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Monday, January 3, 2011

All Sorts of Sorts- Open and Closed

Here are some clear steps to follow to utilize word sorts as part of your word work instruction.
These steps are found in the 1st Grade Teacher Reading Academy.

Making and Sorting Words Dialogue
Getting Ready
1. “Find the letters for this lesson: ______. Place the letters in your pocket chart.”
2. “Place your pocket chart, with the letters in it, on the table in front of you.”
3. “Put the letters in alphabetical order.” [Put letters in ABC order in pocket chart.]
4. “Point to each letter and say its name and sound with me.”
5. “Each of the words we make must have a vowel. What vowel(s) are we using? What are the
other letters called?”
Making Words
6. “The word we are going to make has ___ letters.” [Write number or hold up fingers.]
7. “The word is ____.”
8. [Use the word in a sentence.]
9. “Repeat after me: _____.” [Say the word; students echo.]
10. “Find the letters that make the word, ______. Make the word.”
11. “______, will you come up and make the word for us?”
[Call on a student who has made the word correctly.]
12. “Let’s all check and make sure our word looks like this one.”
13. “Let’s spell the word. Point to each letter.”
14. “Read the word with me: ___.” [Point to the word.]
15. [Show the word card.] “Can anyone use this word in a sentence?” [Place card on
the chart.]
16. [Repeat #6 –15 for all the words in the lesson.]
Scaffolding Learning:
1. “What sound do you hear first? Find the letter that makes that sound.”
2. “What sound do you hear next? Find the letter that makes that sound.”
3. “Say ____ again after me and point to each letter.”
4. “Now, let’s say it again. Slide your finger under the word.”
1TRA: Phonics and Spelling
©2009 University of Texas System/Texas Education Agency

Sorting Words
17. [Remove the letter cards from the pocket chart. Have students put letters away.]
18. “Let’s read the words we’ve made.” [Point to each word card.]
19. “Do any of the words we made look or sound the same?”
20. [Students sort word cards by similar patterns.]
Transfer to Reading and Writing
21. “Can you think of other words that have similar patterns?”
22. [Write words on index cards. Students group by words with similar patterns.]
Adapted from Cunningham, P. M., & Allington, R. L. (1999). Classrooms that work: They can all read and write (2nd
ed.). New York, NY: Longman; Cunningham, P. M., & Hall, D. P. (1994). Making words: Multilevel, hands-on,
developmentally appropriate spelling and phonics activities. Carthage, IL: Good Apple.
1TRA: Phonics and Spelling
©2009 University of Texas System/Texas Education Agency

Examples of Word Sorts
Word sorts are activities that provide students opportunities to examine words and categorize
them by spelling patterns and/or sounds.
Closed Sorts
Choose the categories and model the sorting procedure:
Example: Present the three categories, read the three words (bolded), and place
them in the correct column. Then ask students to sort the remaining words.
Short /i/ words short /u/ words short /a/ words
pig gum man
Other words: jug, bit, pat, run, wag. big, dug, kit, cat, plan, lip, hum, tan, cub, chin,
clap, cut.
You may build in the category without actually giving students a category name and let them
discover the common spelling patterns or sounds.
For example, students have mastered short vowel sounds (CVC words) and are ready
to learn long vowels. Introduce the VCe pattern by using a word sort. The words to
be sorted might include: van, vane, pan, pane, can, cane, Jan, Jane, man, mane,
mad, made, hat, hate, tap, tape, cut, cute.
Open Sorts
Students organize sets of words into categorizes based on what they notice about the words.
• Open sorts are most effective after students have had many opportunities with
closed sorts and understand the concept of sorting.
• Observe the categories individual students create. This information may provide
you with valuable information about a student’s understanding of the orthography
of the English language.
Word sorts can be designed to focus on a single new concept or can be used for a review
with mixed concepts.
• For example, students know the CVC pattern with short /a/, so you create a sort
with /a/ words and the new /o/ sound.
• An example of a mixed design would be sorting for all the short vowel sounds.
As students begin to understand the complexities of short and long vowel sounds, they may
be asked to do two-step word sorts. First, they sort for sound and then for spelling.
For example in step one, students sort for sound.
1TRA: Phonics and Spelling
©2009 University of Texas System/Texas Education Agency

Short /a/ Long /a/
dad make
flag pale
fan great
crab paint
fast mail
grass say
pal day
In step two students sort for spelling.
ay ai ea VCe
day mail great make
say paint pale
Word sorts can be adjusted for students at risk for dyslexia or other reading difficulties by
choosing known words, keeping the sorts focused on a single new category, and providing
more modeling.

Word Hunts
These are helpful extensions to word sorts that allow students to find other words in their
reading that contain the same spelling patterns and sounds.
• Encourage students to identify exceptions which may lead to understanding that
exceptions may have commonalties as well.
• For example have, love, and give are exceptions to the VCe pattern, but do have a
common v that creates a new common sound pattern.
Adapted from: Bear, D. R., Invernizzi M., Templeton, S., & Johnston, F. (2000). Words their way: Word study for
phonics, vocabulary and spelling instruction. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill; Ganske, K. (2000). Word journeys:
Assessment-guided phonics, spelling, and vocabulary instruction. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
1TRA: Phonics and Spelling
©2009 University of Texas System/Texas Education Agency

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