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Word Hunts

Word hunts are one way to focus spelling study on patterns within words. Typically used within word study, word hunt activities engage students with texts they have previously read. Students hunt for other words that follow the same spelling features studied during their word or picture sort. Word hunt activities help students make the connection between spelling words and reading words.

Key Information



When To Use This Strategy

During reading

Appropriate Group Size

With small groups
Whole class setting

Why use word hunts?

  • It helps to enhance students’ vocabulary growth.
  • It teaches students to focus on spelling patterns and root words.
  • It helps students learn how words are used in different contexts.

How to use a word hunt

  1. Introduce the book or topic to be read and provide students with written material (i.e., newspapers, magazines, dictionaries, books, and/or news articles on the Internet).
  2. Model word hunting by using a portion of text copied onto chart paper, overhead transparencies, or a familiar book
  3. Ask the students to read and reread a text to find words that fit a particular pattern.

Read more about word hunts ›

Collect resources

Language Arts

Have students use the book The Cat in the Hat or another Dr. Seuss book to find all the words that end with a particular vowel pattern word.


Have students hunt for number words within assigned word problems and write them down on a dry erase board.


Word hunts can be used as students study a topic such as animal habitats. Write out different habitats across the top of the board. Students can search the text to find the names of animals that correspond to each habitat. Ask students to work together to write them on the board.

Social Studies

Ask students to use the word hunt strategy to find target vocabulary words from their social studies reading and use them to write short sentences in a journal.

Differentiated instruction

For second language learners, students of varying reading skill, and younger learners

  • Have students write down words they find that fit the desired patterns in journals or on charts.
  • Ask student to form small groups and read the words they find aloud.
  • Have students check to see what new words they can add to their journals or charts.
  • Ask students to find words that they can group together in categories.
  • Record the words on chart paper for a whole-class display.

See the research that supports this strategy

Barger, J. (2006). Building word consciousness. The Reading Teacher. 60(3), 279-281.

Bear, D. R., Invernizzi, M., Templeton, S., Johnston, F. (2004). Words their way: Word study for phonics, vocabulary, and spelling instruction. (3rd ed). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Topics this strategy is especially helpful for

Classroom Management, Vocabulary