Monday, August 23, 2010

Day 13: WTW and Foldables® - an Ideal Match

Despite my earlier with the Top Tab Foldable® I went ahead, and with the help of some of my students, created a class set of 8-part Top Tabs for use with our spelling program - Words Their Way. For those of you unfamiliar with WTW, the program very much revolves around the concept of sorting - which really makes it ideal for use with Foldables®. Our county adopted the WTW program with our new language arts textbook adoption. It came with grade level workbooks designed to be developmentally appropriate, and supplemental materials to take it up or down a level as needed. And those of you who are already laughing at the idea of "developmentally appropriate" and "textbook adoption" being used in the same sentence - no argument here.

Last year my class ran the gamut of ability levels. I had kids reading at a beginning of 2nd grade level all the way up to kids who probably could pass their SATs with relative ease. This made for some disparate vocabulary and spelling ability to say the least. But, I was new to WTW, so I stuck with the program as is and sloughed through the "5th grade" Level E. Round about week two? three? when triceratops was one of our words I was about ready to pull my hair out. Teachers always say that don't they? They say that they're going to, "tear out their hair" or "bang their head against the wall." By all accounts, there should be a fairly large bald and brain damaged educator population. And many people who wonder how we stay teaching with all of the baggage it comes with might have an argument for there being some truth in that statement...but I digress.

The long and the short of it was that it wasn't working. WTW works (I really do believe that) - but only if you actually use it the way they suggest, by doing an inventory and leveling the class into groups. I'm not entirely comfortable with the concept of reading groups, so further grouping for spelling and the subsequent organization needed for assessment, was/is a bit stressful. But, I decided to bite the bullet and really try this year. So, I gave the assessment and broke my class into three groups. But, I was still how unsure how to manage the organization piece. 

I finally decided on a three prong pocket folder with their Spelling BINGO* sheet in a sheet protector and a sandwich baggie for the words. (Note to teachers using the series: don't bother with the paper envelopes they give you - baggies work MUCH better.) But since I wasn't using the workbooks, I still wanted them to have somewhere to put their sorts that was easily transported and non-threatening.

So, I created an 8 part top tab foldable. It's been working wonderfully. I have a master copy for each group where I write out the sort so that they can use it to check their work. We use the front of each page for the initial sort and then glue the words on the back of the page for the final sort. The top tab fits easily into a pocket of the folder and the kids like it because they get to personalize it with their name and the name of their group. Plus, it is small(er) and thinner than a workbook and colorful. 

They love taking the top tab with them when they do a sort with a partner and MY favorite part is the fact that I can easily fold back a page in half and then half it again and have four ready-made columns for them to write words in. (Most WTW sorts have two or four categories.) And since we are studying constructive and destructive forces this 9 weeks (and because I'm a dork) I gave each group the name of a island formed via volcanic activity - Honshu, Java and Sumatra. Now, to think of something clever to call them next nine weeks when we are doing mass, matter, and physical and chemical changes...

Anyhow, between the top tab and using Spelling City (special thanks to Maggie for recommending it to me - I should've listened sooner!) I'm finally getting a handle on managing spelling groups. The kids are getting words that are actually appropriate for them and building vocabulary in a more meaningful way. At least that's what I keep telling myself as I grade three sets of spelling tests! I'll try to post some pictures of their top tabs soon.

Ms. L.

*The Spelling BINGO sheet is a 5x5 table worksheet I created that includes a variety of assignments designed to be completed over the course of the week or so. It is used in my class for students to practice with their words. It includes typical WTW activities like blind sorts, partner sorts, and defining several unknown or unfamiliar words but also some other more "creative" options (like poem writing with words) as well as activities that can be completed online and printed out using Spelling City.


  1. Love it! And I'm using your fabulous idea for the foldables, too.

  2. could you maybe post a picture of your bingo board? i love that idea!!

  3. I've just discovered your blog and I am in love! Foldables are my all-time favorites! I love your ideas and I'll be visiting often!
    Thanks so much for creating a blog with so many creative ideas!