Word Study Questions and Responses

Word Study Instruction

How much time do you spend on word study in a 90 min block?

20% of your time should be spent on Word Study, according to diet recommendations by the PALS office (link) for Beginning, Transitional and Intermediate/Advanced Stage readers. This works out to approximately 18 minutes a day of a 90 minute block. I prefer to consider diet across a week, however. So one day I may spend 25 minutes on word study and then next day only 15 minutes.


Is it ok to carry out word study over two weeks?

Absolutely! When I teach on a block schedule and only see students every other day, this is ideal.


What do we do when someone gets stuck in a word study level?

This depends on the student. I try to give the student extra time and practice because some students simply need more time. When there is a particularly troublesome pattern and I’ve spent ample time on this pattern and given a student one on one intervention, I will move the child along but note that he or she didn’t yet master that particular pattern. I will then come back to that pattern for review as it appears in future word lists. Keep in mind that most patterns are seen over and over again in the upcoming lists and it’s a great way to continue to refresh students’ memories about what they have previously learned when you note the previously taught patterns as they appear on your new lists.


How do you get kids writing in a word study activity? Do you give them a topic and word they should use? How’s it work?

This depends. Sometimes I provide choices related to the things we’ve been studying. Sometimes I offer a choices with an additional option of “choose your own topic.” Sometimes I specify the topic (related to our other lessons) and ask students only to write about this topic. I almost always give some suggestions for topics because when the writing activity is wide open, many students struggle with choosing a topic. Providing some suggestions helps. I also usually go through each of the suggestions and provide some ideas and examples of what students could write about to help students get the juices flowing as well as give students a couple of minutes to brainstorm ideas with a partner.

What are the best ways to move teachers to deeper conversations about words so we aren’t just going through the sort motions?

I find that providing teachers with something to read (an article, a book chapter) that talks about the deeper purpose behind word study in order to spark a discussion is a great start. Video taping excellent word study instruction and critiquing the videos in PLCs is another great way to start to change directions with word study instruction.


Dialogic Conversations

How long should you model dialogic discussions with 5th grade students?

As long as it takes! I find that heavy modeling at the beginning of year (fishbowls 1-2 times per week with a lot of teacher feedback for another week or two) and then gradually releasing responsibility (1 fish bowl a week, then one every other week and reducing feedback) is usually enough. I find, however, that students require maintenance. So after a few months of successful conversations you may want to come back to modeling to help students maintain good dialogic conversations as well as continue to improve upon their discussion skills.


Vocabulary Instruction

If doing a whole class text, how can we best differentiate a vocab list for ELLs and struggling students?

I’m not sure the list itself would need to be differentiated for ELLs and struggling students. I think the supports you provide would need to be differentiated. For example, while your original list of words may be the same for all students, you may define a few additional words on a handout or reading guide for struggling students. Additionally, providing a few extra examples and pictorial support would assist ELLs and other students in learning the new vocabulary that you are teaching. Also, remember that word learning is on a continuum. If some of your students have never seen the word before, you will perhaps be able to move their word knowledge needle to understanding the word in context. However, other students may already know the word but it is not a part of their spoken or written expressive vocabulary, so your instruction for these students would emphasize helping students learn how to use the word.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s