Spelling MY Way: Stages and Making groups

So now you’ve scored those spelling inventories! What’s next? Use them to make groups! I wish, wish, wish I could get into my classroom and show you my group making forms, but I will wing it for today!
My middle Lamb graciously agreed to take the test so I could use his score to show you what to do! Ain’t he a doll! {he’ll do anything to earn extra Minecraft time!}
Here’s the Primary inventory list and feature guide
Here’s the Elementary list and features guide
And here’s the Upper Elementary
We use the Primary in 2nd grade.

photo 1

Thinking hard during the summer! All that mess is distracting!

photo 2
ok, here is his test. I simply wrote the correct spelling beside the word. He wanted to see what he missed.

photo 3
Now I transferred this info to the feature guide.

This is what is time consuming. Check off each feature the kiddos gets correct. I use colored ink because I will use this same form 3 times per year. Honestly, I usually only check off the features and total at the bottom of each column. This is how I make my groups.

photo 4
You can see he got 5 out of 7 in this feature column then dropped off. This is where I would place Jake.

photo (14)
I circled Long vowels AND Other vowels. He has a grasp of long vowel patterns. But not perfect. This is a good review spot.

I would begin him in the Late Within Word Patterns. Each stage has a different book of sorts. I am usually working out of 3 different books for 4 groups. Most students in my class fall into this stage, but at different levels. Some will need blends, while others, like Jake above, do not. I would not have them working in the same group.


Students who fall into the same stage are likely grouped together. This year I had 6 students fall into early Within Word and 3 who fell into late Within Word. I made these 2 different groups because those in the latter part of the stage would not need also scored a few features in the Syllables and Affixes correctly and I knew they would move on quickly Whereas those other 6 in the early stages would miss out on all the long vowel instruction.

If you look at my Spelling City page, you see Red, Green, Yellow, Blue, etc. then a number. These are simply the color of the book and the number of the sort! Nothing fancy. This helps me stay on track when I make copies.


Red book-Letter Name Alphabetic. These are short vowels, initial, and final consonants. These kiddos have a grasp of long vowels, but still confuse short vowels. These are my lower spellers.

Yellow Book-Within Word Patterns. These are the beginnings of digraphs, blends, and common long vowel patterns. features that are “within” a word. They are introduced to homophones and are focusing on sound, meaning, and spelling. About 1/2 my second graders fall into this stage.

Green Book-Syllables and Affixes. For the most part, my highest spellers will start in the early stages. In this stage, students learn about affixes, suffixes, and prefixes.  Many mistakes are made in two syllable words, especially where syllables and affixes meet.  They are learning about doubling the consonant, inflected endings, open and closed syllables, and unaccented final syllables. Tough stuff!

I’ve only had one student get to the blue book. But it’s Derivational Relations. That sounds pretty good doesn’t it! At this point students have moved to more vocabulary instruction. We are looking at word study focusing on derivations, base words, and root words.   Spelling-meaning connections help them to build and expand their vocabulary knowledge.

I love this graphic! image


You really wan tot know my group names don’t you?! Well, inspired by Lettering Delights Around the World Bundle {inspiration can come from anywhere} we are named for world landmarks. Big Ben, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Eiffel Tower, and Taj Mahal! In the beginning of the year my breakdown looked like this:

5 Big Ben, 12 Leaning Tower, 3 Eiffel Tower, and 1 Taj Mahal.
and by the end of the year
6 Big Ben, 6 Leaning Tower, 3 Eiffel Tower, and 6 Taj Mahal.

It’s not that students did not make progress. When we take the Mid-Year inventory, they’ve had 4 months of spelling instruction. The group should have moved on around the same speed. But as you can see, many moved on quicker. I moved them up with my lone gal in Taj Mahal. I still had all but 4 on or above “grade level”. I find this hard to determine in spelling. I also had one little Leaning Tower who came in November and seemed to grasp the inventory ok. However, I soon discovered he was a rather weak speller {but amazing reader} and moved him with Big Ben. At this point they were in the late Letter-Name Alphabetic learning short vowel patterns and digraphs, so he was getting the review he needed. None of the groups “move down” as far as going back and covering lists we’ve already had. If the group bombs long A patterns, I pick a new list from the index of the manual and we do it again. We all chug along and the kids in the groups are flexible.

Tomorrow I will show you what we do each day! It’s only 10 minutes of the day, so you can squeeze it in! I will also have a few freebies later on. Happy Wednesday!


  1. Thanks for sharing. I am enjoying reading these posts regarding your spelling instruction. My goal this year is to move towards words their way/word study instruction and get rid of the whole basil list from Reading Street. I teach 3rd grade so I'm curious to see how it all turns out! :)

    1. We use Reading Street too. When I first started, I kept those lists for my on grade level students, use a program called Word Trek for my AIG students, and began Words Their Way with my lower ones. I lucked out in that after 2 years of doing it on my own, our school adopted WTW! Now I have all the manuals, too!

  2. I love Words Their Way. I had the opportunity to take the class through the University of Virginia and it was awesome (1 grad level class squeezed into 6 days...needless to say I worked!!) My district uses Word Journeys, which is a branch off WTW, and I like their scoring a whole lot better than what's in WTW. It's a little easier to place because instead of having 7s for each feature, she uses 5s all the way across... easier for my pitiful brain :) Nice to see others using WTW... it's the best I've used for spelling :)

    Following Optimism in 2nd Grade

  3. Our professor loved Word Journeys! I haven't seen it though. I figured they must be similar. 6 days! Sheesh!

  4. Just saw your post on the 2nd grade shenanigans site! YAY for SC bloggers! :)

    Make sure you stop by and enter my giveaway.

  5. I am loving these Words Their Way posts! I first learned about WTW in undergrad and have been wanting to switch to it for awhile! I may have a few questions once you are done with your WTW posts :)

    EduKate and Inspire

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