Combining Words Their Way and Daily 5 in 2nd Grade

In Room 32, we do Daily 5 for our literacy block. 
Rather, I should call it a "Daily 5-ish" as I've heard it called in the past.

This post is about how I manage 5 (actually, it's more like 7 currently) different levels of Words Their Way phonics instruction in my classroom each week. I'll definitely write more about my "Daily 5ish" in another post soon.

Back to Words Their Way.
If your reading series doesn't help you by including robust phonics instruction, I recommend researching Words Their Way. It's research-based. By that, I am referring to their placement inventory. I'm no pro at interpreting p-values and r-scores in statistics (did I say that right?), but the short of it is: they've done their homework and they share it with you in the teaching manual. This makes me happy. I like research-based information. I like to be able to backup my decisions with sound reasoning. 

Their placement inventory is a spelling test of 25 words progressing from simple to difficult, from initial and final consonants to Greek and Latin root recognition. They include class composite graphs that I love because they allow me to compare my students side-by-side (which helps with grouping), and see how my class is improving in their phonics skills from one inventory to the next - slow but sure. 
(Some students make enormous leaps that I just can't explain, while others work painstakingly hard on each and every little phonics sound and spelling pattern in order to make growth. Still, there are those students who need repeated review to help them remember phonics rules and hear letter sounds - bless their hearts. You probably have a few of them, too.)

I {giant heart} Words Their Way so much!
I really do.
 I learned about them as a student at Purdue, but didn't have real students to help me put the need for phonics instruction into perspective, so it was just another boring book at that time. But now, as a real teacher, I've had enough students who progress in reading but spell atrociously to convince me that phonics instruction and daily practice with words sorts is an important part of smart, effective, primary instruction (and beyond - but primary is my focus). Those readers who progress but spell atrociously would progress more if they could decode better - something phonics instruction supports.

Two Reasons I love Words Their Way:

1. They've done the thinking for me. 
Aside from the time it takes to score the placement inventory, analyze the scores, make groups, and decide in which stage to begin those groups (usually something that takes me a Saturday and maybe part of Sunday - around 4-5 different times during the school year depending on my curiosity and the students' development), they've done all the thinking for me. After my groups are made, all I need is 12 minutes each week to copy each group's word sort for that week. Considering I'm managing 5 (+2 stragglers) phonics groups, this is relatively little weekly prep. I make double copies and send everyone's sort home with them because families get a little freaked out when there isn't a spelling list they're supposed to practice. 
even as the teacher who streaks into the parking lot 15 minutes before the day begins, I manage to run off my phonics sorts in time.

2. They're organized in a step-by-step way which helps me rest easy.
I progress step-by-step in Words Their Way - at least between reassessments. (Some don't. Some skip around as they see fit for their groups. However your mind & methods work for you is acceptable.) I test, place, and teach for an entire quarter. Then test and place again. Groups are supposed to be fluid so students who catch on quickly can be moved ahead. But I don't shift students around like that. They test. They place. They learn with their group until I retest and re-"place" them again. I think doing 4-5 different test throughout the year provides all the shifting necessary for the different speeds at which students progress.
For example, this week green group does Blue Book Sort 4 (B4). Next week, B5. Then B6. I don't skip. I trust in the authors, that their strategic combinations and comparisons of spelling pattern rules is necessary and beneficial; finding gaps and filling them.
(Ok. I'm really a flexible person but am making myself seem very rigid! If a student needed to be shifted to another group, and it was glaringly obvious, I'd do it. But that hasn't happened yet. But this is why I believe in frequent retesting/regrouping.)

I don't want this post to go too long for you, but I wanted to add how I manage so many different levels (and why I feel 7 levels are necessary for us, at least right now).
First, I introduce everyone's sort on Monday. Since I do Daily 5, I'm able to teach 5 different sorts at my kidney table. On Tuesday-Thursday during Word Work, they practice their sorts (and spelling their words) independently or with a partner per our posted weekly routine. On Friday, I meet them again at my kidney table, and test each different group during each of the five Daily 5 rounds. 

I'm afraid that part only makes sense to people who know what Daily 5 is!

But something's not adding up, right? You said you taught 7 different groups, didn't you?

Yeah, that's what I said. 
This part gets a little tricky but I think it's necessary. Would it work in every classroom? No. I know my class, though, and I know that my highest groups learn their sort in about 8-10 minutes, and I have an extra 10-12 minutes to kick back, sip coffee, and pin stuff 'til the next Daily 5 round, right?

Yeah right.

What do I do with that extra 10-12 minutes after my high groups finish? Throw in a couple of 1-man groups, i.e. my +2 "stragglers." Right now, one of them is a Level 1 ESL student from China who works hard and is learning fast, is solid on his initial and final consonants, but emerging in his medial short vowel sounds. (Obviously. He doesn't pronounce them the same as us. It's difficult to hear the short i when it sounds like /eeeeee/!) And the other student is below grade level on all accounts. He works hard and wants to catch up, but the fact is, he needs repeated instruction hearing medial short vowel sounds, even as a second grader, even with remediation. They're in roughly the same place, so I give them the same sort each week. My ESL student gets a word sort AND a picture sort to help with his vocabulary. Yep. Two sorts for him. And he learns fast and seems to enjoy it so I don't feel like it's too much.

SALES ALERT: These are my two sweethearts who inspired my Short Vowel Spinner & Tile Activities. They like each other despite their, let's say spirited personalities, so they play these games against each other, and I test them at the end of the week. It pleases me so to see them both hearing medial short vowel sounds, and working at it! 
"Peeg! P-i-i-i-guh!" 
Once they're solid, they can continue on, comparing short and long vowel sounds. 

Do you ever have those challenges in the classroom that hold your heart and your focus and all of your hope? 
Then you know what I'm talkin' about.
I can't wait for their retest!!! EEK! Two more weeks!

OK. I said I wouldn't go crazy and write too much, but I have. 

Stay tuned for more in my Words Their Way series!
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Products mentioned in this post:

Short a Spinner & Tile Activities
Short e Spinner & Tile Activities
Short i Spinner & Tile Activities
Short o Spinner & Tile Activities
Short u Spinner & Tile Activities

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