Multisensory Phonics Practice with Words Their Way: Supplemental Practice Program for Grades K-5

From renowned authors Donald Bear, Marcia Invernizzi, Francine Johnston, Shane Templeton, and Lori Helman, Words Their Way provides personalized phonics practice through hands-on and digital sorts. 

Students have fun with practice that reinforces their knowledge of phonology, sound-symbol association, morphology, and the 6 syllable types of English.

  • Multisensory, personalized practice
  • Easy to implement alongside any high-quality core ELA or foundational skills program 
  • Ready-to-go hands-on and digital resources 
  • Sound, letter, word, and writing sorts

Personalized Phonics Practice for Structured Literacy Classrooms

Words Their Way provides everything you need to give students extended phonics practice through a consistent word sorting routine.


Extended Practice

Words Their Way complements existing high-quality core or foundational skills curricula by providing extended practice for previously taught skills in phonology, morphology, syllabication, and sound-symbol association.


Personalized Practice

Students work at one of five stages within the program, so teachers can easily provide just-right phonics practice that meets students’ individual needs.



Hands-on and digital word sorts make use of all the senses to provide optimal practice and skills reinforcement of key decoding, encoding, and vocabulary skills.


Ready-to-Go Practice Resources

Save time with ready-to-go hands-on and digital sorts! Plus, developmentally appropriate digital activities like drag-and-drop sorts are easy to assign to students.

A Consistent Word Sorting Routine for Structured Literacy Classes

  • Phonology Practice
  • Sound-Symbol Association
  • Syllabication Practice
  • Morphology Practice

Phonology Practice

In the earliest stage of the program, sound and picture sorts provide additional practice and reinforcement of previously taught phonology skills for non-readers who are still learning the alphabet. Students sort letters by their sounds and sort pictures by their beginning consonant sound.

View a Phoneme Sort

Reinforcing Sound-Symbol Correspondences

Word sorts provide additional practice and skills reinforcement of previously taught letter-sound correspondences at various stages of the program. Students sort words in a variety of ways, depending on their level: by sound-spelling pattern, vowel sounds, English syllable patterns, and more.

View a Sound-Symbol Sort

Practice with the Six Syllable Types of English

The scope and sequence systematically addresses all 6 syllable types. Words Their Way provides open and closed word sorts for practice decoding all six syllable types of English.

View an R-Controlled Syllable Sort

Help Students Decode & Understand Multisyllabic Words

Writing and word sorts provide additional practice that builds students’ understanding of morphology. As students practice sorting words by prefixes, suffixes, and Greek and Latin roots, they understand how word parts change the meaning of multisyllabic words.

View a Morphology Sort

Get a Free Online Demo

Request your free live demo of Words Their Way and discover how the program provides personalized, multisensory phonics practice for structured literacy classrooms.

Online Demo

Personalize Phonics Practice with Words Their Way

  • Personalized Practice and Skills Reinforcement
  • Multisensory, Hands-On Phonics Practice
  • Personalized Placement & Progress Monitoring
  • A Consistent Word Sorting Routine
  • The 5 Developmental Spelling Stages

Personalize Phonics Practice for Every Student

  • Developmental Spelling Stages
    Words Their Way offers a complete set of ready-to-use resources for each of the five research-based stages of spelling, so teachers have everything needed to personalize practice based on each student’s developmental spelling stage.
  • Flexible Instructional Options
    Students are grouped by developmental spelling stage so each student can get instruction and practice that matches their instructional needs. The program can also be used for whole-class and individual instruction.
  • Address Individual Needs
    Each lesson includes ideas for providing extra support (or challenge) for students who may need it, as well as strategies for supporting multilingual learners. The Implementation Guide provides additional tips for differentiating instruction according to individual student needs.

Multisensory, Hands-On Phonics Practice

  • Hands-on Practice
    Each developmental spelling stage has an associated full-color, student consumable workbook (available in print or as a digital printable). These pages are designed so students can cut and paste words into sorting categories for hands-on practice.
  • Digital Interactivity
    Kids love digital interactivity! These online word sorts allow students to click-and-drag pictures, words, and spelling patterns, plus instantly check their work. There’s an Interactive Sort associated with each lesson.
  • Big Book of Rhymes
    Designed for students in earlier developmental spelling stages, the Big Book of Rhymes provides vividly illustrated poems that teachers can use to introduce the sort. Teachers explicitly highlight examples of the target sound spelling for the current sort in a decodable rhyme.
  • Games and More
    Other resources include printable games to give students additional support and engaging practice.

Personalized Placement & Progress Monitoring

  • Personalized Placement
    The Qualitative Spelling Inventory helps teachers place students in their correct developmental stage of word study. Students then work in small groups based on their developmental spelling stage.
  • Progress Monitoring
    Prebuilt spell checks can be used as a spelling pretest to assess prior knowledge, or as a posttest immediately following instruction.
  • Ready-to-Go Teacher Resources
    • The Teacher’s Guide provides a simple 3-step instructional routine (Introduce, Model, and Practice) for each sort, along with strategies for differentiating instruction and supporting multilingual learners. 
    • The Implementation Guide provides teachers with helpful background and information about the program, along with strategies for implementing a consistent word sorting routine in their classes.

A Consistent Word Sorting Routine

  • Easy to Implement
    Words Their Way can be implemented in just 15 minutes a day a few days each week.
  • Introduce

    Teachers introduce the sort by connecting it to previously learned sound-spelling correspondences in core ELA or foundational skills instruction.

    • In the first three stages, teachers explicitly highlight examples of the target sound spelling for the current sort in a decodable rhyme.
    • In the last two stages, teachers provide instruction so students read sentences with words that feature the target orthographic pattern.
  • Model
    Teachers explicitly demonstrate the sort, gradually releasing sorting responsibility to the students using additional words that exemplify the sound-spelling (as well as oddballs/exceptions), and ask students to justify their rationale for sorting each word. Teachers provide immediate corrective feedback to individual students as they progress through their sort.
  • Practice
    Students practice the sort. Both hands-on and digital sorts are available.

The 5 Developmental Spelling Stages

  • Five Research-Based Stages
    Words Their Way allows educators to personalize phonics practice.
  • Emergent–Early Letter Name
    Students at this stage have an incomplete knowledge of the alphabet and may not use any sound-symbol correspondence.
  • Letter Name
    Students apply the alphabet literally or spell phonetically, representing most strong sounds and beginning consonants, but omitting silent letters and preconsonantal nasals.
  • Within Word Pattern
    Students correctly spell most single-syllable words with short vowels, and can recognize consonant digraphs and two-letter consonant blends.
  • Syllables and Affixes
    Students correctly spell long-vowel and high-frequency words, but may make errors at syllable juncture points and in unaccented syllables.
  • Derivational Relations
    At this stage, students spell most words correctly. They are growing their knowledge of vocabulary and spelling patterns of low-frequency, multisyllabic words derived from Greek and Latin roots.

Take a Closer Look at Words Their Way


Program Overview

Get a quick overview of Words Their Way

Teacher Resources

Explore ready-to-go teacher resources for word sorts

Student Resources

Explore ready-to-go student resources for word sorts

Personalized Phonics Practice – Hands-On & Digital

Savvas Realize - logo

All ready-to-go teacher and student resources for Words Their Way sorts are found on the award-winning Savvas Realize® digital platform. Realize integrates with a wide variety of digital tools and systems, such as Google Classroom, Canvas, Schoology, OneDrive, and many more!

The online edition provides access to assignable drag-and-drop word sorts, printable games, ready-to-go teacher resources, and much more!

Word Study Resources for Educators

  • The Essential Elements of Word Study
  • Scope and Sequence
  • 10 Ways to Word Sort
  • On-Demand Webinar
  • Word Meaning and Word Study

Dr. Donald Bear: Word Study to Teach Phonics, Vocabulary, and Spelling

What does word study look like, and what does it take to provide explicit and differentiated word study instruction? Dr. Donald Bear explores the essential elements of word study in this free whitepaper.

Read the Whitepaper

Scope and Sequence for Grades K-5

See the full list of sorts for each developmental spelling stage for Words Their Way Classroom. Skills progress from simple to complex.

View the Scope and Sequence

10 Effective Word Sort Techniques

How many different ways can you word sort? This free guide shares 10 different ways to practice word study with your elementary students. Includes free word study resources to help you get started!

Get the Guide

Strengthening Phonics and Vocabulary with Word Study

Watch this free, one-hour webinar featuring award-winning author, professor, and literacy expert Donald Bear as he shares best practices, quick tips, and helpful resources for implementing word study in K-5 classrooms.

Watch the Webinar
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Dr. Shane Templeton: The Critical Role of Word Meaning in Word Study

In addition to spelling-to-sound and sound-to-spelling relationships, students need explicit instruction around the meaning of words. Learn how word study grows students’ knowledge of vocabulary, morphology, homophones, and homographs.

Read the Whitepaper

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