Word Study Literacy Tip

Word Study Literacy Tip

Utilize the Assess-Decide-Guide Framework to Ensure Effective Word Study Instruction: Meet Jacob!

As a nationwide staff developer focused on the implementation of customized guided reading, I am frequently asked how to best engage learners in effective word study. Jan Richardson and Michèle Dufresne have authored a timely publication intended to help us design and deliver developmentally appropriate word study and phonics instruction even more strategically. Let me offer steps to take based on the practices featured in The Next Step Forward in Word Study and Phonics (2019) and The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading (2016), as well as my long-term work with students, including Jacob (pseudonym).

I began to work intensively with Jacob at the close of his second-grade year. His data revealed a struggle with skills, including digraphs. As suggested by Jan and Michèle, I led Jacob through a series of word study activities during his guided reading lessons. Across his journey of learning, I monitored Jacob to confirm he was utilizing his newly acquired word study skills when reading and writing. 

More specifically, Jacob first engaged in picture sorting to help him hear sounds and link them to letters (The Next Step Forward in Word Study and Phonics, p. 34). Once he accurately and confidently sorted pictures featuring digraphs, we then focused on making words, which challenged him to visually scan words to check for letter-sound accuracy (The Next Step Forward in Word Study and Phonics, p. 36). As he demonstrated proficiency with making words, he then engaged in sound boxes with the intent of helping him hear and record sounds in sequence (The Next Step Forward in Word Study and Phonics, p. 38). The sophistication of his word study activities increased as he displayed proficiency. I repeatedly witnessed the value of strategically embedding word study into his guided reading lessons. I celebrated as he applied what he was learning about letters, sounds, and words when reading and writing. 

A summary of the steps taken to help Jacob become a more proficient word solver, which are presented by Jan and Michèle in their Assess-Decide-Guide Framework (The Next Step Forward in Word Study and Phonics, p. 20), is as follows: 

    • Assess:  Examine Jacob’s data to determine word study needs and strengths.
    • Decide:  Determine the word study activities aligned to Jacob’s needs. 
    • Guide:  Plan and teach needs-based word study instruction.

Try Jan and Michèle’s framework. The results are invigorating and rewarding for learners and teachers alike!

Author: Carolyn Gwinn, PhD; Educational Consultant