Word Wizards: Students Making Words

K - 2
Lesson Plan Type
Estimated Time
30 minutes per session
  • Preview
  • |
  • Standards
  • |
  • Resources & Preparation
  • |
  • Instructional Plan
  • |
  • Related Resources
  • |
  • Comments


This lesson begins with a read-aloud of Word Wizard by Cathryn Falwell, and then guides students through an active, hands-on activity in which they learn how to look for patterns in words and are encouraged to become "word wizards" themselves, making new words by adding letters or changing the sequence of letters. Students then use the online Word Wizard interactive to apply these strategies independently, making words from a given set of letters and ultimately discovering the "mystery word," related to a popular picture book.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

  • In "Making Words," an innovative word study activity introduced by Patricia Cunningham (1991), students are guided through the process of manipulating a set of letters in sequence to construct words.
  • This instructional strategy is actively engaging and meaningful for students because when students notice patterns and make discoveries about written language they can apply them to other reading and writing situations.
  • When words are connected to a story or current classroom lesson, students are able to have greater success with phonics lessons.

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

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 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.

Materials and Technology

  • Computers with Internet access

  • Word Wizard by Cathryn Falwell (Clarion Books, 1998)

  • One or more of the following picture books:

Corduroy by Don Freeman (Viking Press, 1968)

Franklin in the Dark by Paulette Bourgeois (Scholastic, 1986)

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (Philomel, 1994)

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow Books, 1991)

  • Letter tiles or squares for students (lowercase letters)

  • Overhead alphabet tiles (lowercase letters) and overhead projector

  • Student journal or notebook



Student Objectives

Students will

  • Learn how to look for patterns in words

  • Learn how changing one letter or where you put a letter changes the whole word

  • Construct new words by manipulating and reordering a set of letters from another word (i.e., anagrams)

  • Use meaning clues and phonics patterns to make words

Introductory Session (30 minutes)

1. Read aloud Word Wizard by Cathryn Falwell.

2. After reading the book, use the overhead projector and overhead alphabet tiles to demonstrate the words from the book (e.g., dawn/wand; pat/tap; gum/mug; flea/leaf; star/arts). While manipulating the letters, ask students to recall from the book what the new word will be. Ask students for definitions or examples of the new words as you make them. Give them clues or help as needed. Have students copy the words into their journal or personal dictionary.

3. Explain that words can be made by changing the order or combination of letters, and that they are going to become "Word Wizards" by making and reading words. Distribute letter tiles or squares to individual or pairs of students, and ask them to follow along with you through a few sample exercises.

4. Explain that you are now going to make words using a set of letters that when combined will spell a "mystery word."
  • Use the overhead to display the letters t, s, a, e, b, and k, and put the letter b aside. Have students do the same with the letters at their desks. Ask students if they can think of a three-letter word (using the given letters) that begins with the letter b and is something you use to hit a ball (bat). Place the letters a and t next to the b accordingly. Always have students read the new word after making it. You might also have them use the new word in a sentence to reinforce vocabulary.

  • Next ask students to change the beginning letter to make a word that means what you did on the chair (sat).

  • Then ask students to change the vowel to tell what you do when you put dishes on a table (set).

  • Tell students to keep the s and e and put two letters in front to name what a baseball player runs to after hitting the ball (base).

  • Ask students to make a three-letter word that tells what you do when you have a question (ask).

  • Have students put a b in front to make a word that means enjoying the sun (bask). You might go through a few more examples using the word bask since this is likely a new vocabulary word for first and second graders.

  • Explain that they are now going to make the "mystery word" by adding the last two letters to bask. If hints are needed, tell them that the word names something that you might carry things in (basket).
5. To further reinforce the concept of manipulating letters to make different words, model the following examples and have students follow along with their own letter tiles.
  • Use the letters n, t, p, e, and s to make the words pen, nest, net, pet, pest, step, and ten. The mystery word is spent.

  • Use the letters n, t, r, s, p, and i to make the words tin, tip, spin, spit, rip, tips, and trip. The mystery word is print.

  • Use the letters p, o, c, and h to make the words pop, cop, and hop. The mystery word is chop.

  • Use the letters m, l, p, u, and p to make the words pup, plum, up, pulp, and lump. The mystery word is plump.

Additional sessions

Read aloud one of the books listed on the opening page of the interactive Word Wizard game. The books listed are Corduroy, Franklin in the Dark, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and Chrysanthemum. After reading the book together as a class, have students access the interactive game and begin making words related to the book that they just read. You can conduct the lesson as a group and walk students through the exercises or allow them to work in pairs or individually at the computer. Depending on the level of your students, you can scaffold your teaching. Provide assistance to those students who are struggling and allow more advanced students to move ahead through the exercises on their own.


  • To reinforce phonics or a particular phonogram in your reading program, provide students with the necessary letters to make the words that you want to teach. For example, to teach the short vowel sound a, you might display the letters t, p, s, and a on the overhead. Ask students to identify the vowel and then ask students to think of words using these letters (e.g., tap, sat, sap, pat, past). Arrange the words on the overhead and have students read them with you. Students can also be manipulating their own letter tiles at their desk or copying the words into their journal or personal dictionary. This is also a good time to discuss real words and their meanings as compared with nonsense words (e.g., tas). Emphasize that the word past uses all the letters and is the mystery word.

  • Make letter cards out of 9" x 12" tagboard, one letter per card. Punch holes into the tagboard and insert yarn so that students can wear the cards around their head with the letter hanging down in front. Invite students to act as the "director" and position students to make words.

  • Alphabet cookies and pretzels are available in some stores. Give students the necessary letters to make words. After making and reading the words, students can eat them.

  • For more advanced students, bookmark the website, Between the Lions: Alphabet Soup and have them play the alphabet soup game.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Teacher observation and ongoing assessment during the lesson

  • After the introductory lesson, dictate the same words plus other words from the same word family to see if students mastered the spelling patterns. Students having difficulty may need further practice.

  • A developmental spelling inventory will help indicate which patterns need to be worked on by some students. Students who have mastered these patterns can do extension activities (e.g., the alphabet soup game) while you work with those students who need more help.

  • Encourage students to use the words that they have learned when writing in their journal or notebook.

Add new comment