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  • Pam Koutrakos

Introducing… Word Study That Sticks! (A Sneak Peek and a Giveaway)

When I was growing up, there was no word study in schools. We had phonics, and then spelling, and then word of the day. My classmates and I were keenly aware of who who got the colorful stickers, and who didn’t. New words appeared on the chalkboard and in our lives as lists to be memorized—and forgotten. They were a part of school, but never a meaningful part of us. There was no curiosity about words or language.

And then, drum roll—I became a teacher. Fortunately, I was introduced to a more multifaceted approach to word study and it was life changing. I began actually learning about how words work. Over the next 15 years, I moved grades, positions, and even districts. Each new opportunity gave me a chance to refine how I went about introducing, teaching, and supporting more in-depth learning about words. Fast forward to 2016 when I wrote a blog series on words study (all 5 posts can be found here). My ever-so-supportive colleagues suggested that I write a book. I laughed, drafted one, hit “send” to an editor, never really believing it would get published. But much to my disbelief, here it is: Word Study That Sticks, Best Practices K-6.

The cover disproves the adage, “never judge a book by its cover” because the colorful, joyful design of it communicates what is inside: advice, tips, and real world, classroom-friendly ways to start up or step up joyous word study in kindergarten—grade 6 classrooms. The ideas are grounded in research and best practices, but the content is meant to be practical and useable. Here’s a sneak peek of what that actually looks like.


In Part I, I share how to launch a curious, creative approach to word study. First, the different parts of word study are explained. Next, there is a guided tour on finding the time, creating the space, and building the “feel” of a classroom that actively explores words. Classroom maps, shopping lists of materials, and schedules, schedules, and more schedules are included in Part I. Whether you work in a kindergarten classroom, third grade classroom, or sixth grade classroom, there are suggestions provided just for you! Part one also has LESSONS! There are several ideas for lessons to kick-off word study and get students of all ages excited about a year of active word exploring. Once the stage is set and you are ready to launch, an in-depth way to introduce structures and routines is outlined. Over two weeks of primary lessons and over two weeks of upper elementary/middle grade lessons are laid out. Free student tools to accompany these lessons are also available online! Finally, assessment (and manageable ways to use assessment formatively) are broken down and shared.

Here’s an example of one of the MANY launch lessons included.


Part II is all about about fostering engagement and independence. Here, you will find numerous additional lessons and learning routines to help you differentiate classroom instruction in meaningful ways. These additional routines also build student repertoire, so students have more voice and choice in how they study words. With the level of interest, engagement, and independence at an all time high, teachers find more time to meet with students and small groups, providing some just right instruction and feedback to help all students progress. Guidance is provided for what these conferring conversations and small group work might look like and sound like. Finally, there are recommendations for helping students set goals, reflect, and celebrate in word study. Full color photos of students engaging in all these types of work—and examples of actual student work— bolster understanding and vision of what this all looks like!

Teaching additional ways to study words is important, but we also want to support learners in all kinds of ways. Here’s an example of a “teamwork progression” a small group of third graders worked to create during a small group lesson.


Part III is all about embedding word study (in quick, efficient ways) into all subject areas. We want to teach for and support transfer! After all, we work so hard to help students engage in active word collecting and examine how words work, we also want them to apply this knowledge as consistently as possible,beyond the few minutes a day we devote to word study. In these chapters, countless ideas are provided for how to help students connect the dots and use what they know, of course in reading and writing, but also in math, social studies, and science. Finally, beyond embedding word study in the content areas, suggestions are provided for how to use word study routines to examine and learn content area vocabulary. Throughout this book, I emphasize the mindset and strategies one uses to explore, study, and learn words - and how words work. This disposition and these strategies can be used any time, any place, and with any kind of words. In this way, the minutes we devote to word study become high-utility teaching and useable in all parts of the day!

Lessons, ideas, and student work samples help readers see how easy embedding word study throughout the day might be! Here’s one of many suggestions for how word study can be embedded into math.


The learning and support do not end at the conclusion. The appendix includes several helpful resource lists including favorite professional texts, suggestions for where to find words, options for spelling assessments, beloved word-rich books, and thought-provoking word-themed quotes. Additionally, there are even more word study cycle schedule suggestions and mentor text examples of possible scope and sequence maps. Finally, student-facing checklists and tools for reflection are available and ready to be used. Online, the companion website offers multiple caregiver letters (in both Spanish and English) to help families better understand a best-practice approach to word study and possible ways to support this learning at home. Student facing “mini-charts” for ALL launch lessons are also ready to be downloaded and reproduced. Finally, letter cards, blend and digraph cards, affix cards, and root cards are available to help you get started, regardless of availability of in-house materials.

Ideas, tools, and resources to make implementation of these ideas easier are at the reader’s fingertips! Above, is an example of one of the numerous student-facing routine “mini-charts.”

I’d love to hear and see how you use the ideas in this blog and book to start up or step up word study. Tweet a link to this blog and tag me (@PamKou) to be entered to win a copy of Word Study That Sticks. A second copy will be given away for someone who posts an example of using an idea from Word Study That Sticks in their classroom, again, tagging me in that post (@PamKou). Please see additional details below. To enter, be sure to retweet or post by 11:59 PM EST on November 15, 2018.


  • This giveaway is for a copy of the book Word Study That Sticks, Best Practices K-6 by Pam Koutrakos (Corwin Literacy).

  • For a chance to win this book, please tweet this blog post or tweet a photo showing an idea from this book in action, tagging @PamKou. All retweets and posts must be up by November 15, 2018 11:59 p.m. EST. NOTE: You must have a U.S. mailing address to enter this giveaway.

  • Please be sure to follow me on Twitter (@PamKou) so I can send you a DM to obtain your mailing address. If you are one of the two winners, I will send you a DM. Please respond with your mailing address within five days of receipt. Unfortunately, a new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of contact.

Photos included:

Koutrakos, P. (2018). Word study that sticks. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Literacy.

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