Second Story Window Spelling Homework Printables

EDITED AUGUST 14, 1014: Now includes suggested chunks for 1st and 3rd grade (scroll to the bottom).


Spelling is one of those things that EVERYONE has an opinion about and very few people agree on.  I think that the best way to learn how to spell is to spend extensive time reading and writing.  I also believe that a weekly word list has very little carryover into written work.

That being said, spelling lists are expected.  So I should make the spelling words as useful as possible, right?

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

Is such a program possible?  I'm not sure, but I think we've got something that's pretty close.  We call it our "chunk" spelling.  I can't take credit for it--I learned about it at a district workshop 9 or 10 years ago.  (I don't think the workshop presenters invented this either, but in my research for this post I can't figure out where it originated!)

When I started teaching, I used the word lists from the basal (each student had the same words with some extra words for the high kids).  After that my team tried variations on Words Their Way spelling lists,  but once we learned about "chunk spelling" we didn't look back.

The basis for "chunk spelling," as you might imagine, is the "chunk."  This is the rime (word family) that we focus on all week.  Students are given a small strip of paper with the week's rime.  They use a sound board that contains beginning consonants and blends/digraphs.  They place the rime next to each onset on the board and say the word aloud.  If it's a real word (cop, not dop), they write the word in their notebook.

After listing all the words they can make with the onsets, the students set the sound board and chunk strip aside.  Then they are challenged to think of any "big words" that have the week's 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. 

At this point (after a few weeks of training) they're working independently.  I don't correct any errors.  You'll notice that she has "hab" written as a word (she's thinking of it as related to habitat) and she's misspelled laboratory.

After everyone has made some headway with their word lists (the high kids are usually discussing big words, the strugglers are still working through the onsets), I post a large chart paper on the board and we 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.

(My awesome mother makes up a year's worth of charts for me during the summer.  They all follow this same format.)

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.

  1. 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.
  2. The chunk must be in its entirety.  So baking doesn't make the list even though the root word is bake.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!  This is something that we go over and over and over because there's always one or two that can't remember this step (even with photographs of me on the board!).  After I've checked that the 10 words are spelled correctly, they copy the list onto that week's homework page.  I check it a 2nd time and then it goes in the homework folder.

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.  A few years, when I've had high classes, about mid-year I've made the rule that no one can choose from the small word column.  Last year was NOT a year like that, but you know how it goes...!

The kids practice their spelling words in their morning work.  They practice them during Daily 5.  And they work on them for homework.  On Friday, we test.  For the first few weeks, regardless of the student's individual list, I give a class-wide test on the 10 easiest words.  Starting about October, I start to train them how to test each other.

Using my Words Their Way data, I pair students of similar abilities (because they've likely chosen words at a similar level of difficulty).  We've already learned how to number our papers to 10.  Now they have to get a clipboard (or book) and choose a place to work.  Partners switch spelling notebooks.  They're taught that one student is the giver one is the test taker.  After one test is complete it's turned in to me.  Roles are switched and the second test is given.  As pairs finish, they come get a new chunk strip and start to work on next week's words.

It takes at least a half-hour (longer at the beginning) to complete the testing, make new individual lists, and make a class list.  It also takes another 15-20 minutes for students to make their own take-home spelling lists.  So this takes up a big chunk of our class time on Fridays!  (We don't do Daily 5 on Fridays for this reason.)

So why do I think this is worth so much class time?  And why don't I use Words Their Way for spelling?  To answer that let me redirect you to that list from the beginning of this post.

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

All of these goals can be addressed by teaching chunk spelling.  You know that I love Words Their Way.  I think it's very powerful to to look at a student's strengths and give him or her the support to move to the next level of success.  But in my experience, WTW isn't as effective in the "new words on Monday/test on Friday" model.  Doing the weekly sorts isn't enough to develop strategic spellers.

 With WTW, students are refining concepts and rules.  With chunk spelling, they're practicing word attack strategies.

Children will become more powerful spellers if they are taught that knowing how to spell one word can help them spell many other words.  This analogy idea broadens as students learn more about written language.

Diane Snowball Spelling K-8 Planning and Teaching, p.13

"Chunk" spelling is technically called spelling by analogy.  Using part you know to figure out what you don't.

 Dorothy P. Hall and Patricia Cunningham use this skill brilliantly in their Making Words activity as well as Rounding up the Rhymes from their Month-by-Month Phonics books.

Spelling by analogy is incredibly powerful for beginning readers and writers.  You can read a study here about the positive effects of explicit onset and rime instruction.  J. Richard Gentry goes so far as to say that spelling by analogy is the fulcrum of beginning reading and writing.

Deciphering the English spelling system and understanding how the printed symbols of the alphabet—namely, letters or chunks of letter combinations and patterns—combine to represent comprehendible, meaningful, pronounceable words and subword parts, are at the fulcrum of beginning reading (and writing). Once this chunking breakthroughis accomplished, the brain can activate circuitry for recognizing words automaticallyand read with much more proficiency, precision, and independence. (We will see that early independent reading, which is much more dependent on repetition and memorization of easy material, may be an entirely different process and activate different brain circuitry than later skilled independent reading.) It may surprise you that it normally takes some children two years to break the code. (And too many never really break it!).

J. Richard Gentry, Breaking the Code, p. xiv

So chunk spelling deserves some of our class time!

 With WTW, students are exploring sounds.  With chunk spelling, they're building words.

Teaching spelling this way shows students the building blocks that make up words. 

The most useful aspect of knowing about onsets and rimes is that by starting with one word children can work out how to read and spell other words.  The more print words children are familiar with, the better able they are to use analogy—for example, not only will they work out how to read or spell man because they know can, but they can also figure out how to read and spell smack because they know the words smile and back.

Diane Snowball Spelling K-8 Planning and Teaching, p.71

With WTW, students are learning content.  With chunk spelling, they're learning a strategy. 

When I teach math, I do some lessons where we explore one topic (even and odd, counting coins, etc.).  I also do lessons based entirely on practicing strategies.  The whole class may be doing the same problem, but they’re exploring and discussing different ways to solve that problem.  It’s the same with spelling.  WTW gives them the content (the long a sound can be made with: a_e, ai, ay, eigh).  Weekly chunk spelling helps them build strategies for decoding and writing any unknown word (I hear a long a sound, which spelling pattern should I use? I'll use -ai because entertain has the same chunk as rain.)

With WTW, words are assigned.  With chunk spelling students choose what they practice.

It's true that WTW is leveled, but there's something incredibly powerful about giving students ownership over the words they practice.  They're more motivated which, in turn, makes them more successful.

WTW can be overwhelming.  Chunk spelling meets beginning spellers where they're at. 

In a WTW sort there are 20-30 words.  That's a lot for a 2nd grader to master in a week.  Especially if they don't know which 10 or 15 they'll be tested on.  For beginning spellers it's particularly tricky because many of their sorts are pictures.  They might be sorting long a and short a pictures, but the long a pictures may represent a variety of spelling patterns (cake, rain, play, etc.).  One sort that comes to mind is for beginning short vowel sounds.  Those pictures are Etch-a-Sketch, ostrich, alligator, igloo, umbrella...great sounds to listen for, not great spelling words!

Also, many of the WTW sorts involve vowel sounds with the same pattern, but different spelling.  It seems mean spirited to test students on it after only a week of practice, especially when the WTW assessments don’t come until the end of a “unit” (which is often preceded by a week of a review sort).  When I used WTW sorts for weekly spelling words there was a lot of frustration and confusion. 


Well, I hope that answers some questions about what I do for spelling.  I don't think chunk spelling is better than Words Their Way.  I think kids need the support of both. 

WTW teaches students why a word is spelled the way it is.  Chunk spelling teaches students what to do with that information.

If you're interested in some chunk spelling resources you can download the files:

Decide if you want b&w or color.  Print them back-to-back.

My team and I picked 35 rimes that we thought were important for 2nd graders to practice.  We started with the simplest, 2-letter chunks (at, op, etc.).  We progressed through 3-letter short vowel, long vowel (silent e), other long vowel patterns (aw, ight), but we ended with some simple ones.  I promise there is method to our madness! 

Most 2nd graders don't need practice with im, ob, ab, and et word families, but there are some fabulous "big words" you can make with those chunks (absolutely, observation, impossible, supermarket).  So we put those 4 rimes last and focus more on the long vowel teams during the year. 

For 1st grade or struggling readers you would probably want to add more short vowel chunks.  There are 35 weeks, but 36 chunks listed.  That's because I complete the first chart (op) before school starts.  On the first day I discuss the completed chart with the students and they choose their spelling words for the week.  At the end of the first week they help me make the next week's list (at).  We do the sound board/list making as a whole class for the first few weeks or until I feel they understand my expectations.

You'll notice we've steered clear of the -uck chunk, but there are a couple in there that could cause some headaches (-am and -ell spring to mind).  Depending on the tone of your class there are a few ways to handle this: 

1) Let them know up-front that they're not pulling one over one you.  "I know there's a word you can make that is not appropriate for school.  You don't need to mention it, write it, or tell a friend about it.  We're just not going to worry about the letter h today." 

2) If you've got a class that isn't going to let you take the high road (some years are like that!), do something a little different with a tricky chunk.    Ahead of time, make an onset deck.  Use some index cards.  Write a beginning consonant, blend, or digraph on each card.  Remove any offending letters (h) and distribute the rest of the cards.  Don't use the sound boards and work on the list as a whole-class. ("Does anybody have a letter they can put with -ell to make a word?")

3) You can always replace the chunk with something less explosive.

I printed the chunk strips on different colors of cardstock and stored them in baseball card sleeves in a 3-ring binder.  Slap a label on each pocket and rubberband each set of strips together (the little ponytail rubberbands work perfectly for a set of chunk strips)'re set for a few years!

I used large paper clips to kind of keep each card pocket shut.  It wasn't perfect, but it did a pretty good job of keeping the cards from sliding out.

I clearly set up each grid on the chunk strips to have the dotted lines so you'd know to cut them apart (and I had to do each page individually because it wouldn't do it automatically).  I save it as a .pdf and...solid lines.  Grrrrrr.  Anyway, happy spelling!


Several people have asked for suggestions for 1st and 3rd grade chunks.  It's taken me a while, but I have some lists for you. . There are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. You are responsible for ensuring that the chunks and suggested words are appropriate for your class.  If someone just lost a family member to a drowning, them maybe drown isn't going to be a word you include on your class's list this week.
  2. Think of controversial words ahead of time and decide on a way to handle it or prevent it.  If you're doing the -orn chunk, I can guarantee some kid will suggest "p-rn." (I don't want to type out the word incase some filters block this blog post).  And you know -est is almost certain to lead to the word "bre-st."  I had one kid proudly offer the word "v-gina" for -ine .  I just said, "That's not spelled with an -ine" and quickly went on!  When it comes to prepping for this activity, think dirty because the kids will!
  3. When you're making your class's list, it's important to only include words that all use the chunk in the same way.  For example, if you're doing -ough as in rough, you couldn't use the word bough or cough or dough because they all have different sounds. 
  4. I've suggested words that sound right for the chunk with my Utah accent.  If you live elsewhere, your accent may change the sound of the words.  Adjust for that.
  5. I haven't included every word possible with the chunk.  Some words are just too uncommon for most kids to know.  For example, I didn't include the word bethank in the list because most kids won't know it.  The focus of this activity is to improve spelling, not vocabulary.
  6. The 1st grade list has several short vowel patterns.  The groups have a good sized list of "short" and "medium" length words and a few of the "big" words.  This is appropriate for 1st grade.
  7. The 3rd grade words, for the most part, use trickier chunks.  There are usually fewer "small" and "medium" words, but a large number of the "big" words.  Not every "big" word is included on this list.  Use what you know about words to extend the list.  For example, the word dream is on the list.  But then remember that you can make most nouns plural with an s or es (dreams), verbs will have different tenses (dreaming, dreamed), and adjectives can often be comparitives (dreamy, dreamier, dreamiest).  And then there are all the compound words (daydream, dreamtime, etc.)  It's important for kids to see how knowing a small word can build to many big words.
  8. There is some overlap among the 3 lists.  Because I made the 2nd grade list based on my needs as a 2nd grade teacher, there are some chunks on that list that would also be appropriate for 3rd grade or would be very beneficial for 1st graders to practice.  I would suggest looking at all three lists and deciding which chunks would best help your students.  If multiple grades use the same chunks at your school, it's okay.  A student in 2nd grade is going to approach the -ay chunk differently than she will as a 3rd grader.
  9. The lists start with a "practice week," so you can make up a list ahead of time and then have students choose from the completed list for the first week.  After that you can have students help generate the list.
  10. I only have 27 weeks listed for 3rd grade.  I ran out of usable chunks.  If you're wanting this for a full year of 3rd, look at the lists from 2nd and 1st and choose some other chunks for your students.

You can download the lists here:

Download 1st Grade word suggestions

Download 3rd Grade word suggestions

I didn't make the chunk strips for the different grade levels (I'm not that nice!).  If you need to make them for your class, set up a table in a word document with 3 columns and 10 rows.  I like to leave the lines on so I know where to cut.  The 2nd grade chunk strips are typed in Futura HV in 42 pt.  Make sure everything is aligned to the left (so the chunk will line up with the onset on the sound board).  Leave some space on the right so the chunk can be held, but still read.

Product Description

6 different spelling tic-tac-toe forms for students to use as weekly homework. Each week has a space for students to write 10 spelling words and then a choice of 9 different spelling activities! Students are expected to choose 3 to complete each week.

For a year's worth of homework, cycle the same forms by changing the week's number at the top of the page.

The activities are easy for students to complete, but give them (and their parents!) choice in what activities work best for their family.

Visit our blog to read more about how we do spelling in our 2nd grade classrooms.

This item coordinates great with our 2nd Grade Common Core Math and Language Homework and 2nd Grade Common Core Fluency Homework.

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