Over the summer, I wrote about making a master word list and creating our own grade-level spelling list. We're now a few months into the project and I thought I'd take a moment to reflect on our progress.
The Master List
I started the master list last year. My goal was to create a list that could be filtered and arranged to find the absolute best words for vocabulary study. I took words from the Academic Word List, the Fry Words 200-500, the Common Core, and several other sources. Then, I gathered data on the words--how many syllables? What is the root? Is it a compound word? What syllable type is the first syllable? What phonograms does the word contain?
The result is an Excel spreadsheet of over 1,800 words. It's been useful for making spelling and vocabulary lists. For example, when I wanted to teach the root fin, I could quickly find important words that had the root. To teach words with long vowels, I looked under the open syllables category. (I am still sending out copies of the list if you'd like one.)
Our Fourth Grade Topics
We created a list of fourth grade spelling topics based on the Common Core and the Fountas and Pinnell Literacy Continuum. Here is an overview of the lists that we selected:
-Long/short vowel sound review
-Greek and Latin roots
-Silent letter combinations
-Homographs and homophones
-Multiple meaning words
-Synonyms and Antonyms
-Noun forming suffixes
-Adjective forming suffixes
You'll notice that it's heavier on word meanings than spelling patterns. This is a tough issue. But with limited time for instruction, we decided to lean more heavily toward the vocabulary and look at spelling patterns as they fit into the words we selected.
To adjust for varying ability levels, we have two "tiers" within each list. Our words were selected from the Master Word List. The first tier includes words with more basic spellings. The second tier includes words that are more complex. Students are assigned a list based on their pretest score. Right now, we're at the silent letter combinations.
How it's going
We're moving along! It is a challenge for students. I'm glad to come back to self-corrected pretests, as I think that this is a really meaningful activity for students. I think that I have some of the old-fashioned country schoolma'am within me. I like the structure of a list, a set of homework activities, some carefully planned lessons, and a test. I think that there is some value to memorizing spelling words--as long as the words are carefully selected to be relevant and meaningful.