So, about three weeks ago, I met with our district literacy coach to make sure that I was prepared to pilot Words Their Way in my sixth grade classroom. I was a bit nervous, as I had used WTW in primary and early elementary with success, but with middle school, I wanted to make sure that the activities I had planned for my kids weren’t babyish, and that I was putting them into proper groups. It has gone well for the first few weeks, but now…
…lightbulbs all over the place, folks. I am almost in tears thinking about it (so you can imagine the self-control I exercised as I watched this whole scenario unfold!).
In particular, I was working with two students who have a serious case of low self-confidence when it comes to school work, and have resorted to some behavioral issues to access the attention they so desperately want. During Thursday’s assessment, I saw them both using basic phonemic awareness to determine where to put each word. And, as they realized they were recognizing the pattern a week after their initial work with that particular sort, their faces lit up.
It was really incredible to watch one of the students put an answer down — incorrectly — and then, a few minutes later, reevaluate his choice, chopping out the syllables in the word, followed by chopping out the syllables in the guide word.
*moves word from short /a/ to long /a/ column*
Victory was his.
And, while all of this is going on (including my personal victory dance inside my head — probably better that I didn’t actually dance it out in the middle of class, trust me), I have two other buddies completing their word hunt using my GRADE-LEVEL WORD WALL.
Yup. That’s right. Word walls DO have a place in sixth grade.
Now, let me just set the stage for you. Student 1 is a really, tremendously hard-working student who truly does his very best. Yet, he struggles. And he struggles quite a bit with just about everything he does. So earlier in the week, I had him come up for lunch with a few other students to really go in depth about what a “word hunt” is. And, you guys? This is what happened:
(By the way, student 2 is an ELL student; we’re focusing on building vocabulary with him.)
Student 1 : Okay, so we need to find words that aren’t necessarily in our sort, but that start with the prefixes ‘re-‘ and ‘un-‘. Let’s look at the word wall. Can you see any that are on there?
S1: Yep, ‘revision’ works because ‘vision’ is a root word on its own, and ‘revision’ means to look at something again, like when we revise papers. But what about the word ‘read’? We can’t really put that in the ‘re-‘ category, because ‘re-‘ isn’t really acting like a prefix. So where would that one go?
S1: Yep! Okay, so I’m going to do the next one with you, and then let you do the rest on your own.
Uhh…ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! He totally took a page out of MY book! “Okay, let’s see you do it all on your own now!” Super. Super. Awesome.
Anyway, all this to say that WTW is working beautifully in my classroom, and that I am ever so grateful to my friend Michelle for lending her materials to me, and for checking in to make sure this is going as well as it is. I cannot wait to see how the success continues in this classroom! Jim and I are doing what we can to implement this with consistency and fidelity (even though that can be difficult at times, as I’m sure we’re all aware), and the rewards are already proving to be significant.
Here’s to another fantastic week!