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Word Work in the Middle Grades

Word Work Ideas for grades 2-4

As a third grade teacher, I find that my word work center activities cover a variety of skills.  I want my students to review and refine their sight word knowledge specifically focused on the correct spelling of many high frequency words.  I want them to apply the phonics skills from the previous years and our current year’s instruction.  I want them to begin to recognize and apply affixes and have a base level understanding of roots.  And, of course, I want them to practice and apply what we’re working on.  Unfortunately, when I search on Pinterest, I find that most of what I find is targeted towards the primary grades with a heavy focus on phonics skills like short vowels, long vowels, CVC words, etc.  I hope this post gives you some ideas for ways you can beef up your word work centers, whether you do Daily 5 or not.

Word Work Ideas for grades 2-4


As of now, I just have a large white bin with dry erase boards, markers and erasers, and various tools in it.  I need to work on this area myself.  I’ve been looking on Pinterest for ideas to help make our word work center organization a bit more usable and tidy.


Stephanie from 3rd Grade Thoughts had a great idea with this storage system.  Each different activity has its own drawer so students know exactly where to look for the supplies they need, and they also know where to return them.  I believe this is one of those super popular rolling cards that she just took the legs off and kept the drawers together by color.  You can usually find these at Sam’s for like $25 as the cheapest route, though she used the double ones.  I’m going to be on the lookout for a version like this in black.  Stephanie also has GREAT word work ideas in that post so click the image above or here to head over there and see her centers at work.



I love this idea from Daily 5 for My 3rd Graders!  She used black art boxes and put supplies for each different center inside its own box.  Then each box goes in the bin.  Students just grab a box and go.  Spelling word lists are stored on the front.  This would not be able to house specific organizers or pages for students to practice on, but those could be stored near or inside the container in file folders or another system.  Nicole has great ideas for the centers themselves, like using old non-working cellphones, so head on over there to check them out!


In order to give students a variety of ways to practice spelling and word wall words, and various phonics skills, I often provide a variety of printed resources as activities in our Word Work center as well.


No-prep worksheets that have students practicing their word wall words as an independent center.

I use these no-prep printables from my Word Wall Word Work set as a center activity after the first quarter.  At that time, our Word Wall has quite a few words on it that students can look at to help them complete it.  I just printed off about a dozen different pages double sided, laminated them with my personal laminator so they were thicker, and give students fine-tip dry erase markers to use.

Word Wall Word Work center

The activities are used in different combinations on pages, so students are often practicing different skills or rewriting the words in new and different ways.  In this page students are choosing 6 random words to put in ABC order; writing a word from the word wall and then finding or brainstorming a word that starts the same as that word, and a word that ends the same as their word wall word; the last activity has students choosing one word to illustrate its meaning.

If you would like to take a closer look at my Word Wall Word Work unit, just click the image below to head to my TpT store.  You can download a couple pages for free from the PREVIEW file to take a closer look.

42 no-prep printable pages for reinforcing Word Wall Words.


Use photo albums from the dollar store to keep your spelling lists at your word work center.

I bought these cheap photo albums from Dollar Tree last year.  {Please pardon the blur on the photo.  They’re holographic and that doesn’t photograph well. :)}

Spelling Lists in Photo Albums

I print out the spelling lists 4 to a page and then insert them into the album.  Then, students have them easily accessible so they can practice current and past words.  They use these albums with some of the tools below to practice them with tiles, markers, rainbow writing, etc.


Words a Lot- Partner Word Work Game

Last year I created an easy-prep, blackline Word Work Centers set.  I wanted to have something that needed no spelling lists, that was engaging, and didn’t require a lot of work on my part.  Most of the centers are partner activities which help keep students engaged in their centers.  This one, Words Mix-A-Lot, is played like Boggle where students try to find as many words as they can and record them.

Spin a Word Partner Game

Spin a Word is another partner activity.  Students spin for a letter on each section.  Then they create as many words as they can using ONLY those 4 letters.  They total up their points for the number of words created and then they record it, spin again, and play again.

Make it Fast independent word work center

Make it Fast can be played independently or with a partner.  The object is to find as many words as you can given a set of letters.  The rules can be changed by the teacher to make the game more difficult (ie you cannot create an 2 or 3 letter words).

4 in a Row with Words

4 in a Row is played like Connect 4.  Students can only use consonants and try to build a 4 letter word.  The partner is trying to sabotage your game while also trying to create their own four letter word.

These 4 centers are found in my Word Work Centers.  Click any of the pictures above, or the cover below to head to my TpT store to check them out.

Easy-prep, blackline Word Work Centers make your word work setup a snap!


These sight word shakers take a little bit of work to put together.  However, they can be used for a few years, and are a fun way to give students sight word practice.  They could also be used for other skills (like math, reading words with a specific phonics skill, etc).  Click the image above to head to that post and check them out.


I love to use die cut games to practice sight words and phonics skills.  They take generally less than 10 minute to prep, have easy rules, and can be used again and again.  When I worked as a Title 1 teacher, I had a TON of these games in my cabinet organized by specific skills.  Click the image above to head over to the Ellison blog and see how I created AAAAHH! to practice sight words.


I think every teacher has dry erase boards and markers in their Word Work centers, but here are some ideas and/or resources that you might not currently be utilizing.


Bananagrams are a cute little letter game similar to Scrabble where students build words against each other.  The tiles could also be used separately as students build their words.


Scrabble Tiles can be purchased quite cheaply from Amazon and can be used in lieu of magnetic letters in your word work center.  You can also buy used Scrabble games from your local thrift store and just take the tiles out of them.


I know that creating a DIY Boggle Board in your room is all the Pinterest rage at the moment, but I still think that having the game on hand is a fun center idea.  The letter dice can also be used separately as a center where students roll the dice to try and create a word.


Keyboards are great as a way for students to type to practice their words.  This helps build their keyboarding skills naturally as well.  You can often find old keyboards at local thrift stores for a couple dollars.  You can also ask your classroom parents and friends if they have a few lying around.  If you’re still struggling to find some, you can get a printable version here.


It seems we’re always looking for ways students can practice their skills with technology.  It keeps students engaged in their independent practice and allows us to work with other students in the classroom.  These websites and apps are great ways for students to do Word Work practice in the classroom.

Probably the most well known word work website is Spelling City.  While they have a subscription service now, you are still able to add your word list and have students practice their spelling words right on the site.  With the subscription there are additional games, resources, and app functions than you get with the free version.


Chicktionary is a fun game that is used similar to Making Words. Students are given a bunch of letters and try to find as many real words as they can. This sort of activity helps students apply what they’ve learned in phonics.  You can click the link above to head to their website to find links to download the game from the Apple App Store, Google Play Store, or the Amazon Store.  You can play a web-based similar game at Primary Games called Fowl Words here.

Hooked on Words is similar to Boggle. Students swipe across the letters to create words. Right now Hooked on Words is only available through the Apple Store. To head there, just click the image above. You can play a similar game, BookWorm, online here.


Octopus Feed is a fun game that practices homonyms. It’s one of a variety of games on Arcademic Skill Builders that practices various phonics and language arts skills. They offer a ton- all for free. If you click the image above you can head to their site and try it out. Or, you can click here to download the app from the Apple Store.


Do you have great ideas for your Word Work centers?  I’d love if you’d share them below!


One Comment

  • I love all of these ideas on how to implement word word and spelling in my classroom. Thanks for the tips!


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