Saturday, August 15, 2015

Mining for Spelling Patterns

Happy Saturday!  I'm Pamela from Hedgehog Reader, and I am here to share a fun way that students can play with letters and words to discover, practice, and reinforce spelling patterns.

Have you ever played Word Mines?  Maybe you've called them something else...  Basically, here is how Word Mines go:

You are given a word (or sometimes a phrase).  To play, you form as many words as possible in the given time using only the letters presented.  (If there is one R, then R can be used only once in that word.  It can be used once again in another word, and so on.)

Call me a nerd (believe me, you won't be the first!), but this has been one of my favorite pastimes for as long as I can remember.  So it was a natural thing for me to develop Word Mines for my students, because I knew it would be a fun way to identify, discover, and play with spelling patterns!

How to Start:

Although it doesn't take long for students to learn Word Mining strategies and procedures, it does require at least one session of whole class instruction to ensure smooth sailing ahead:
  • Students are ready for Word Mines when they have started to develop phonemic awareness, and have begun to identify common spelling patterns.  They should also have some sight words under their belts.
  • Make sure that any word you give students to "mine" is one that holds plenty of words within it.  Not all words are suited to this activity, so my best advice is to try it yourself first.
  • It's fun to use seasonal words or vocabulary pulled from content areas of current study.
  • I find that controversy is avoided by declaring the following rules:  *No proper nouns   *No foreign words   *No contractions
  • I begin by projecting the word to be mined.  (I've created cute seasonal Word Mines so that I could put them under the document camera, but you can also simply write it up on your board.)  Although traditional Word Mines are done with a word or phrase in its original form, I always scramble mine so that students get the bonus activity of solving the "secret word."
  • Depending on the age of your students, it's often helpful to begin with letter tiles, one for each letter in the scrambled word.  This allows students to physically manipulate the letters (concrete reasoning), until they are ready to move into mentally manipulating the letters (abstract reasoning).  This also ensures that letters are only used as many times as they are found within the word.
  • I model my thinking aloud as I "solve" the projected puzzle.  I make sure to demonstrate how patterns can help.  For instance, if I see the pattern ALE, I will play with each consonant and blend to see if it fits with the pattern to create a word.  Then I move from ALE to EAL and repeat the process.
  • Normally after one such session, students are ready to mine for words on their own, with a buddy, or in a team.

Use Word Mines as a Whole Class:

Once students have a grasp of how to work with Word Mines, these make a great Morning Work activity or sponge activity, either individually, in buddies, or as teams:
  • Students stay even more focused if they know they will have 3 minutes for team consultation to tally up total words once the time is up.  It only takes a moment or two to quickly go through how many words each team came up with  (I am not picky, and the students do a wonderful job holding one another accountable for following the rules), and points are awarded for order of most words found.  For instance - If you have 6 teams in your classroom, the team with the most words earns 6 points, and then work your way down to 1 point for the team with the fewest words - so everybody earns something!

Use Word Mines in a Literacy Center:

Word Mines make a great literacy center activity:
  • Glue a puzzle to the front of a file folder or manilla envelope.  Hide an answer key inside.  Provide a set of laminated letter tiles.
  • Students can record their answers on notebook paper or whiteboards, or on prepared worksheets.
  • It’s best to use only one puzzle at a time to prevent confusion; puzzles can be changed out based on your students’ need.  

I've created this FREEBIE for you to try out a Word Mine with your students!  (I have various seasonal and thematic Word Mine resources in my Teachers Pay Teachers store, and I add to my collection often.)

Have a wonderful year with your students, and thanks for reading!


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