Word Chaining, also known as word ladders, is a powerful practice to teach students spelling patterns. It allows students to practice reading and writing words with a targeted spelling pattern and improve their understanding of sound/spelling correspondence.
Modeling Word Chaining
Step-by-step modeling of how to complete the word chaining sequence is essential to ensure students understand the process and relationship between sounds and the spelling pattern. When I introduce Word Chaining to my students, I start with CVC words.
First, I model for students how to write the initial word by sounding out the word and raising one finger for each sound. Next, I say the word again slowly while adding the letter sound to my board or sound box chart. This is when I ask my students to read the word with me. First, each sound in isolation and then the whole word. Then, I state the next word in the chaining sequence. I think aloud about the sounds and state what sound changes. I replace the letter/sound for the correct letter/sound. Finally, I ask my students to read the newly written word, and continue with the sequence following the same steps.
Guided and Independent Practice
After I have modeled 3-5 times the Word Chaining process, I engage students in the process by giving each student with a letter/sound card. As we work through the chaining sequence, students add the letter/sound cards to make the words. This brings awareness to the spelling and sounds.
After 2 weeks of guided practice, students are ready to practice the targeted spelling on their own. I provide them with chaining sequence cards and the letter/sound spelling cards. I teach my students to only use the letter/sound spelling cards for each sequence and then work through the sequence. I have students work in partners, partner 1 reads the words in the chaining sequence, partner 2 builds the words. Then, they switch roles. You can find these Word Chaining sequence cards in my TPT store.
Although, I follow a scripted curriculum spelling patterns scope and sequence, I differentiate instruction using other spelling activities that also include word chaining for Emergent Readers, Early Readers, and Transitional Readers; also available in my TPT store.