Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Guest Blogger: Camille

Hi all!  Natalie stepped out of the room and I am taking over her blog today.  Actually she stepped out of the country and is currently in Japan.  Cross your fingers that she will return with lots of photos and stories to share for those of us who never travel (like me).

My name is Camille from An Open Door and I currently teach a kindergarten / first grade combination class in the beautiful state of California. 

Today, I am going to be sharing a very simple activity with you.  Simple to create, simple to understand and simple to use.  But this activity has really strengthened the phonics skills of my students.

A few years ago, we had Shane Templeton, one of the authors of Words Their Way, visit my district. He was absolutely amazing!  One of the ideas he emphasized was having the students sort words.  Shane explained that students need to look at and think about the structure of words.  Sorting words forces students to look at ways that words are the same and different.  There are several word sort books available that are wonderful that I use in various ways and that I highly recommend.  But in addition, I wanted something simple to use each week with our spelling words.  Most of you probably use similar lists where most of the words are phonetic and a few are sight words that break the rules.

So ... to allow my students to sort our spelling words, I created a three column paper that we use each week (well, most weeks, sometimes life just gets in the way).  Monday we have our spelling pretest and then on Tuesday we do a word sort with our ten spelling words.  In the beginning I labeled each column before copying, but then I realized that my students could (AND SHOULD) label each column.  So now I just make a million (more or less) copies of the sort page at the beginning of the year and I am good to go!

So how do we use this form?  Here is an example: The other week we were working on ai/ay words so I had my students label the first column "ai", the second column "ay", and the third column "misfits".  (Misfits are words that don't belong in either column.)  I called out a word and students had to decide which column to write the word in.  Three of our words that week were: rain, way, because.  (Because belongs in the misfit column.) We talked about patterns as we worked our way through the spelling words.  ("Hmmm ... what do you notice about all of the words in the -ay column?"  Hopefully, someone noticed that the ay was always at the end of the word.)  I always add in a few words that aren't on our spelling list because I want my students to understand the patterns, not just memorize specific words.

What happens when all of the words in a list have the same pattern?  Then I add words for our sort that do not follow that pattern.  For example, if all of the words have a short a, I might add a few words that have a short o so that students can differentiate those sounds.  Sometimes I add words for the misfit column that I notice a lot of students have been mispelling.

When we are done with our word sort, the children have one more task.  Since I L.O.V.E. math, I just have to put some math into everything we do.  So my students write an equation at the bottom of their sort paper to match the number of words in each column.  For example: 6 + 5 + 2 = 13.  One of our standards is adding three one-digit numbers and because we do this each week, I never have to formally teach that skill.

Here is my simple sort page.
Hmmm ... here is my math question for you:  How many times did I use the word simple in today's blog?  Too many!!!!

Bye for now,
A Open Door


  1. I love simple forms that I can use every week (and make a million copies of before the school year!). Thanks so much for sharing this- like you said, it's a simple idea, but it is SO valuable and can be used EVERY week! :) I can't wait to follow your blog!

    Luckeyfrog's Lilypad

  2. This is a great idea Camille! Thanks for sharing!!

    Marvelous Multiagers!


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