book Database

The Scholastic Book Wizard site, Teaching A to Z book leveling site, and a few others were pivotal starting points for me in my early days of book leveling.  I also use the Fountas and Pinnell Leveled Book site.  Here are a few others I utilize:

download-icon Check out my book leveler comparison spreadsheet chart:


Truth be told there is no perfect app or website. I wish there was! I think teachers are way ahead of the ball game and have their wants/needs and the app developers are trying to play catch up and meet those needs/wants! If one of them would hurry up and make a near perfect app, I’m almost positive they could charge for it and make a good pile of money from teachers who’d be willing to buy the near perfect app! 

Add within 10 Math Baggies

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I recently finished my AVMR 2 math training.  We were trained last year in AVMR 1.  If you ever get a chance to attend the trainings, I highly recommend it!  The trainings gave me a avmr booksbetter understanding of how children learn math, the types of activities that can be used to progress students’ math skills, and assessments that pinpoint math constructs.

Our district’s first grade math screener gives me a pretty accurate picture of where my students are and what is needed to progress them to the next level; however, if I need to dig a little deeper, the AVMR screeners are perfect for pinpointing gaps in skills.

1st Grade Math Screener-page-001 1st Grade Math Screener-page-002

Once the math screener has been given, we begin our math workshop.

Up until then, We’ve had whole group math.  In math workshop, students rotate through four choices.  It’s similar to Daily 5.  They use the math workboard, select their choices and we have 15-20 minute sessions.  One of the sessions is a small guided math group with me.

Their choices can vary from day to day, but generally they may choose:

  • Sumdog on Chromebooks
  • iPad Math Apps
  • Add within 10 Math Baggies
  • Math Bins
  • Read about Math
  • Math Boards
  • SMARTboard Math

Here’s a screenshot of our math workboard.  Students drag their selected activities (icons) to each session.  The timer helps keep me on track when I’m running my guided math sessions.


If you’d like, you can download our math workboard here: download-icon

In response to my students’ needs, based on their math screener results, I created AVMR math activity baggies for each student.  These baggies are filled with materials that support fluency development when adding within ten.  Currently the baggies have six activities.  I plan to add to them as the year progresses.

math baggies 1

Above, you can see the storage system we use.  I purchased two, black 10-drawer carts. They assembled in a jiffy, and are satisfactorily durable.  The drawers have a catch on them so they don’t push all the way in, like similarly styled carts.  They do pull all the way out, but I don’t have my kids do that.  Instead they open and grab the math baggie.  We’ll add additional activities to these drawers as the year progresses.  The yellow cards were added after the first week we used the baggies.  Students were forgetting what “their number” was, and so I created the cards to serve as a reminder that they can work on whichever numbers are in their baggie.

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Based on their math assessments, students work on one number at a time.  If they are working on 5, that means they are working with partners of 5.  The yellow cards help them to remember “their number” (goal number).  I assess once a week to see if they are able to move on to the next number.  I assess all numbers up to “their number” – for example, if a student’s number is 6, I assess their knowledge of 4, 5, and 6. Students work in partners for these activities.  Since implementation, I have found that my students are engaged and have become more fluent when solving addition facts within ten.

Assessment prompts for 5:

  • “What goes with 2 to make 5?”
  • “What goes with 1 to make 5?”
  • “What goes with 3 to make 5?”
  • “What goes with 4 to make 5?”

They must answer fluently for all prompts/questions in order to progress to the next number.  Fluently answering within three seconds is their goal.

Here’s a screenshot of the activities.

You can download them here: download-icon

Add to 10 Math Baggie-page-001