If you teach a primary grade, odds are you’ve used word sorts in your classroom. Word sorts are activities that require students to categorize words according to their features. These activities improve spelling by getting students to compare words they DO know to words they DON’T know. Word sorts are also a powerful way to improve a student’s reading fluency.
We know they’re important. How can we use them effectively in the classroom? Here are three ways to start using word sorts in your classroom today:
- Small-Group Guided Reading Lessons. Every great guided reading lesson begins with targeted word work instruction! Engage your students in a word sort as a small group, or give your kids a few minutes to complete the activity independently. The small group setting allows you to spend time listening to your students read the words to ensure that they are applying the phonics sounds appropriately. Kindergarten is Grrreat offers a free, easy guided reading lesson plan that will help you keep track of the word work you’re doing with each group!
- Literacy Centers. Words sorts are very effective teaching tools, but they’re also easy enough for most students to do independently (after you have explicitly taught the phonics skills). Take the time to teach word sorting routines effectively when you start your literacy centers, and you’ll have one low-prep center planned for the rest of the year! You can download 50 short & long vowel word sorts for free from Little Owl’s Teacher Treats to get started!
- Spelling Lists. Rote memorization is an ineffective means of teaching spelling. By studying word sorts, your students will learn to transfer and apply knowledge of regular phonics patterns, which makes for long-lasting learning. Words Their Way by Bear, et al, is an excellent resource for implementing word-study routines in your classroom. If you’re looking for a simpler way to get started, there are loads of free word sorts online. Try a 5 day routine to help your students master new patterns:
- Day 1: Introduce the sort in a whole-group or small-group setting. You can easily differentiate for your students by assigning different lists to your advanced, on-level, and intervention groups.
- Day 2: Have partners do a “blind sort.” One student reads the words, and the other decides how they should be sorted (without looking at the words). Then partners switch and do it again.
- Day 3: Students sort and write the words in a word study notebook.
- Day 4: Students sort and glue the words on a sorting mat.
- Day 5: Quiz your groups or the whole class to determine: 1. who has mastered the list, and 2. who needs to review the words before starting a new list.
If you’re not using word sorts in your classroom already, now is the time to start!