Whether working on words to perfect spelling or to add to one's vocabulary, Word Work can look like playing because of its highly kinesthetic nature. Where is the accountability for this work? First, it is important to understand the stages of Word Work.
1) The first stage of Word Work is the kinesthetic manipulation of words with different materials. Whether using shells, pipe cleaners, or other available materials, this kinesthetic work with words is the very first step. This stage provides time for children to begin seeing the words in different ways, and to feel the way they are being built.
2) The second stage of Word Work continues the kinesthetic manipulation of words and layers on the temporary writing of the word (meaning it can be erased). For example, if a student is using Wikki Stix, they form the word first and then write it on a whiteboard, or on a piece of newsprint or on recycled paper. They may also use the Stamp it Write it approach, in which they use stamps to create the word on one half of the paper and then write it on the other half. (We do not run copies of these papers; instead we use newsprint or recycled paper.) This action begins to move words from short-term to long-term memory.
3) The final stage of Word Work is when students begin using the manipulated words in their authentic writing. This lets us know that the bridge from just learning the words to automaticity has taken place and that it is time to add another word or words to those they are learning.
We use Quick Checks to monitor this progress. We confer with students participating in Word Work to see which stage they are at with their words, checking their Stage 2 temporary word writing and then monitoring their words as we check in with them during Work on Writing or writing workshop.
Students sometimes show us the Word Work words they have written in their journal or in other authentic writing by highlighting them with highlighter tape. This level of independence and accountability puts the responsibility for communicating progress on the student. We keep track of our meetings with students in our Pensieve or electronic conferring notebook, the CCPensieve.