Small Groups- “Word Work” (Part 3)

Congratulations! You’ve finally got your small group framework nailed down (see blog post Part 1) and now it’s time to focus on the rotation of “Word Work”. This the time when a group is working on things such as grammar, vocabulary, spelling, mechanics, or conventions while you are pulling your small group and working with them.

There are many ways you can use this “Word Work” time to help students become successful in literacy and gain confidence in English Language Arts.

If you’re not sure where to start, have no fear! Our TPT friends, “Wise Guys”, can help you out. Here’s a word work resource they’ve developed for 3rd through 5th grades:


First, make sure that your students are able to work independently from you. You can have their group sit together, or if it’s an independent activity, they can choose where they sit; that’s up to you:)

Here are some of the “Word Work” categories that can be learned and practiced during your “Word Work” rotation:

  • Spelling Words
  • Sight Words/High Frequency Words
  • Vocabulary from your story, social studies, or science
  • Grammar/Mechanics/Conventions

For your spelling words, there are countless ideas for students to practice their spelling words. First, make some spelling cards. This is so students know what their words are and are written larger than words in a list on a piece of paper. The cards don’t need to be fancy, they can be made on sentence strips, creatively made on the computer, or student generated.  Here is a list of activities that we’ve developed over time that are fun ways for students to practice their spelling words:

If you are a K-2 teacher, you are probably teaching sight words. These are also known as high frequency words. Here is a free product created by “Pages of Grace Teaching” that will give you some ideas: 

As you know, there are as many vocabulary activities and ways to learn the meaning of words as there are teachers. Since listening and speaking are important strands within the subject English Language Arts, the “Guessing Game” is always an engaging way for students to learn their words. One partner gives clues for the word using complete sentences, and the other has to guess the word. Here is a tiny list of other things you can do with vocabulary word cards:

The last category is having students practice grammar, mechanics, or conventions. Students need to learn and use capitals, quotation marks, and punctuation correctly. One way teachers in our district have learned to have students practice grammar is a practice called “Invitational Grammar”. It is a strategy developed by Jeff Anderson, a “guru” on grammar and editing. He suggested a practice like this:

  • find a “mentor sentence” or “mentor paragraph” that is displayed for your student. It should come from text that you are currently reading, such as your current story, science, or social studies books. It can also come from a news article or current event passage. You are choosing a text that has CORRECT PUNCTUATION. We have over the years displayed a sentence that is incorrect and we ask students to find the errors. Some research has shown that we are actually imprinting incorrect grammar onto student brains, which is not what we want to do. We need to display a well-written sentence or paragraph.
  • “Invitation to Notice”- Ask students what they notice about the sentence.
  • “Invitation to Compare or Contrast”- Teacher displays a sentence that is “teacher written” that follows the same type of pattern as the mentor text,  and puts it next to the mentor text. Invite students to compare and contrast the two.
  • “Invitation to Imitate”- Ask students to see if they can write their own sentences with elements or patterns that they see in the sentence.
  • “Invitation to Celebrate”- Display the newly written sentences created by the students.

This practice of “Invitational Grammar” would be modeled at the beginning of the year, whole group. Once they are very comfortable with the process, have students work together with buddies or in a small groups to go through the process.

Any Questions?

Let me know what you think and thanks for looking!




2 Comments|Add your own comment below

    1. You made our day, Megan! We’re so glad that you found this post useful. Please do not hesitate to send us an email ( or a post if you have questions. I’ve helped many teachers implement this small group program quickly and easily into their classrooms, so please yell if you need help. Take care!

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