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Lesson Plan

Word Sorts for Beginning and Struggling Readers

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Grades K – 2
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Five 20- to 30-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Nancy Mills

Pawtucket, Rhode Island


International Literacy Association



Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice



This lesson provides a framework for introducing students to short-vowel word families. Focusing first on the a family, students work together and individually to learn the word families ľat, ľan, ľap, and ľack. Teacher modeling is used to introduce the word sort, inviting students to compare, contrast, and reflect on these four word families. Students then work with a partner to practice sorting and reading words with increased speed and accuracy. As their skills and confidence improve, students are asked to sort, read, and write words individually. These lessons can also be adapted to teach other short-vowel word families.

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  • Word Family Sort: This online interactive tool allows your students to sort several short-vowel words into the correct word family columns.

  • The Magic Hat by Mem Fox (Harcourt, 2002): Your students will enjoy this wonderful tale about a magic hat that reinforces their learning of short-vowel sounds.

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Tyner, B. (2004). Stage 3: Fledging readers. In Small-group reading instruction: A differentiated teaching model for beginning and struggling readers. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

  • Word study for the beginning or struggling reader involves systematic study of short-vowel word families, beginning with the a family.

  • This phase of word study involves (a) sorting short-vowel words into rhyming categories, (b) committing a good number of these words to sight memory, and (c) developing competence in spelling these patterns.

  • Use of word sorts can develop automatic and fluent reading of word families with repeated practice. It also invites students to be reflective and metacognitive thinkers and learners.

  • Teaching word sorts within a guided-reading format at students' instructional levels enables the teacher to implement differentiated instruction.


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