(After typing out a lengthy and quite “teacher-y” answer to this question, I decided to go with a simple answer for mamas to understand.)
Word Study is looking at groups of words that share a similar spelling pattern. The ultimate goal is to enable students to use a spelling pattern within a familiar word to help them spell and/or read an unknown word that shares the same pattern. A simple example: If I know how to spell/read cat, I can spell/read bat.
And how’s a reading mama to know which patterns a child needs to study? Researchers have studied kids’ invented spellings and noted that almost all spellers move through five different stages on their journey to spelling words correctly (conventionally). We can use how our kids spell words to help us identify which stage they are in; which is so cool to me. Take a look through the brief description of spelling behaviors in each of the stages (listed under Reading and Spelling Development) and see if that helps you identify your child’s spelling development.
If you are confused after reading these, feel free to contact me and I will try to help you. You can also find some spelling inventories in the second chapter of Words Their Way to administer at home.