Word Ladders are such a great way to see what your students can really do with manipulating letters in words. I first used Tim Rasinski’s Daily Word Ladders. This was the warm up for my word work and students were directed to read the clue, then read the directions, move the letters that were not changing and fill in the letter that was changing.
We had the process down. I really wanted them to try and do these independently, but the clues and directions often held hurdles for my earliest readers. I decided to make my own (because it’s what I like do…lol).
Word ladders In Reading Journals
Some days, we just write our word ladders. I give them the first word and they write it. We make sure to stretch and count the sounds, then we write the sound. We make it extra fun by rotating the markers after each word.
When they get their new marker color, I tell them the new word. They underline what we are going to change, and then write the new word…and rotate the marker.
(There isn’t a really good reason to rotate the marker, except that’s it’s fun. It also eliminates the argument about what color marker they get, because they’ll use all of them.)
When we are done we read the whole ladder and we then we have to look at the top and bottom words and make a sentence. Sometimes this is an oral activity, sometimes it’s a written activity.
Word Ladders During Intervention Time
We also use a spelling intervention to prepare students for the PALS test in the Spring. If you aren’t in VA, it’s our end-all, be-all test for K-2. Sometimes students need exposure to features in a variety of forms and word ladders are a great way to do this.
The picture to the right shows two student groups who are practicing with short vowel words and also reviewing the “sh” digraph. During week 7, Cameron was sorting short e, o, and u words. We also threw in the “sh” as a review. We put the digraph in one box because the digraph makes one sound.
We did the same with the “ll” ending. In Week 7, Lucille was sorting vowels e, i, and u. We have added written cue and directions because this is done as a teacher directed activity.
Word ladders During Small Group
Word Ladders can also be used in small group with dry erase boards or magnet letters. I would suggest you plan the whole ladder…don’t just guess…especially if you want students to practice a specific skill.
If everyone had to the letters to the left, how many words could you make starting with jet? Hmmmm, jet, set, sat, sag, hag, hug, has, gas and there are more depending on your ladder.
You can also make 4-letter words: just, gust, and shag. What else can you do?
You could go to long vowel words like age, stage, ate, and gate but I wouldn’t do that until they are good at manipulating short vowels.
This is also a fun partner game where they ask each other to change something and make a new word. They can challenge each other. So fun! If you want tips with organization for small groups, check out the blog Small Group Instruction: What Will Your Students Need?
Word ladders In Independent Centers
One last idea, is independent centers. I decided to make some word ladders without words and some picture clues so reading level did not interfere with independence.
Sometimes, the pictures may be new, but the students need to be using letter cues to help themselves independently. One added feature is the sentence at the bottom of the word ladder.
Students will use the top of the ladder and the bottom of the ladder to complete the sentence at the bottom.
If you need a follow up activity or an enrichment activity, students can be asked to make more sentences using other words in the ladder or create a story around the sentence at the bottom.
Word Ladders: A Sample
If you would like a Short Vowel Word Vowel Sample, please. Check out the link below. You’ll get a sample from the 10-step word ladders.
If you would like to see the Short Vowel Word Ladder whole set on TPT, please click THIS link or the picture below.
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