Friday, November 8, 2013

Themes Matter: Tips for Using Word Sorts to Improve Reading and a Free Activity

Most of you know that I create lots of Thematic Units. Themes help teachers create a literacy-rich environment by emphasizing the importance of speaking, reading, and writing. They also engage students in meaningful activities over a longer period of time. Classrooms using themes are full of pictures and labels to help students connect with specific language that they need to know in order to read and understand. This is so important for the struggling readers and ESL students in your classrooms.

Today I want to talk about the importance of using word sorts with thematic units and some tips about using them in your classroom. Why word sorts? Words sorts engage students in analyzing words by sorting them into different categories. Once students know the words and the skill such as understanding syllables, they can then use that knowledge to find similarities and differences of selected words. Word sorts also provided multiple exposures to selected words and get students to think about these words from a particular perspective. This helps students to develop an in-depth knowledge of the words which is so beneficial for struggling readers. Words sorts can be individualized for students needing more practice with a specific skill and are student-centered. Pictures can be used along with the words as extra support or for building background for ESL students.

Here are just a few examples of word sorts to focus on:
  • short and long vowel sounds
  • number of syllables
  • word families
  • parts of speech: nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.
  • word usage
The list could go on and on. When incorporating word sorts into a theme it helps students have multiple exposures to the same words that they will be speaking, reading, and writing about.

Here is an example of my Syllable Word Sort from my "Gobbling Up Thanksgiving Word Work Activities" Unit. Using pictures with the word cards give students more exposure to the vocabulary words they will be reading and writing about. Students will place the 1,2, and 3 Syllables Cards at the top of a table or on the floor, choose a word card, say and clap the syllables, and place it under the # of syllables they hear. Then they will write the words on a recording sheet.

In another word sort using pictures and words, students will determine which words belong to Native Americans, which belong to the Pilgrims and which belong to both. This is also a great way to assess your students' understanding of the words and help to improve comprehension.
There are 6 Word Sorts in my "Gobbling Up Thanksgiving Word Works Activities" which you can check out by clicking the picture below. You can download the Preview file to see sample pages of all the word sorts and activities in this packet.
I also have a free Thanksgiving Word Sort for all my wonderful followers and viewers.
Students will sort Thanksgiving Words into 3 Categories about what the Pilgrims and Native Americans used, lived in, and what they made. Just click on the image below to download your free packet.

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Thanks for all you do to make a difference for your students. I hope each and everyone of you has a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Teaching Blog Addict


  1. What good info to share about sorts, Arlene! Thanks for sharing. Have a lovely Thanksgiving!

    1. Thanks so much Linda. Hope you have a great Thanksgiving too.

  2. Arlene,
    This looks fabulous! I love word sorts. I just wrote a post about some fun boys and girls vocabulary work. Love love love words! I have shared this on my FB page . :0 Happy Monday!
    :) Shelley
    The Perks of Teaching Primary

  3. These will be great this week as we learn about the first Thanksgiving!