Recurring Lesson

Sort, Hunt, Write: A Weekly Spelling Program

3 - 5
Lesson Plan Type
Recurring Lesson
Estimated Time
Introduction: 30 minutes; thereafter: 20 minutes per session
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Spelling is more than just memorizing lists of words. For students to learn the spelling and meaning of vocabulary, they must have multiple, meaningful exposure to the words. This recurring lesson can be designed to meet the needs of individual students and includes a wide range of activities. Students begin with an assessment that is used to measure each student's developmental stage. Based on students' assessment scores, they will create individualized word lists and work with those spelling words in a variety of ways. They will have opportunities to work individually, with partners, and in small groups as they learn the new words.

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From Theory to Practice

  • By the time students enter third grade, they will have developed individual differences in their spelling abilities.

  • Individualized spelling instruction can help meet students' specific needs by providing them with words that are at an appropriate, instructional level.

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • A list of spelling words for each student

  • A wide range of print and online texts that students can use for their word hunt, such as:

    • Dictionaries

    • Content area texts

    • Newspapers and magazines

    • Trade books

  • Preprinted spelling words on index cards for students to sort

  • Pretest paper for each student



1. Assess each student's spelling. This spelling assessment should allow you to determine the developmental stage for each of your students and should be repeated periodically throughout the school year. Based on the assessment results, group students with similar needs and select spelling words for each group that are at an appropriate, instructional level. You will likely have three to five different spelling lists for your class.

2. The students in each group will be taking a different spelling pretest based on the word patterns they will be studying. Create a Word document that has three columns. The first column should contain lines for students to complete the spelling pretest. The second column should contain the answers to the pretest. The third column should contain a list of additional words using the same word patterns.

3. After making copies for the class, fold the sheets so that students cannot see Columns 2 and 3, the answers to the test or the list of additional words.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Sort their spelling words into categories based on their sound and spelling patterns

  • Use a variety of materials to locate other words that have the same spelling patterns they are studying

  • Create and revise a text that uses all of their spelling words in context

  • Edit texts that other students have written

Session 1: Pretest and Word Selection

1. Have students take and self-correct their pretests. This can be done several ways. You may choose to administer the tests yourself by gathering students into their developmental groups and reading the words aloud. You may also choose to have students administer the tests to one another. If you choose the second option, it is recommended that you pair up students who have different word lists to avoid students seeing their words before being assessed.

2. If students spelled a word correctly, they may choose another word from Column 3 (i.e., the word bank) to replace it. This allows the students' lists to be further individualized while still focusing on the word patterns being studied.

3. If students score an 80% or higher they may create their own word list based on the pattern being studied that week. These words may or may not come from the word bank. You should decide how you want students to select their own words, either by providing them with additional words or having them suggest words that fit the week's pattern. Once students have finalized their list, they should give it to you for final approval.

Session 2: Word Sort and Word Hunt

1. Students, either alone or in groups, should sort their words into categories. If your students are not familiar with this activity, you may wish to model how it is done first.

2. Students will first sort the words according to how they sound. Words with like sounds or patterns should be placed in the same category. For example, students may sort their words based on vowel patterns, such as words that have the short /a/ sound (back, patch, trash) versus words that have the long /a/ sound (cake, mistake, space). Words can be sorted in more than one way using different categories. Depending on the abilities of your students, you may wish to provide the categories or have students determine categories on their own.

3. Next, students should identify the spelling patterns that dictated how they sorted their words into each of the categories. For example, words with the short /a/ sound usually end in a consonant versus words with the long /a/ sound usually end with the letter –e.

4. Finally, students should write a summary that explains how they sorted their words into the various categories.

5. After the word sort is completed, students will begin the word hunt. The word hunt will help students apply generalizations that they just learned through the word sort activity. It also helps students see how the word patterns that they are learning are used in a variety of texts.

During the word hunt, students should search through print materials to locate other words that fit the spelling patterns they are currently studying. Print materials may include dictionaries, thesauri, novels, newspapers, magazines, content area texts, and trade books. Online resources can be used as well, such as The Poetry Zone and Giggle Poetry. These online resources include spelling lists and/or texts that students can read and search for their word patterns.

6. Students should make a list of the words they find during the word hunt that fit the patterns they are studying.

Session 3: Using the Words in Context

1. Using their word lists, students will create written texts that use their words in context. If your students are not familiar with this writing activity, you may model the process for them. In addition, you may want to model and discuss what to do if they do not know the definition of a word.

2. Texts can be written in any form, such as poems, stories, jokes, riddles, and so on. You may decide to let students choose what type of text they will write, or assign a specific type each week.

3. After the texts are written, instruct students to peer edit and revise their texts.

4. You may also wish to conference with students about the texts they have written to make sure that the spelling words are used correctly. You may also choose to focus on other aspects of their writing (e.g., grammar, punctuation) if you wish.

Session 4: Various Activities

1. Students should revise their texts based on the peer-edits and teacher conference. You can encourage students to work individually, in pairs, or in small groups to revise their texts.

2. Instruct students to underline or highlight the spelling words in their texts so that a partner will be able to identify them when giving the posttest in the next session.

3. Students can continue their word hunt from the previous Day 2 to further reinforce the word pattern.

4. Students can choose to sort their words again in a different way (if applicable).

Session 5: Partner Posttest

1. Pair each student with a partner.

2. Ask each student to read the text that his or her partner has composed out loud.

3. As the text is read out loud, students should pause at the highlighted words and ask their partners to write the spelling words on a sheet of paper.

4. The tests can then be checked. If students score below an 80%, they will continue to study the same spelling pattern the following week. Students who score an 80% or higher will study a new spelling pattern the following week.


  • Students may choose to do additional activities beyond what is described in this lesson. Education Place provides a list of further activities. These activities may not apply directly to the word patterns your class is studying in a given week; however, many of the activities can be easily modified for any word pattern.

  • You may consider having students use the online Word Family Sort during Session 2 if they are focusing on one of the short-vowel word families included in the activity.

Student Assessment / Reflections

Each student will be assessed in the following ways:

  • Pretest/posttest spelling scores

  • Ability to sort words into categories and write a summary that explains the spelling patterns being studied

  • Ability to identify additional words that fit the spelling patterns being studied

  • Ability to write and revise a text using the spelling words in context

  • Ability to give feedback to another student on his or her written text