Word Work for Older Kids

As an elementary teacher, one of the most important skills I can teach my students is how to read, write and spell. The use of word work in my classroom is essential, even in the upper elementary grades. Word work is when students practice spelling, vocabulary, frequently used words and word parts like prefixes, suffixes, and roots. This helps them continue to grow as young readers and writers.

In order to keep your students interested and engaged, you have to find age-appropriate word work activities that they will enjoy. A fourth grader most likely will not appreciate rainbow spelling the way a first grader would. In contrast, solving vocabulary puzzles would be an excellent choice for older students. I like to incorporate word work in my third grade classroom during centers and reading groups. During centers, they often independently practice a skill that we have worked on during reading group.

One really important skill for understanding language is the ability to break words down into their individual parts to extract the meaning. This requires instruction in word analysis: specifically prefixes, suffixes, and Green and Latin roots. When students understand the individual parts of a word, they are much more successful at determining the meaning of unfamiliar vocabulary.

This resource consists of word wall words, a Word of the Day worksheet, and word building cards including prefixes, suffixes, and many Greek and Latin roots students will encounter in their reading. {Click the picture to see more.}

In addition to analyzing words, students in third, fourth, and fifth graders still need practice with more advanced phonics and spelling patterns, and vocabulary.

Listed below are a few really great and age-appropriate activities for your students to try:

  • Vocabulary Crossword Bulletin Board: Laminate squares of blank paper (so they can be used over and over again) and use them to create a giant crossword grid on your bulletin board. Post the clues about your weekly vocabulary words next to the grid. For example, if one of your vocabulary words was "pointless", then 1 across might say "Having no purpose". Students can record their answers on their response sheets or you can have them write their answers on the grid using dry erase markers.

  • Scrabble Spelling: Older students don't often like to practice their spelling words. One way to add some fun is to turn it into a game. Scrabble tiles work great for this. Put all of the tiles into a bag or box. Each student should also have their spelling list handy. They take turns pulling a tile from the bag. If they can use it to build a spelling word, they keep it. If not, it gets set aside. Keep pulling tiles until they are all used up. Any completed words get scored by adding the points on the tiles used. Incomplete words do not count. The person with the highest score wins.
  • Word Sorts for Big Kids: Word sorting is typically a primary grades activity but it can work for intermediate too. There are plenty of advanced spelling patterns that lend themselves well to word sorting. One example is the "shun" sound. The tion, sion, and cian patterns are confusing and take a lot of practice.

Students can complete these activities in groups or centers to practice sorting words by the suffix “tion, sion and cian”. At the same time, they will be building their vocabulary. (This resource includes word cards, definition cards, a recording sheet and a cut & paste worksheet.)
  • Stamp Challenge: Since students love competition, this game is perfect! With a partner, two stamp pads, and a set of letter stampers, students take a word from a work bucket, and stamp out the spelling of the word as quickly as possible to beat their partner. This game is strictly for spelling practice but it sure is fun! 
While word work is essential for the younger grades, it is important to keep reinforcing spelling and vocabulary skills as our students progress. Students will enjoy games and group activities that increase their knowledge of words beyond just how to spell them. I hope you and your students find these ideas helpful! Enjoy!

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