Oh, magic hour when a child first knows she can read printed words!
Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
What We Understand About Word Study
Effective literacy learning results from a balance of reading and writing instruction, as well as explicit instruction in word study and language use.
Word study in the elementary grades focuses student attention on word parts, words and sentences in order to help students become strong readers and writers. Word study is comprehensive in its scope: including decoding, spelling, vocabulary, grammar and mechanics. This instruction is systematic and sequential, and is based on what we know about a child’s cognitive development as well as the language use standards for New York State. At each grade level, students practice and apply their growing understanding of language use to real world reading and writing.
How We Teach Word Study
In Mamaroneck, word study builds a thorough understanding of words and sentences through inquiry and a purposeful application to their lives as readers and writers. In the early grades, students develop their phonological awareness. Children learn to recognize rhyme, break words into syllables, and identify the individual sounds heard in words. At the same time, they learn that letters represent sounds. This understanding of the letter-sound relationship is what helps students begin to write and read.
As students move through first grade, phonics instruction builds in order to help students read simple words and basic syllables. Additional syllable types are introduced in first and second grade, which then allow students to read and write longer and more challenging words. By third grade, word study broadens from a phonics focus to include explicit instruction in grammar, vocabulary, and syntax. Students leave fifth grade and head to the Hommocks with a solid foundation in decoding and spelling multisyllabic words, as well as the ability to read and write complex sentences.
How We Measure Word Study Progress
Students in the primary grades are assessed at the end of each unit of instruction in their K-2 word study program. Teachers also monitor the transfer of understanding and application within their reading and writing conferences with individual students. Students in the upper grades complete an initial writing and spelling assessment that is then re-administered across the year in order to measure student growth and progress in spelling, grammar and mechanics. Regular reading and writing conferences are also used to assess and teach into student understanding and application.