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Word Building for First Grade

The next step from phonemic awareness drills and alphabet practice is…. word building!

You've all seen it.

One of the biggest road blocks for student writing is not being able to spell words.

They have this great idea or story and they go to start writing and BAM! They get to a word they can't spell and the entire process just STOPS.

The process of word building allows students to spell words by sounding them out or use words that they know to build new words.

Not only does the problem of not being able to spell affect a student's writing… it also affects their behavior.

Why do kids need Word Building?

I can vividly remember seeing one of my students throw a pencil across the room. He was so frustrated that I couldn't even get mad at him.

He wanted to share his story so badly and he just couldn't.

After a month or two of intervention, he really started to come alive!

He was able to sound out a word aloud and write down the sounds he was hearing. It was no longer slowing down (or stopping) his writing process and he excelled.

The secret to word building is to keep it fun and expose your students to word building in a variety of ways. 

Word Building with Word Parts

The first baby step I take with my students from alphabet knowledge to spelling or reading words is by putting together different word parts. 

Word building with different word parts allows students to blend together two or three parts of a word, rather than four or five sounds. 

It basically makes it one step easier. 

Building with word parts also allows students to visually see what words rhyme and what words do not.

Although rhyming is an oral language skill, it often helps some students to visually see the similarities and differences. 

I also like to give my students Spelling Lists so they can see the words organized by word family.

Word Building with Letter Sounds

The next step in word building is to have students practice building out ALL of the letter sounds in a word. 

This is an easy step from building with word parts. 

I typically like to start students out by building words that are within the same word family, but that simply a teacher preference. 

I like to have my students use a variety of alphabet manipulatives, but these plastic letters are my absolute favorite.

For a more detailed schedule of how I plan out these activities, check out this post about how I plan out a week of word families. 

Word Building Practice

Our next step is LOTS of independent word building practice. 

This can be done in so many ways, but I personally feel like the most effective way is to integrate these activities into your stations. 

Independent word activities should include some sort of self-checking option.

For example, in the station you see on the right, students match word parts to their picture. Because each puzzle has a different shape, students can check to see if their word parts truly math the picture. 

Another option for self-check is to have students work in partners or small groups so that they can use each other to check their work. 

Here's a tip: Anything that you do together in whole group or small group, is the PERFECT activity to add into your stations. If a student is already familiar with an activity, they will be more successful independently. 

The Final Test.... Writing

The very last step in word building practice is the true sign of whether or not a student can truly read and write the words you have been practicing. 

These sentence writing packets are a weekly staple in my writing stations. I love that they provide a picture clue to help my students become independent writers and it also allows them the chance to illustrate their sentences. 

Even better, these writing activities can be easily differentiated. Students can write a few words or a few sentences. 

For students who are REALLY struggling, I either help them write their sentence using a highlighter and they trace my words OR they simply write the word three times for practice. 

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Kristen Sullins

Kristen Sullins

I am a current Elementary Librarian and
Enrichment Teacher, mother of two, follower of Christ and Texas native. In my own classroom, I love to save time by finding unique ways to integrate writing, social studies and science into all parts of my day. I also love all things organization!