We're making a new spelling program! With the Common Core coming into effect, our team realized that we have to do more with spelling and vocabulary. Even our strong readers and spellers need to extend their academic vocabulary knowledge. (I could go into detail about why we feel that we need to abandon our current program, but the less said, the better!)
So where to begin? We looked at some of the commercial programs, but none of them had what we wanted. I developed the half-crazy idea to make our own. It's not so crazy, I guess--I've made a spelling program before. This time, though, I wanted to make something that had a firm foundation.
Scope and sequence
Our first step was to figure out what we wanted to teach over the course of the year. We used multiple sources to build this. Our first stop was the Fountas and Pinnell Continuum of Literacy Learning. We looked at what was listed for our grade level and matched it to what we were currently teaching. Then, we put these skills up against the Common Core. We thought about how many lists each topic requires, and how many lists we can comfortably teach in one school year. We put it all together on Excel and created a rough outline. The Excel filter feature allowed us to rearrange topics until we had an order that we all could agree to.
Master list of words
This has been my winter/spring/early summer project. My husband estimates that it has taken 100 hours. (I just know it has been at least 5 seasons of Dr. Who.)
I wanted to create a searchable, useful list of words. First, I entered words into an Excel spreadsheet from several different sources:
-The Academic Word List by Averil Coxhead
-Words 200-500 from the Fry List (K-2 uses the first 200 words)
-The Nifty Thrifty Fifty by Patricia Cunningham
-Words from the Common Core, especially words like analyze and explain that would be likely to turn up in question stems
-Character Traits words (from a list included in this article by Patrick Manyak)
Once they were all entered, I created multiple columns to use to filter them. This was the time consuming part! As you can see from the screenshot, there are several ways to generate lists. You can sort the words by syllable or by root. If you are looking for compound words, you can filter a list of compound words only. You can also filter by phonogram, multiple meaning words, or digraphs.
Did the list work? I felt like Dr. Frankenstein on Thursday when we sat down to try to generate some lists. I was thrilled when we were able to make it work! We now have the words for about 15 of our spelling lists chosen. Of course, fourth grade will not do all 1800 words on the master list. But other grade levels will be able to use the same master list to help them select the words that fit the concepts they have chosen to teach.
We are using a tiered list system, just like the Differentiated Spelling Program that I already made. The tiered lists are a great way to meet the needs of different kids while still having coherent instruction. For example, when we do Greek and Latin roots, everyone will study Greek and Latin roots. The struggling spellers will focus on words with simple spelling patterns, like graph and erupt, while the stronger spellers will have more challenging words. Each week, students will take a pretest to determine which tier they will be studying.
But the best part about it is that the words will all be important, useful words that are likely to come up in their reading. When we teach silent letter combinations, for examples, we'll include insight from the Academic Word List, as well as thought and though from the Fry List.
I'm still working some bugs out of the Master Word List and double-checking for internal consistency (quite a task with 1,806 words). If you'd like a copy, write me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let me know what you plan to do with it (non-commercial and non-profit uses only, please!). And maybe you could leave a comment or follow the blog?