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Word Work in the primary classroom

Word work is so important for our young learners to become successful readers and writers. I believe in the power of these important skills based activities so much that I am starting an entire series of articles on word work! I’ll walk you through everything you need to get started. Whether you are just starting with word work or a pro – you will find lots of practical tips and ideas for word work in the primary classroom.

word work is an essential part of reading and spelling instruction in the primary classroom

What is word work?

Word work is activities that are used to give our students opportunities to work with letters, sounds and words. It is often done as part of small group reading instruction or as a center activity. It helps our students practice skills including:

  • Letter sounds
  • Blending sounds
  • Segmenting
  • Sound manipulation

This important skills practice is the foundation of spelling and also plays an important part in reading instruction too. Word work has a part in developing strong phonemic awareness skills in our young students.

Why include word work?

Teaching phonics is important, but getting your students to really understand the WHY will help them to continue being successful readers throughout their lives. Word work is the why! It allows students the opportunity to work with letters and sounds, identify different spelling patterns, strengthen their reading skills, explore the spelling and meaning or new words and reinforce sight words and high frequency words.

Word work activities help our students develop reading and writing / spelling skills. They work with sounds and blending them together, yet they also take words and segment them into their sounds. All of these skills require lots of opportunities for students to practice. And that . . . is what word work is for!

How do I start using Word Work in my classroom?

One of the first things you need to do is decide on how you’d like to incorporate word work into your daily routine. I know many teachers that complete word work activities as part of their small group reading instruction. I know others that add word work activities to their center rotations. And still others, myself included, that do both!

The great thing about word work activities is that they can be a quick focus during a reading group, or work as a longer center activity. They are truly versatile and are easy to incorporate into the classroom routine.

An easy way to begin

When you are ready to begin, start out simple with an activity you can easily introduce to the entire class. Just like any classroom routine, these activities should be introduced slowly and gradually built upon.

Make sure to set forth your classroom expectations and procedures for the activities just like you would for any new activity in the classroom. This should include where students will work, needed supplies, where students will get their supplies, voice levels and how the activity is completed.

Then make sure to practice, practice, practice! I liked starting whole class for activities that were going to be added to our center rotation. If the activity was for reading groups, then I did all of the expectations and procedures during our small group time.

Here’s a couple of my favorite work work activities and tools that I used to start the year off. They are easy to use and help students lay a solid foundation for a year of fun and engaging word work activities.

letter tiles

Letter tiles are not just a great introductory activity, but they are one we used all year long. I really found it helpful to introduce it from the beginning so that we could develop an efficient system early on. It’s great for a whole group activity you can work through step-by-step with your students.

The Letter Tiles word work activity helps students practice spelling patterns. I found this to be especially good for beginning of the year CVC word practice.

At the beginning of the year, I would make a letter tile set for each student in my class. I would print the consonants on blue card stock and the vowels on pink card stock to help students easily differentiate between the two. I asked students to keep their letter tile baggies inside their desks. This made it so easy for them to be ready to work without having to go get supplies from some other location.

I also created for myself a larger letter tile set that I used for modeling. By attaching a small magnet to the back I was able to display my letter tiles on the front board for the entire class to see. Using my teacher letter tiles, I was able to model the activities and provide students with a great way to check their work.

I moved the tiles on the front board while students created the words on their desks at the same time with their own tile sets. This hands-on activity is a great multi-sensory activity that is loved by all. The students really loved trying to spell the word before me and they could easily do a self-check and make corrections. It was also really easy for me to glance around the room and see how students were doing.

Phonics flash cards

Another fantastic activity to introduce at the beginning of the year are Phonics Picture Flash Cards. My kiddos loved this engaging activity and it was the perfect addition to an independent center.

Phonics sorting activities with flash cards are a great way to help students:

  • Identify letter sounds
  • Differentiate between different sounds
  • Segment sounds in a word
  • Introduce patterns in words

These sorting activities are a great way to get students working with sounds and make a wonderful beginning of the year review. And since they don’t require reading, they can easily be used by nonreaders or beginning readers too!

don’t miss out!

There are many fun and engaging word work activities to use in your classroom. Throughout this blog series I am going to provide you with lots of ideas, tips and a few tricks that helped to make word work a favorite time in my classroom. Don’t miss any of these tips! Sign-up for the Fun Times in First e-mails and get notified when each post is added.


don’t want to wait?

Ready to add some word work resources to your teacher toolbox? No problem! I’ve got everything you need for an entire year of skills based word work instruction and activities. You can find all of the ready to use resources in my store at Teachers Pay Teachers.

Word Work Activities and Centers for the entire year

This bundle includes each of these resources. Everything you need for work work instruction and practice for the entire school year!

short vowels, blends and digraph word work activities
long vowel, CVCe, vowel pairs and vowel team word work activities
word work activities for r controlled vowels, dipthongs and more advanced phonics skills

Try it out for free!

I know that it can be hard to jump into a large unit or year long set of resources without seeing it. That’s why I have a free set of word work activities for you to try! In this free Engaging Word Work Activities for the digraph ‘ng’ you will find the same fun and engaging resources and activities that are available in all of these sets. This free set gives you the chance to see everything and try it out with your students too! Grab your free word work activities here!

free word work activities for the digraph ng

pin it & save it

Don’t waste your precious teacher time trying to get back here. Just pin this page to your favorite teacher Pinterest board so you can quickly come back when you need word work activities throughout the year!

Incorporating word work into the daily routine of the primary classroom is important.  Find out how with these tips and ideas.


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