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Word Study That Sticks

Word Study That Sticks
Best Practices, K-6

First Edition
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October 2018 | 288 pages | Corwin

“Pamela Koutrakos breaks it down for the novice and streamlines word study for the old pro. – Jeff Anderson, author of Patterns of Power

Take word learning to the next level in your classroom

Hungry for lively and engaging ways to augment word study? Looking for ways to empower your students and give voice to their ideas? In Word Study That Sticks, teacher and literacy consultant Pamela Koutrakos provides a step-by-step approach that makes word learning jubilant and fun – and encourages students to take ownership of word learning.

This hands-on guide connects research with experience to deliver challenging, discovery-based instructional practices that can support all learners in any subject area. You’ll learn how to

  • Set up the physical classroom, prioritize materials, and launch activities
  • Instill curiosity and a self-starting attitude toward vocabulary development
  • Devise routines that highlight phonemic awareness, phonics, meaning, and spelling
  • Differentiate and personalize word study activities
  • Embed word study into all content areas for transfer of learning  

Word Study That Sticks can be used alone or in conjunction with another program to help you take word learning to the next level. Lesson ideas, word study routines, charts, photos, key practices, and special advice for beginning teachers make word study instruction accessible for educators working at every experience level.

Introduction: Word Study Now
Word Study for a New Generation

How to Use This Book With Other Programs or as Your Sole Resource

Preview of the Three Parts

Preview of Features

CHAPTER 1. What Is Word Study?

Word Study Is a Verb, Not a Noun

Word Study Invites Inquiry

CHAPTER 2. Start It Up! Finding Time and Resources

Spending Time Exploring Words

Setting Up Structures


CHAPTER 3. Launching a Year of Lively Learning

Lessons That Introduce the World of Word Study

Introducing Routines Memorably


Launch Lessons: Introducing Routines

CHAPTER 4. Assessment: A Less-Is-More Approach to Seeing Next Steps

Expanding Our Repertoire: Rethinking Assessment Options

CHAPTER 5. The Value of Choice and Protocols That Support It

Empowering Students: Lessons and Routines That Offer Student Choice

CHAPTER 6. Power Practices: Next-Level Word Exploring
Choices in Word Study Routines: Lessons to Bolster Engaged Word Learning

CHAPTER 7. Supporting Students: Routines for Meaningful Differentiation

Providing Purposeful Small-Group Instruction

Building a Culture and Curriculum of Talk

CHAPTER 8. Releasing Responsibility: Goal Setting, Reflection, and Celebration

Ideas for Reflection and Celebration

A Tour of Word Study in Action: 20 Minutes of Focused Fun and Teaching Language

CHAPTER 9. Connecting the Dots: Word Study in Reading and Writing

Infusing Word Study Into Reading

Word Study in Writing

CHAPTER 10. Sealing the Deal With Word Learning in the Content Areas
Word Study in Math

Word Study in Social Studies and Science

More Options to Encourage Transfer of Word Learning

A Tour of Word Study in Action: A Sneak Peek of Content Area Word Learning

Conclusion: Word Power!
Appendix A: Go-To Resources

Appendix B: Spelling Inventories

Appendix C: Word-Rich Books Across the Grades

Appendix D: Quotes About Words

Appendix E: Expanded Sample Word Study Schedules

Appendix F: Sample Checklists



Who said word study has to be boring? Not Pamela Koutrakos! In her book Word Study that Sticks, Koutrakos provides teachers with a host of highly engaging and easily implemented approaches for making phonemic awareness, phonics, spelling, and vocabulary instruction come alive in their classrooms.

Timothy Rasinski, PhD, Professor of Literacy Education at Kent State University

Pam offers so many practical and innovative ideas for word study, but even more than that, by highlighting the importance of student choice, engagement, and collaboration, Pam's book is a primer for planning instruction across the day. In addition to very practical and engaging ideas for word study, Pam helps teachers prioritize their time, organize their instruction, and offer children both individual choice and social opportunities across the day. Pam helps teachers envision and implement an engaging and effective approach to word study, one that supports students' growth and curiosity; one that invites student inquiry and agency.

Kathy Collins, Literacy Consultant, Author of Growing Readers, and Co-Author of I Am Reading with Matt Glover

Word Study That Sticks provides Grades K-6 differentiated support for making word study meaningful in any classroom. Chock-full of resources -- including sample schedules, lessons, routines, tips for classroom set-up, even workarounds if your classroom is different -- Pamela Koutrakos has pulled together the most popular and effective word study techniques being used in schools today. Her inviting writing style will make you feel like you have a master teacher by your side as you implement these ideas in your classroom.

What I like best about this book is that it employs the key characteristics of strong phonics instruction -- active, engaging, and thought-provoking. Students don't just learn about words; they explore words like detectives uncovering aspects that will improve their reading and writing skills. Students are also taught to take ownership of their learning so that these skills can be more easily transferred to their independent reading. The result -- students who more naturally develop into skilled, fluent readers.

A great resource that's a needed addition to every elementary teacher's professional library.

Wiley Blevins, Author of A Fresh Look at Phonics

As a presenter I'm asked if I know of a good book for word study. I found one in Pamela Koutrakos' Word Study That Sticks! She breaks it down for the novice and streamlines for the old pro. It's truly word study that sticks.

Jeff Anderson

Whether you've been teaching word study for a few years or a few decades, Word Study That Sticks will change your mindset and open your eyes to innovative word study practices. Pam's enthusiasm for inquiry-based word study experiences, coupled with her classroom-rooted expertise, glimmers off the pages of this must-have resource. With features like practical prioritizing, teacher tips, and workarounds to common classroom challenges, Pam offers a no-excuse guide to providing students with the word knowledge needed for school and beyond. I guarantee that Pam's positivity will lift your teaching to new heights. If Pamela Koutrakos can't get you and your students fired up about joyful word study instruction -- no one can!

Maria Walther, First Grade Teacher and Instructional Specialist, and Author of The Ramped-Up Read Aloud: What to Notice as You Turn the Page
Indian Prairie District 204, Aurora, IL

Professional texts about word study often are too technical and removed from the everyday realities of the classroom. Fortunately, Pamela Koutrakos serves her 'signature dish' of positivity and enthusiasm with a side of sincerity and practicality. Throughout Word Study That Sticks, Pam infuses her deep respect for students, teachers, and the learning process. Her explicit discussion of the what, why, when, and how of word study instruction feel like conversations with a trusted colleague. Alongside the voices of experts and researchers, Pam includes those of teachers and students -- which are frequently excluded from professional texts. Recognizing a diversity of learning needs, Pam offers varying entry points for teachers who are beginning to practice word study or are interested in 'stepping up' their instruction. She takes the guesswork out of where to begin by prioritizing meaningful practices, lessons, and materials that can be implemented easily. She also thoughtfully anticipates challenges and offers doable workarounds. Pam reminds novice and veteran teachers alike that developmentally-appropriate word study instruction can be authentic, fun, and challenging. Her thoroughness and thoughtfulness ensure that readers feel prepared (and excited) to plan, teach, differentiate, and assess word study. With her words, Pam inspires and reconnects us with the power of studying words.

Heather Frank, First Grade Teacher, Central School, and Doctoral Candidate, Montclair State University
Glen Rock, NJ

This book is so needed in the world! Where I go, teachers ask about word study -- how to do it and when to fit it in with all the other demands placed on their time. Word Study That Sticks: Best Practices, K-6 is just the right resource at just the right time to answer these important questions. Pamela Koutrakos gives us a perfect blend of background knowledge (the what and why behind word study) and the practical day-to-day (the how) to get word study up and running. Her sample schedules, classroom blueprints, launch lessons, teaching tips, and options for assessment -- just to name a few of the awesome tools -- gives us what we need to harness student engagement, gradual release of responsibility, student independence, and joy around word study. Thank you, Pam, for giving us your signature dish!

Julie Wright, Instructional Coach, Educational Consultant, and Author of What Are You Grouping For?

As an increasing number of schools and districts embrace a balanced literacy model, oftentimes, word study is an area that either gets overlooked or causes confusion. In Word Study That Sticks, Pamela Koutrakos cuts through the clutter and demystifies what word study is all about with a practical, research-based system that any educator could implement. This much-needed book is the first and only book I can recommend on the topic, and I could not recommend it enough for any school or district exploring word study. 

Ross Cooper, Elementary School Principal and Author of Hacking Project Based Learning
Old Tappan School District

In Word Study That Sticks: Best Practices, K-6 , Pamela Koutrakos takes a fresh look at word study instruction and moves away from word study as discrete skills needed for reading and writing success to patterns and practices that help students leave their mark on the world. Grounded in best practices, authentic reading and writing, and joyful engagement, Pamela clearly shows educators how to teach students the power of words and word study. Focused on developing teacher expertise over knowledge of a program, Pamela invites teachers to honor their current practices, explore curious and creative word study instruction and foster engagement and independence in the classroom. She provides explicit, practical advice to weave word study instruction for all students are threaded throughout the pages of this book. Reading this book is like collaborating with a trusted literacy coach who understands the complexity and challenges of the classroom and supports teacher learning with real-life photographs of classrooms, word study routines and instruction, inspiring student samples and a clear set of lessons for use in classrooms. ?Word Study That Sticks? provides educators with the tools they need to enact purposeful and authentic word study instruction into an elementary classroom framed around inquiry and joyful learning.

Stephanie Affinito, PhD, Literacy Teacher Educator
University at Albany, SUNY

If you're seeking a comprehensive guide to differentiated word study aimed at building independent, inquisitive qord explorers, you've got the right book in your hands! In Word Study That Sticks, Pamela Koutrakos offers practical and purposeful lessons to get started and set up and maintain inquiry-based, engaged word study routines across a variety of grouping options throughout a year of study. Her friendly, supportive voice makes readers feel as if they are sitting across the table from her being coached with expertise and care as they make critical decisions regarding learner-centered word exploration. Readers are guided through assessments, upping the rigor and relevance of word studyf or all learners at all levels K-6, incorporated word study across content areas, and transferring learning to everyday reading and writing all within an investigational, joyful classroom environment. Pam's masterful guidance coupled with the user-friendly features of this volume will be appreciated by both teachers who are new to dynamic word study and seasoned practitioners seeking to up their level of pedagogy. Thank you, Pam, for your thoughtful voice and all you offer teachers and learners through this book!

Janiel Wagstaff, National Literacy Consultant and Author of The Common Core Companion: Booster Lessons, Grades K-2: Elevating Instruction Day by Day

Sample Materials & Chapters

Table of Contents


Chapter 1

For instructors

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ISBN: 9781544327242

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