How to Set Up a Manageable Word Work Station

 Why is phonics so important?  It's the foundational skill of decoding letters into their corresponding sounds, which is essential for students to independently read unknown words.  Research shows that it's the best way to teach students to read words.  While we do provide systematic phonics instruction during whole group and small groups, students also need time to practice these newly learned skills.  It's also vital that they get some spiral review within their day.  The best way I have found to do this is through our Word Work Station.  In this post, I want to share how I set up my word work center, what our favorite tools and activities are, and how I manage it from week to week in a way that's not overwhelming or time consuming.  Teachers cannot afford to add anything else to their plates.

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This is my most recent word work center.  I like to have it in front of a bulletin board so that I can hang posters and anchor charts.  The pocket chart is for words that they can practice with that week's spelling pattern.  That's an early finisher activity in which they can use whiteboards to quiz each other, rainbow spell, or make words with play-doh.  I like to put fabric around the table so that I can use underneath for storage.

I post this list of to-dos that's laminated, so that I can write on it with a dry erase marker.  I always list two activities that they can do, so that we don't run into the problem of them finishing one and then not knowing what to do next.  I don't have to worry about them interrupting my small group to ask what to do next or for them to be off task doing nothing.  Each group also has a leader, so if they forget to look to the board for what to do, the group leader can show them.

I change what it says every two days.  That sounds like a lot but it only takes a minute, and I usually do it while I'm explaining centers to them.  The activities that go in there are already prepped from years before or I got them ready the week before.  I have four groups, two rotations per day, so that allows each group to go there every other day.

(Find these Back to School Anchor Charts HERE)

We create anchor charts together during our whole group phonics.  I then can move these to the word work center for reference.  I print them in poster size, but you don't have to do that if you don't have room.

Sometimes I don't have room for all that I want to hang, so I print them out letter size and laminate them for the following years.  We then write on them with dry erase markers.  I usually let the students write on these so that we can practice stretching out words with our puppets.

I also always print these posters for the spelling pattern of the week.  I can then move them over to the word work center for reference.

I spend the first month of school teaching lots of procedures.  One of those is where to find classroom tools.  They may need dice, spinners, counters, linking cubes, or game pieces for our word work games, so I make sure they know where to find them.  These Ikea shelves were the best investment for our tools and manipulatives.  They know what pieces they need for each game, so they can grab them themselves.  I don't have to worry about putting tools at the word work center each week.

I do not put dry erase markers or erasers at the center.  They just know to bring their pencil pouches with them to the word work station that contains those needed supplies.

I store my games and activities in two different places.  These organizers from Amazon are great to store posters and activities by spelling pattern.  They don't take up a lot of space either.

I just labeled them according to my pacing guide.

This is an example of printing the anchor charts smaller, so that I can store them in here for next year.  If you print larger, you can roll them up.  I store those in a cute hamper.

I try to just stick to similar activities from week to week.  I don't have time to teach new games and activities each week, so I want station activities to be familiar.  If it is something new, we will play it in small group first and then it moves to the station the following week.  These activities are some of my Word Work Activities and Games.  It's important to have my students do word sorts, so I usually have them complete one of those.  I just laminate them and print them on cardstock and store in these plastic bags.  I throw them in the file folder storage.

They are always obsessed with these spelling pattern board games.  I thought they would get tired of them, but nope!  This is usually activity two in the station.  You can find them in each of my Word Work packs here.

I also love Susan Jones's Print, Play, and Learn Games!  I bought her bundle so that I would have these for all of the spelling patterns.  I just print and laminate them and store in these folders.  We will usually play these in small groups to learn how to play, and then they go in the station the following week.  They're very easy to prep.

I store these and the Roll and Reads from Sparkling in Second in these clear tubs.  They're also very easy to prep, and we use those for small groups and stations.  They are great for decoding and fluency practice.  The tubs easily slide underneath the word work table.  I pull out the box I need and put it at my table and then at the word work station.

My word work station is pretty basic, but that's what I like about it.  Once you make these games and get organized, you are ready to go for years.  Not to say that I don't add new things here and there, but consistency is key with centers or stations.  I hope this post helps you or gives you some ideas on how to create a simple, but engaging and effective word work center.  It's definitely one of my students' favorite spots to visit multiple times each week.  

If you need some ideas for phonics instruction, whether you're teaching in-person or virtually, you can CLICK HERE.


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