hip hip hooray! a way to organize words their way {a guest post}

Ok friends. While I was doing my words their way series, I stumbled upon Heidi and her sister’s blog! Heidi teachers 2nd grade in Utah and her sis Emily used to teach 2nd grade, but now spends her day with her littles. They have amazing ideas and blog posts about how to setup, score, and organize WTW {and a lot of other good stuff too!}. These sisters have it all! I just purchased their Common Core morning work book and homework book for our grade level. 180 days all laid out for me!? Doesn’t get better!

Heidi graciously agreed to do a guest post about how she organizes all her Words Their Way goodies. This had to be a guest post because this little lady is not organized! yet…It’s my goal this year.

Hello! Rachel was kind enough to ask me to add my 2 cents to her discussion of the Words Their Way program. My name is Heidi and my sister and I blog over at Second Story Window. I’m starting my 12th year of teaching and I’ve used the WTW program (in some form or other) every year. I’ve had ups and downs as I’ve tried to implement this in my classroom, but once I saw the difference it made to my little learners I pushed myself to make this workable. It’s getting started that’s really the challenge. Once it’s organized it’s just part of the classroom. I must add though, every year I run this a little differently. It’s just a matter of finding what fits the flow of things. So I’m going to share with you how this worked in my class last year.

Rachel gave a good overview of the spelling inventory,


but then we’re left with, “Now what???” It’s time to make our groups. I’ve done different things over the years, but the simplest thing is to just grab a scratch paper and list the levels down one side (LN-A late, W/W early, W/W mid…). Then I look through my stack of record sheets and see who fits each category. I jot down the number they got correct in that category on top of their name. This is helpful if I have to fudge the numbers a bit. Here’s an example:


You can see the Within Word early group is kind of full. Glancing at the numbers I see that Diana only got 2 right but the other kids were much more solid on that level. So I might move Diana down one. If I have lots of kids within the Syllables and Affixes levels, I might put them all in the same group and start them at the beginning. Since the 1st grade at my school doesn’t use WTW, the kids may be natural spellers and have no understanding of word patterns. I think it’s as important for my kiddoes to learn the why of spelling as much as the how. So when you’re putting groups together, go with your teacher instincts. This isn’t an exact science. You do what works for you! And if 5 (or 6 or 7) groups are too much to handle, do 3 or even 2. The important thing is that you’re getting at least some differentiation in.

In order to keep track of the groups, I developed a little notebook. Each page covers a week of WTW practice. I cut down a post-it note for each group and then add the kids’ names. It makes it easy to transfer the information each week. Since taking this photo I’ve updated the forms. You can get them here.



Now to deal with the actual sorts. This is the make-it or break-it point when it comes to using WTW. If you can handle this circus, the rest is easy.

I bought some 6-pocket folders from Really Good Stuff similar to these.


I numbered each folder 1-6 and then used a post-it to label the pockets inside with the group level and number of kids. So each group has its own pocket.

This next step took me a while, but now that it’s done I’ll never have to do it again! I went through the different sort books (for my kids the Letter-Name Alphabetic, Within Word Patter, and Syllables & Affixes) and copied each sort on yellow paper. I did them 2-sided so they’d all fit in one binder.


So now, every 6 weeks or so, I take my folders, binder, and record notebook to the work room. I figure out what each group needs for the week and put the copies in the right pocket. This is when having the master on yellow comes in handy—I never mix it in with the copies! I can copy and organize 6 weeks worth of sorts in less than 30 minutes.

The kids get their new sorts on Fridays. I call each group back to the table. We discuss the sort and they highlight an exemplar for each category. That helps them to remember what features they’re sorting for. Then they take their sorts to their desks, cut them out, write their initials on the back, and store the cards in a little zipper pocket.


Since I started the Daily 5 last year, word sorts are the first thing the students do when they go to the Work with Words station. Monday they sort and write. Tuesday is the favorite: speed sort (I found sand timers from Oriental Trading). Wednesday they sort and graph. And Thursday they sort and glue the words into their notebooks. And on Friday we start with the new sort. They can do each sort in less than 5 minutes.

It sounds like a lot to take on, but truthfully once you find a system that works for you the whole thing just flows. And the benefits…well they far, far outweigh the hassles. I know in the years when I’ve been diligent with this program my kids were much more confident in their understanding of spelling patterns. In the years when I’ve let this slide, I may have some really good natural spellers, but they don’t understand why words follow certain patterns. If we want to shape good little spellers, it just makes sense to teach them how to think about words.


and that’s all for today! It’s a lot to take in, so I will save my stories from our first day back {gasp} for tomorrow. And I’ll have pictures to share too! The kiddos return on Tuesday, so I have a little time! I need to stay away from Pinterest and blog land because every.single.time I get on here, there is something new I want to add!


  1. I have tried words their way off and on too but just couldn't figure out how to make it work and still use our basal series phonics too. Any suggestions? I would appreciate it! Do you use words their way as your phonics program, or do you have a basal phonics too?

    Reaching for the TOP!

    1. I use my basal phonics program each day whole group. I use wtw individually. It's def. not for phonics work {in my opinion} since it is different for each child/group. I'd be happy to give you more of a run down...i smell and post brewing!

  2. I like the zippered pockets and the idea of highlighting an exemplar word. I use laminate CD holders - they are the perfect size.

  3. Thanks for giving me the chance to share Rachel! Good luck as you head back!!

  4. I LOVE SSW's homework book and morning work book, too! This was a great guest post. Keep these WTW posts coming because you are making me even more excited to try WTW this year :)

    EduKate and Inspire

  5. Your blog is newsy and helpful!! Thanks for the resources. Stop by my blog: http://www.yoursmarticles.blogspot.com for more ideas AND come grab this spelling FREEBIE at my TpT Store. You're gonna love it!! http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Spelling-Game-Left-Right-Center


notes to the teacher

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