With an ideal spelling program, children would:
*learn strategies that will help them spell or read any word
*make connections among words in many ways
*internalize basic spelling patterns
*be engaged in the process and have an opportunity to exercise choice
*be challenged at their individual levels
*master words and spelling patterns that can be generalized to other words.
*quickly and efficiently transfer spelling words to their writing
The basis for "chunk spelling," as you might imagine, is the "chunk." This is the rime (word family) that we focus on all week.
After listing all the words they can make they are challenged to think of any "big words" that have the week's chunk (rime). The "big words" are where the magic happens. 2nd graders are supposed to work with compound words, prefixes, and suffixes. This gives them a real-life reason to do so. For -ake we might list baker, bakery, snowflake, mistake, retake, taken, etc. And when someone suggests "bakeing," we can have a quick little lesson right then about the e-drop rule.
Our next step is to create a class list. The small words (single consonant onset + rime) go in the left column. The medium words (blend/digraph + rime) goes in the middle. The last column is for big words.
As we're making our class list, I address misconceptions (like hab) and misspellings (soak can't go with oke). I have some rules about what is allowed on the list.
The word must contain the week's chunk in the sound that we're focusing on. For example, hopeful has op in the middle, however it doesn't make the short o sound so it can't be added.
The chunk must be in its entirety. So baking doesn't make the list even though the root word is bake.
No names. At some point in the year a student will suggest a Pokemon or other character. I don't know these characters. I don't know if they're appropriate for school. I also don't add names of students' friends and family. No brothers named "Jayson" for the -ay chunk. I think it just muddies the water too much. I do make exceptions for widely known characters like Cinderella.
If someone suggests a word no one can define, I don't add it to the list either. I've found that my 5 second definition isn't enough for them to internalize it and I have a bunch of low readers adding nab and slab to their lists and not really knowing anything about these words.
I push everybody to think of at least 3 big words, but sometimes they can't (or won't) get that far (or everybody thinks of the same 3!). When that happens, I have a list of word suggestions that I keep in a little index card box. I can refer to my words if we need to flesh out the list a bit. Also, if a student suggests a word that isn't on my list I add it so I'll have it for next year!
Once our list is in tip-top shape, the kids choose their spelling words for the week. They choose 10 words and write it in their spelling notebook (to leave at school). Then they must show me! After I've checked that the 10 words are spelled correctly, they copy the list in their agendas. I then check the words a second time.
I love that the kids get to choose their own words. In a 2nd grade class you have some kids who will be struggling to spell cat. And you have some kids who are ready for the challenge of caterpillar. I would rather challenge kids with a few difficult words than working on a large number of easy words.
The students love the choice, too! They're much more willing to attempt big words if it's something they suggested. After I get to know which kids are strong spellers, or as the year progresses, I may make the rule that Tommy has to pick only big words or Jill has to have at least 3 big words. It depends on the child. It also depends on the class-wide abilities.
We will be increasing our spelling list through the year. We will be adding sight words that all second graders should be able to read and spell. Also dictation sentences will be added to make sure students are using proper sentence structure and able to spell the words in context not just on the spelling test.
Our "chunk" list is as follows:
1. at 2. ag 3. ot 4. ug 5. ick
6. am 7.ill 8. ell 9. ack 10. est
11. ock 12. unk 13. ake 14. ine 15. oke
16. ice 17.ore 18. eed 19. ain 20. ail
21. ay 22. ow 23. ight 24. ank 25. ew
26. old 27. ink 28. oil 29. out 30. aw
31. ow 32. im 33. ab 34. ob 35. et