These word work activities are ideal for small group instruction or literacy center practice.
We always try to implement a short word work lesson during our small group instruction in reading. It can sometimes be difficult to create new resources each week for each of your different leveled groups that go with the story being read or the concept being emphasized. We have created these resources to be printed, laminated and at-the-ready for each of your small groups. They are more open-ended types of things that provide you with the chance to add words that are suited to your group of learners, individual students and/or the focus of the lesson. We suggest you prepare them all at once, gather other needed supplies (such as chips, dry erase or Vis-a-vis markers, and/or eraser socks) and store them all in an organizer of some type near where you conduct your small groups. Add our resources below to your current word work activities!
The following word work activities resources can be found in downloads at the end of our descriptions. The first group is non-editable collection of PDFs. (There are both color and black & white versions available.) The second group is editable so that you can tailor specific pieces to your class and students. (Black and white versions of these are also included.)
Sound Boxes – We read about sound boxes in Marie Clay’s work and used them in our small groups. (You may have heard of them as Elkonin sound boxes.) We have provided two, three, four and five letter templates. Simply choose the one that fits the word a student is working on and grab chips for them to use. (If you aren’t familiar with these, there are several tutorials on YouTube.)
Building Words: Onset/Rime Mats – For these mats you can quickly write a rime for each student in the center cloud. Then the students’ tasks are to create other real words with the same rime by adding different onsets.
Guess the Covered Word -This is a set of nine simple sentences about reading you can use to teach or reinforce reading strategies early in the school year. Choose a word to cover with a small piece of a Post-it note. (Cut it so that it covers only the word and so that you can uncover the first letter or letters for the initial sound in the word.) Students read the sentence (perhaps with guidance if needed) and then use context clues to guess what the word might be. Ask them to think “What makes sense?” After students brainstorm some words that would work in the sentence, you uncover the initial sound. They then think of their list of possibilities and reevaluate what the word might be.
Word Builders – There are three work mats you can choose from. Write letters in the boxes at the bottom. You may want to think of a word with the designated number of letters and then scramble them (so that there will be a “mystery” word using all the letters that students can figure out) or you may choose specific letters more suited to the specific needs and abilities of your students. They will think of smaller words that they can make with the letters in the bottom boxes and write them in the top boxes. For more concrete or tactile learners you might want to put magnetic letters in the boxes so that they can maneuver them to figure out different words they can spell.
Vocabulary Mat – Print five or six of these so that each student in your groups can have one. Use words from the story you will be reading. This might best be used after an initial day of teaching the vocabulary words as a review so that you can see if they remember what the vocabulary from the story means. (Note: In some cases you may need to tell your students that not all the boxes can be filled. It will depend upon the word(s) you choose for them to know and understand.)
Alphabet Chart with Pictures – For a group of emergent readers you might use this chart as a quick review of letters and sounds at the beginning of each small group guided reading lesson until you feel they know them. For other groups you might want to have it ready to refer to if you see a specific need or misconception about letter sounds.
Word Change Ladder – Print five or six of these ladder templates. Students begin at the bottom as they write a word that you say aloud. Once they have the word written you ask them to change one letter to create a new word and continue the same as they work their way to the tops of the ladders. (For example, you have them write the word “cat” at the bottom. You then tell them to change one letter in the word “cat” to create the “car”. Once these are checked and discussed, you might tell them to change one letter in “car” to create the “bar”. Proceed in a similar manner, using blends and digraphs as students are able, until they reach the top of the ladders.)
Search for the Word – There are two different versions of this kind of work mat. As students are working on early Fry lists, you might want them to be able to identify some of those words in their reading texts. Look at the book(s) you are reading with the group and choose words that you want them to find (or verbally tell students these words and have them write them in the boxes). As students are reading aloud independently in the group (while you are moving from reader to reader and listening to them read) they will have a task to complete during their reading.
Syllable Search – There are three different versions of this work mat containing various combinations of one, two, three and four syllable columns. Students find words in their reading to match the number of syllables required.
Word Sorts – The word card page is editable so that you can type word sorts suitable for your specific levels and skills of students. Erase “word” and type rhyming words, words with endings, words with the same initial sounds, etc. (Another option is to delete the words, print & laminate several of the mats and then quickly write in sorts for the groups you are meeting with.) Use whichever of the four work mats included fits best with your sort. All you will need to do is print and have many of these ready to go with the rest of your supplies.
Word Work Warm-Up Wheel – There are three different versions of these warm-up wheels. You can choose the sorts you would like to program. You might include listing syllables, vowels and consonants or ask students to make words plural. Program the tasks according to the skills you are practicing in class. Students then use a paperclip to create a spinner.
Find It Charts – We have provided four different possibilities for this activity. Students find things in their texts to suit the categories listed at the top. We have made them editable so that you can change the specific things students are searching for to suit your lesson and their needs.
You will find our word work activities here:
Need to assess your students mastery of sight words? Take a look at our Fry Word Progress Lists to help you keep track of how they are doing.
Want to find out how to use Fry Word stacks to help your students master their sight words? Check out Cathy’s Fry Word Stacks Video.
Another favorite activity we have requires no printable, just sentence strips. Have students tell a favorite part of the story, answer a question or give another simple sentence that fits with the story. Record the story on a sentence strip and cut apart the words. Students practice the words by putting them in order and then reading it to you. You can also have students switch sentences for practice with reading other words.
You will find our complete small group toolkit collection here: Small Group Toolkit
Have other favorite word work activities for small group instruction? Please share below!