We know how important Word Work is for our youngest students. But the vast diversity in ability levels and degrees of independent stamina can make it feel like we are trying to herd earthworms at times.
In an effort to support their learning and independence, teachers of younger students must be creative. The first thing to tackle is helping students remember what materials are available for Word Work.
In her kindergarten classroom, Danielle French introduces each of the types of Word Work materials individually, providing students time to explore them. She places a photo of each on the Word Work chart so students can see each choice. This makes checking in much easier, because they can remember which tools are available for use.
The next challenge is how to best support the individual levels of each student without having someone sitting right there with them. Taking a peek into Danielle's classroom, you'll see that each student has a small plastic box, the type you can get for crayon holders. The student's box contains the words or letters they are working on during Word Work. During one-on-one conferring it is easy to do a quick check on students' words to decide if they need to add new ones to their repertoire or perhaps a different way to practice.
In Tessa Steven's kindergarten classroom, you can see that her children's words are written on cards and held on a ring. When it is time for Word Work, her students take their ring (which is kept in their book box) and gather their Word Work materials. I like to keep the student's words on the ring, even after they master them. This allows for constant review and a ready resource for spelling words correctly during Work on Writing. The trick is how to know the difference between mastered words and new words just added. Again during individual conferring while doing a quick check on Word Work I see if students are able to spell and read the words. Each time they are able to do this with me, I clip the corner of the word card. Once three corners are clipped, we know it is time to add a new word. This method allows students to distinguish between the old and new cards.