Word Cheering

Word Work
Grade Level


In word cheering, students sing, chant and move to the components of new words.


Before, during and after reading


Learning high frequency and commonly misunderstood words is the essence of this strategy. Many 3-5 students have learned to read, write and spell high-utility words (Tier Two) incorrectly. By cheering, students bring together letters, sounds and meaning, a combination that informs their later thinking while reading. The strategy engages students by employing auditory, visual, kinesthetic, linguistic and interpersonal learning.


Steps to Word Cheering:
  1. Choose your vocabulary words. From these, select five to ten to use for word cheering.
  2. Explain to students that the brain responds to sound, rhythm and movement in ways that help them learn.
  3. Chart or project words in a visible location.
  4. Point to each word. Have students chant the word as a cheerleader would, adding cheerleader movements to go along with the chant.
  5. As a group, verbally dissect the word into chunks (beginning, middle, ending).
  6. Ask students to close their eyes and visualize the beginning, middle and ending chunks of the word.
  7. Have students practice spelling by singing, chanting, clapping or otherwise moving to the individual letters of the word.

English language learners

Word cheering is closely associated with Total Physical Response (TPR), a strategy used often with English language learners in which new learning is reinforced by moving, touching, pointing and role playing.1 Charades is another game-like strategy that uses kinesthetic movement. Both promote vocabulary development through activities English language learners can enjoy without modification.

Connection to anti-bias education

Word cheering uses several learning modalities, which support the learning needs of diverse students. To make the strategy more inclusive and equitable, have students work in teams to create their own cheers/chants together. By working together, students contribute to a learning environment in which they can safely share their thinking, feeling and opinions. This type of collaboration is foundational to anti-bias education.


Sample word cheers:

Create your own cheers, chants and movement games using high-frequency, commonly misunderstood words encountered in the Perspectives central texts.

Some examples include asking students to:

  • Clap for vowels, stomp for consonants.
  • Spell to familiar tunes (“Three Blind Mice” for three-letter words, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” for four-letter words, etc.).
  • “Swing a bat” for each letter as they spell aloud.
  • Do a push-up for each letter as they spell aloud.
  • “Swim” the letters as they spell aloud.
  • Do a jumping jack for each letter as they spell aloud.
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