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Word Study That Sticks: Best Practices K-6 — Review and Giveaway

In my third grade classroom, the refrain of “Mrs. Sokolowski, how do you spell…(enter various words)?” is common. When it comes to writing words, one issue is that students don’t know how to spell certain words or the strategies to attempt to spell the word correctly. Reading my students’ writing, another issue is that some students use interesting and precise words but spell them incorrectly with no awareness that the words are misspelled. Yet another concern I feel when reading my students’ writing is words are spelled correctly but lack creativity and specificity in word choice.

A weekly spelling test with the same words for all students will not solve any of these issues. I want my students to be curious about words, interested in learning new words and meanings. I want my students to incorporate the words they learn into their lives- their conversations and their writing pieces. I want the words they learn to make their reading more understandable and enjoyable. But how do I make that happen for my third grade learners?

Enter Pamela Koutrakos’ book, Word Study That Sticks: Best Practices K-6 (Corwin 2019), a book that aims to make word study joyful, personalized, relevant, and manageable. (YES, please!)

Koutrakos shared how teachers she talked with felt about current word study programs.

“…the teachers described how they are tired of having to cobble things together. They are adding in, taking out, modifying and tweaking what they have as a way to include what they feel is most important for their students. Many teachers feel there is not enough emphasis on phonemic awareness, phonics or vocabulary. Many see current word study programs as one-size-fits-all and/or difficult to manage. Many see it as rote, surface, and heavily reliant on short-term memorization. Almost all share concerns about lack of transfer- and even lack of knowledge- once the Friday test is over (4).”

Word Study That Sticks aims to be different from the spelling programs referenced above. According to Koutrakos, it includes the following:

  • Challenging, discovery based practices
  • Joyful, student-centered learning
  • Personalized and differentiated instruction
  • Developmentally appropriate routines
  • Instruction in all aspects of word study, with enough phonemic awareness and phonics in the primary grades and balanced emphasis on spelling and vocabulary in all grades
  • Practical ideas to include word study into different parts of the day so we see transfer of learning
  • Something that intertwines a myriad of established best practices to support all learners
  • An easy to implement approach that can be used to start up word study
  • Built-in professional development so you feel prepared in moving forward with a stepped-up approach to word study instruction
  • Access to words that precisely express ideas and viewpoints (4-5)

After reading Word Study That Sticks, I agree that this book includes all of these components! It is written in an approachable, fun, passionate voice. One of the marks of a high-quality professional resource, in my opinion, is that you feel more excited about teaching after reading it. This was absolutely true for me after reading Word Study That Sticks. I can’t wait to try out several of the lessons and incorporate the ideas Koutrakos shared with my current and future students.

Word Study That Sticks can be used if you have a current word study program your school follows or it can be the program you start if you do not have a consistent word study program in place. The book is broken into three parts. Part I: Curious, Creative Word Study, Part II: Fostering Engagement and Independence and Part III: Teaching for Transfer.  There are ten chapters and extensive and helpful resources in the Appendix. There are also online resources that can be accessed from Corwin.

One of the features in the book that I enjoyed the most was detailing “What, Why and When”. Each lesson shared includes a description of who would benefit most from the lesson and the best practices that make the lesson one we should teach.  I also liked how each chapter included “Workarounds”, which were ways you could troubleshoot some of the potential problems that might arise. It was like Koutrakos thought ahead to all the questions teachers would pose and then found a way to offer a solution that might work! “Starting Up and Stepping Up” was a feature where teachers who have been doing this work share their insights. Teachers brand new to word study would share the “Starting Up” tips and those who’ve been trying it for a while would offer “Stepping Up” advice. I always enjoy hearing from teachers who are putting this practice in place with real students in real classrooms!

This book is filled with practical, ready-to-implement ideas. It is brimming with passion and purpose. It made me think of word study in terms of how mathematics teaching has evolved. When I was a student, we learned math by memorizing equations and didn’t think much about how numbers worked. Word study today is much more than memorizing the spelling of words- like math has evolved, word study has also evolved to learning how the parts of words,  the patterns we can use to spell words, the meanings of words and how to transfer learning to new words.

Koutrakos writes, “Words express you. Yourself. Words clarify and deepen connections to others. Make no mistake about it too: Words are power. Knowing words opens doors. Vocabulary is thinking. So simple, but profound. The more words we know, the more nuanced our thinking. This is the kind of power we want for the children we teach” (11).

If you are a K-6 educator, instructional coach, or administrator, I highly recommend you read Word Study That Sticks: Best Practices K-6. Koutrakos has written an inspiring, practical, helpful, and smart book about the power of words and what educators can do to make word study both joyful and meaningful for our students.

GIVEAWAY INFORMATION:

  • This giveaway is for a copy of Word Study That Sticks: Best Practices K-6. Thanks to Corwin Literacy for donating a copy for one reader. (You must have a U.S. mailing address to win a print copy of this book.)
  • For a chance to win this copy of Word Study That Sticks: Best Practices K-6, please leave a comment by Monday, April 22nd at 11:59 pm EDT. I will use a random number generator to pick the winner’s commenter number. The lucky recipient will be announced at the bottom of this blog post no later than Wednesday, April 24th.
  • Please leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win.  From there, my contact at Corwin Literacy will ship the book to you. (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.)
  • If you are the winner of the book, I will email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – WORD STUDY THAT STICKS.Please respond to my e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. A new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.

144 thoughts on “Word Study That Sticks: Best Practices K-6 — Review and Giveaway Leave a comment

  1. I am looking forward to reading this book. It has always been a struggle to help teachers plan for word study that is meaningful and generative for students. Thank you for bringing this resource to our attention!

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  2. There are so many “activities” out there for Word Study practice….looking forward to getting a glimpse of this book for a more big picture approach for long-lasting effectiveness.

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  3. Thank you for an open and in-depth review. There are SO many books about it on the market, it’s hard for teachers to have time to filter them all and choose one that will really make a difference. As a coach, one of the most common request I have received this year is for word study resources. Thank you!

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  4. This looks like an amazing resource! Word study encompasses so much and can get so “messy” as kids bring in so many different areas of need. Looking forward to reading it!

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  5. This sounds like a great resource to have. We do a lot of work with roots in 6th grade, but it is always a struggle to make it stick! Thanks for reviewing the book and for the give-away.

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  6. This looks like an amazing book full of activities, resources, and advice for every situation all in one book. Everyone who has read it has found it very helpful. I look forward to reading it as well.

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  7. My district has been working on the implementation of balanced literacy for the last few years, and word study is one of the parts that just isn’t working. Most teachers don’t like their choices of programs, or simply choose not to do it. My curiosity is peaked about this book!!!

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  8. What a great resource! The variations of lesson plans and options for activities make this a book that could be use to transform “vocabulary” in my building.

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  9. This looks like a great resource! We are currently adopting The Units of Study in Phonics K-(soon to be)2 and I’m wondering how this would support that work. 3-5 teachers are asking how they can best support their students, so I hope to read this text!

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  10. I checked this book out on Amazon. It has 22 reviews, and all of them are 5 star. I look forward to getting my hands (and eyes) on a copy.

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  11. I love doing word study with my students. Unfortunately, I have a really small window of time to teach literacy this year. First time I haven’t taught any word work in my whole teaching career. Next year I will be at a new school with not only time for word study, but it will be expected and valued.

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  12. I have been struggling with word study for years! I’ve never liked the old-fashioned approach of giving a spelling test every week on words that are not connected to anything. I’ve been looking for something to help me define what word study should really be and this book sounds like the very thing to help me.

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  13. Oh my goodness! This book sounds like a wonderful resource. As a reading specialist, I know I could implement some of these lessons and also share them with my grade level teachers. Word study is so important and we all need to learn more about it and how to implement it. Thanks for the review.

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  14. Oh wow! I feel as though I am constantly looking for that one thing that will help make word study stay with my students so that they will apply it. I am so looking forward to checking this out. Thank you so much for sharing it.

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  15. I am focusing on revamping my writing and word study lessons this year. This sounds like a wonderful resource. I can’t wait to check it out!

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  16. I have this book on my summer to read list! Super excited to dig in- word study is close to my heart. Pam is a rockstar! Thank you all for the opportunity to enter for a free copy! How generous!

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  17. Every year we survey our teachers and ask them which part of balanced literacy they find challenging… year after year the top two areas include word study and language conventions. I’ve been dying to get my hands on Pam’s book! Thank you, Pam, for addressing this topic, and Thank you, TWT, for offering it as a give-away!

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  18. Kathleen this sounds like a great book. We just started the Units of Study Phonics (kindergarten) and wondering where this would fit in?

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  19. I always feel so ashamed of how I do word study in my class. I either don’t do it, do a traditional 10 words a week spelling quiz, or I attempt to differentiate spelling lists for the 1st quarter and then abandon it because it is sooo hard to manage. This book sounds like it could be a great inspiration for me.

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    • Lisa, I totally feel the same. Excited to try the approach in Pam’s book! It made me feel really excited for the possibilities.

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  20. This is a comprehensive resource that our district is using to inform our word study – we are fortunate also to work with Pam and she is so down to earth – she knows what it’s like for teachers and how to make word study meaningful!

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  21. I am so excited to read this book! I am moving from 2nd to 5th grade and am looking forward to wrapping my head around word study at that level. This book will get me started….

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  22. I am very curious about this book. My 3rd grade team really struggled to get something up and running for spelling/word study/vocabulary/grammar. Oy! So much to do with very little guidance for how to accomplish everything!!

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  23. As an instructional coach, I’ve found it difficult to persuade some teachers that weekly spelling and vocabulary tests don’t really address the issue of students’ learning words. This would be a great resource to add to my tool box.

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  24. Challenging, joyful word study? Yes, please! I also love this quote: “The more words we know, the more nuanced our thinking.” Helping students understand and use the subtle details of words is so important. This sounds like such a helpful, practical resource.

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  25. Here’s to hoping this book helps “word study” become a happy, thoughtful phrase again, instead of the dreaded word it seems to have become as everyone struggles to meet their students’ needs and fit meaningful instruction in their day!

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  26. Yes! I couldn’t agree more that words are power! Word study that engages students and gets them to be curious about words in powerful! This book sounds like a gift! It is on our list of potential books to study this summer during professional book club!

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    • On Mon, Apr 15, 2019, 1:58 PM TWO WRITING TEACHERS wrote:

      > Krista M Senatore commented: “Yes! I couldn’t agree more that words are > power! Word study that engages students and gets them to be curious about > words in powerful! This book sounds like a gift! It is on our list of > potential books to study this summer during professional book club!” >

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  27. Thank you for sharing a review of “Word Study that Sticks : Best Practices K-6” by Pamela Koutrakos. I will certainly be reading this book to gain insight about best practices to amp up my current word study lessons, so I would love to have a copy.

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  28. I would absolutely love to have this book. We are deep in a conversation about this as an instructional coaching team in my district right now. Thank you!

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  29. Can’t wait to read this!! In primary grades I slowly build a Word Wall if the most common words and once introduced, I hold students accountable for those words. Then they are not building poor spelling habits but only need to look up.. For older students build a word wall for specific words in a unit of history or science, etc. I don’t expect them memorized but do hold them accountable for final drafts For students with basic spelling difficulties, give them a basic mini word list for their writers notebook so they can check themselves. Also teach small groups needing basic spelling
    patterns. . Can’t wait to read this.

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  30. The cry for a “spelling program” is heard frequently in our district and is one of the most misunderstood concepts. “Programs” don’t teach spelling, word study/knowledge of spelling patterns, and continuous use of those patterns teaches our students how to spell. I look forward to embracing this book!

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  31. I’m eager to check out this book! Even though I teach MS and HS, word study is still so important at the upper grades. I’ve read Words their Way for secondary but want to check out this book too.

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    • Over the seven years I have been teaching 5th grade, my love of word study as a start of the day deepens with each year. I have read words their way and incorporated some of that practice into my curriculum, red hot root word has been an invaluable resource, word nerds taught me to dig deep into fewer words and share my word nerd self with my students. This book sounds like a terrific addition to the repertoire and as much as I hope to get a free copy , I know i’ll Be buying it

      Liked by 1 person

  32. I just finished teaching about word study and all it’s components. I’m especially interested in the strategies presented in the book. Sounds like a great resource.

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  33. What a great resource it will be to read. I often wonder why are we teaching spelling the same way it’s been taught? Truly can’t wait to learn more and read on.Winner or not, I’m buying the book!

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  34. This book sounds like an answer to a lot of my struggles with word study and the weekly spelling test. I am going to add it to my summer reading list.

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  35. Words ARE power. You make a key point in comparing word study practices to that of mathematics – moving away from rote memorization to developing an understanding of how word parts work, like developing number sense. Many words strike me in this post: passion, purpose, joyful, fun, curiosity, personalized, differentiated … One of the great downfalls of word study is that it often isn’t designed to meet each learner where he/she is. This is how children fall behind, how “holes” – or gaps, to use the educational word – are created. Koutrakos is so right about teachers growing weary of “cobbling together” word work; it is a mammoth task. What a delight to find a resource that navigates the path of word study so clearly that a teacher gets excited about using it, and that can be used in conjunction with existing programs to strengthen them. Thank you for YOUR words here, Kathleen, in a review that also serves to catapult the chore of learning (and teaching) to the joy of it.

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  36. Finally, a chance to help students that struggle with spelling. As a resource teacher, I find spelling goes hand in hand with reading. I would love the opportunity to read this book.

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  37. I am very curious to read this book. Word study and spelling need to be approached in a unique way in order for it to help students. Just memorizing words is not enough. Hope I get a copy of the book.
    pameb24@gmail.com

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  38. I would love to read this! I’ve been searching for different ways to do word study, but I haven’t found any way that really sticks. Thank you for the recommendation!

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  39. As the Curriculum Director at our school, I would love to be able to share this book with all of our teachers as we are not completely satisfied with what we currently have. Thanks for bringing this book to our attention!

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  40. This sounds amazing. This was spot on about word study. I have tried many and have had PD on many and just can’t find one that works. Can’t wait to try Word Study That Sticks!!! If I don’t win the book, I’m going to buy it anyway.

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  41. This is the best book on Word Study that I’ve found. It has the perfect balance of all the components of word study and presents lessons in a way that are exciting and fun for both the teachers and the students. This is the book I’ve been looking for!

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  42. The author’s description of teachers’ frustration with word study is spot on. It seems as though I’ve tried every curriculum, program, and method on the planet, yet as for results….zero. I’d love to try Word Study that Sticks!

    Liked by 1 person

  43. Thank you for sharing this valuable resource! You are so right on about how spelling should be taught and changes that we need to implement to make that happen! Excited to read this and share with others!

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  44. This sounds like a fabulous resource. We have a pretty haphazard approach to word study at the moment, and I know I need to do better for my students. This book seems like it could be a great starting place. Thanks for the review!

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  45. My system is looking for word study and phonics programs to pilot as we transition into Readers’ Workshop. This book would be so valuable to us! Thank you!

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  46. Our school keeps jumping between WTW and F+P Phonics, and I’m just not fully satisfied with either. I’m VERY curious about this!

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  47. I love the analogy of word learning to mathematics, as well as the quote about words are power, and vocabulary is thinking. This is the type of joyful instruction our children deserve. I would love to win the book, yet if I do not, I need to order it for sure!

    Liked by 1 person

  48. This book sounds like a great one. I’ve been struggling to make word study meaningful for my 4th graders for years. Definitely going on my list. Thank you for this review.

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  49. I’m always looking for resources that can help me get students to actually transfer word study knowledge and skills to their own writing.

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  50. At my school we have focused a lot on phonics and word study. I would love to add this to the list of resources to pull from to make word study fun and transferable.

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    • I have learned some stategies from this book from a workshop and have been using some of the practices in my first grade classroom. I would like to read this book more in dept and use more strategies to best help my young readers and writers.

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      • Looks like a great resource! I welcome anything that fosters a love of language, spelling and morphology in such a way that it transfers into authentic writing.

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