Taking a Closer Look at Word Lists


If you’re feeling stuck with the word reading portion of your lessons, it can be challenging to know where to start. You want to ensure your students are still getting the decoding skill practice they need. You’re not sure how the word reading portion of your lesson could also develop language skills. You only have so much time within a single lesson to help your students on the road to mastery.

Learn more about the structure of an Orton-Gillingham lesson. Read What Does An Orton-Gillingham Lesson Look Like?

Imagine if you could discover ways to boost morphological awareness, and build word recognition and automaticity at the word level. Plus, weave in activities to practice both syntax and semantics!

Your word list has the potential to be a powerful tool for building language skills – let’s talk about how!

What Are Words Lists?

At the heart, they’re a tool you use to scaffold. It is made up of the words that you choose for explicitly teaching both decoding and encoding. It can be made up of either new or reviewed concepts. 

You can choose to present your word lists:

  • Listed on a single page
  • In a grid
  • On a deck of cards

You can also choose to keep word lists in either a notebook or in a binder so that you have a collection of them that you can use to review and refer back to.

Some misconceptions about word lists:

Sometimes, when people think about practicing at the word reading level, they think that they are simply just more phonics practice. This is a common misconception and it is not true! 

People also often think that word lists are just for decoding and working on speed. However, we know that accuracy does not just mean fast reading! Of course, we want reading to become automatic, but accuracy trumps that. 

Others view word lists as a rote memorization task instead of using them as a tool to build core language skills.  

Learn more about literacy skills! Listen to season three, episode three of the Together in Literacy Podcast, The Connection Between Language and Literacy.

Peeling Back the Layers

When it comes to your word list, think of it like an onion and peel back the layers. You can do this by asking yourself the following questions:

  1. What are the most essential concepts?
  2. How can I extend language learning within a single-word list?
  3. What patterns can I help my students notice?
  4. What skills can be woven in seamlessly?
  5. How can I elevate this lesson?

Dive deeper into these five ways you can peel back the layers of your word list! Watch Looking Closer at Word Lists!

Beyond the Word List!

Beyond The Word List guides you to take a critical look at your word lists and carefully plan activities your students will love. This simple yet effective training will equip you with the training and the tools you need, provide you with a roadmap of ideas to guide you along the way and show you easy, low-prep examples to boost any word list into a language-building powerhouse.

What does the 3-day challenge look like? This is a fully asynchronous and virtual training. You can complete the 3-day challenge at your convenience. Day 1 is where your training kicks off. On day 2, you’ll watch the activities in action. And, on day 3 you’ll put what you’ve learned into practice by trying the activities yourself. 

What teachers are saying:

“I completed last night’s challenge and that was so fun. I appreciate all the different ways that you explained how to change the card drill up with fun ideas. I became certified last year as an OG tutor, so I am still going by the exact process of my practicum. Having fun ideas is exciting for me. Thank you so much For all you do in the dyslexia tutoring community.” – Lisa M.

“I just finished Day 1 of the Card Drill Challenge and am so excited! I loved it and learned fun new ways to present this drill to my students. I can’t wait to see them modeled on Day 2. 😀 Your videos are very encouraging and always offer valuable ways to make my OG lessons more engaging, thank you!” – Beth F.

“I just completed the challenge. Easily doable in one sitting. Lots of great ideas, spurring on more already! Thanks! Highly recommend it!” – Becky D-M.

Join the 3-day challenge, here! Or, become a yearly member of the Building Readers for Life Academy to join in on all of our challenges!

This is a pinnable image for a blog post about word lists.


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