Everyone and Anyone can be a Word Explorer!
As children read and write, as they explore and manipulate words in formal settings and as the teacher directs the categorization of words, they gain understanding in how words work. (Bear, Invernizzi, Templeton, and Johnston, 2012).
Exploring Words (2009) by Mercier and Long is a comprehensive word study program which includes pages of word sorts for levels Kindergarten through fifth grade.
Our program formally begins at the K-2 level and after students can hear and write the beginning and ending sounds of words. These students have sorted pictures with phonetic features, developing a basic sight word vocabulary linked to the class’ word wall (Cunningham, 1991) and using invented spelling and interactive writing to learn how words work.
Word work in the Bundle 4 begins in the Within Word Stage and supports word workers through the Early Derivational Constancy Stage as identified by (Bear, Invernizzi, Templeton, and Johnston, 2012).
Children need practice and review when learning new concepts; we have provided this opportunity. For example, short vowels are introduced at the K-2 level, using age-appropriate vocabulary. They are again presented at the third level, using more difficult words and are reviewed again at level four. Of course, this work is optional, depending upon the student’s needs. In level five, short vowels are again presented; this time using more difficult vocabulary and multi-syllable words. More importantly, the inclusion of a similar word feature at different levels, allows the teacher the flexibility of providing needed work at the child’s developmental level. It is conceivable that groups of students in the same classroom could be working on varying levels of difficulty as well as working with different words features, yet all doing the same sorting activities.
Each word sort is listed sequentially by level in the table of contents and titled appropriately at the top of each assignment. Boxes at the top of each word sort indicate the sorting features for the assignment.
Our suggested format for Exploring Words uses a week-long series of activities, commencing with a traditional spelling test. Of course using these words in writing and applying these word features in reading is the best test of learning, but we do feel that the “Friday Spelling Test” adds another measure of accountability for the student. See the included Teacher’s Guide for a day by day sequence of activities.
When involving students in word study, teachers using the Exploring Words program need to use words that the students can read. It is important on the first day of a word sort to discuss the words’ meanings and make certain that the students can read all of the words. Words that the child is unable to read or understand need to be discarded. Because some of the words seem easy, teachers, students, and parents need to realize that often a step backward is a step forward.
In Exploring Words, students sort words by sound as well as by sight and the program begins with obvious contrasts first. Words that “do fit” the categories and those that “don’t fit” are used. Exceptions are not hidden. We have tried to include exceptions to the rule as often as possible. Those sorts having “exceptions” are indicated by a (*) at the bottom of the word sort page. The goal is to avoid giving rules about how words work. Rather we hope that students will discover these consistencies through looking through words, hearing them pronounced and in discussion with their peers and teachers.
Good teaching is driven by the results of assessment. Word study, too, needs to begin with an assessment of a child’s knowledge of word features. We use the Primary and Elementary Spelling Inventories in Words Their Way, 2nd Edition (Bear et al. 1999) to assess student knowledge and also as a continuum of word features for which we developed word sorts.
This program serves many purposes. Primarily, it provides students with opportunities to make discoveries about words and their features. This knowledge can then be applied to their reading and writing activities. Welcome to the world of Exploring Words!