Ask Rebecca Sitton

Ask Rebecca Sitton – From the Newsletter Rebecca Sitton’s Apple Seeds

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Rebecca Sitton’s SOURCEBOOK Series for Teaching Spelling and Word Skills for Grades 1–8
Published by Egger Publishing, Inc. • Call us toll free at 888-WE-SPELL • Visit us at
Ask Rebecca
Dear Jan,
Here is your answer. Please share it with your colleagues,
because understanding why run is a third grade Core Word
and how I handle its absence of challenge for spelling provides
necessary insights for how the Sourcebook program works.
When teachers agree that the reason they are teaching spelling
is for writing, it only makes sense to introduce words for
spelling in the order research indicates is their frequency of use
in writing. Core Words, then, are presented in their order of
frequency of use in writing in the Sourcebook Series.
Run is word 306 on a frequency-of-use list. Core Words 171-335
are introduced in the Level 3 Sourcebook. So, what to do? Your
third grade teacher is right—run is too easy for third graders!
Any first grade teacher (one being me!) would say run belongs
in first grade. How do we reconcile this dilemma, yet maintain
the integrity of the word list by frequency?
In fact, run—and its other word forms—is initially taught in the Level 1 Sourcebook even though it is not
a Level 1 Core Word. Here is how:
First grade students make words from the letter cards c, e, m, n, o, r, t, and u. Will they make the
word run? Sure they will!
The letters a, e, h, i, n, r, t, and w are the building blocks to make ran in another first grade letter-card
The word run may emerge when first graders brainstorm words that are, as opposed to are not, spelled
the way they sound.
The word run may emerge when students explore the ongoing concept: Short vowel sounds are usually
spelled with one vowel letter.
Run may surface when first graders gather words that double the final consonant when adding ing. In
one of the units in which this rule is presented, the Sentence Dictation Test contains running as an
“extra” word.
continued . . .
I went to one of your seminars and
you explained how your program
challenges kids to learn how words
work, not just learn how to spell the
high-frequency words. Then one of
our third grade teachers asked me,
“Why is the word run introduced at
the end of third grade? A first
grader could spell run !” I know you
addressed this and it made sense
then, but I cannot explain it now.
Jan Carson
Literacy Coach K-8
Rebecca Sitton’s SOURCEBOOK Series for Teaching Spelling and Word Skills for Grades 1–8
Published by Egger Publishing, Inc. • Call us toll free at 888-WE-SPELL • Visit us at
Ask Rebecca (continued)
When first graders collect short u words, run is likely to appear among this bank of words.
Will run emerge in the form of ran when first graders brainstorm verbs to which you cannot add ed?
It’s probable.
Run will likely resurface when the ____un rime words are gathered.
So, run is very much a part of the Sourcebook’s first grade spelling and word exploration—exactly what
first grade teachers know is appropriate. Opportunities to revisit run recur in grade two. Then, to keep
the integrity of the word list intact, run emerges in its order of frequency of use, number 306, in Level 3.
Because it’s likely that students already know how to spell run, run is the springboard to more
sophisticated skills when it occurs in Unit 28. How so? Here are examples from Unit 28 in which run
becomes a Core Word in Level 3:
Run is among multiple words that are sorted by the rule that applies to how a suffix is attached to a
base word. Then students find and write more words that follow the spelling patterns related to each
suffix rule and attach the appropriate suffixes to the words. Run and its other word forms come to the
fore, as well as the word forms of all the words included in the sorting activity. Later, students remove
the suffixes from the words and revisit the base words that initiated the activity.
Run is the catalyst for exploring words that double the final consonant before adding ing.
Run and ran are used to illustrate an irregular verb form. Students brainstorm more irregular verbs
to create an artful “irregular verb train.” Then irregular verb work extends to the Take-Home Task
blackline master, and irregular verbs are tested in the unit’s Skill Test.
The re prefix is added to run, the meaning of rerun is discussed, and the lesson expands to more
words with the re prefix. Students discuss their meaning. Then sentence starters that include re words
are dictated to students, and students complete the sentences independently.
The er suffix is added to run, a springboard for more words to which the suffix meaning “one who”
can be added, changing a verb to a noun. Then the lesson extends to other purposes the unstressed
final er serves in words (comparatives, part of base word). Next, the third graders gather words spelled
with the unstressed er ending and sort them by the purpose of the er in the words’ spellings.
The idiom “run short” is identified, the meaning clarified.
Students are asked to identify words with multiple meanings in the Cloze Story Word Test, one of
which is run. They write sentences to illustrate the words’ various meanings, and as they do this task
they discover that run has countless meanings! To identify them all would be a challenge even for an
adult, but third graders give it a try!
Run appears in the Sentence Dictation Test in the form of a question for which students are challenged
to research the answer: How old must you be to run for President of the United States? Next, students
may be asked in the dictation follow-up activity to research other qualifications for persons running for
the presidency, and report their findings in writing.
So, Jan, tell your colleagues that I’ve maintained the integrity of my research-based cross-referenced
continued . . .
Ask Rebecca (continued)
high-use writing word list in the Sourcebook Series—they can count on its accuracy. Yet, when a Core
Word that obviously lacks spelling challenge appears in the Series in its order of frequency of use, I
springboard from it to create opportunities for skill development that are far more challenging than the
spelling of the word.
Now, let’s turn this inquiry around and answer this question: What happens when a Core Word in the
Series is too difficult for spelling and/or usage mastery—when its frequency of use places it at a level
early on, yet its mastery is unlikely at that level? Read on for the answer.
Homophones there and their are the most frequently misspelled or misused words in the English
language. Their frequency of use places them in the first unit of second grade. Yet, mastery for the use
of these words occurs over time with practice and ongoing discussion. Therefore, every unit in the Series
following Unit 1 of Level 2 provides an opportunity for revisiting these homophones, and the related
words they’re, there’s, and theirs are added to this extensive practice to ensure that they all are learned.
Unlike run, these words need continuing emphasis for their mastery—and the Sourcebooks provide it!
So, the frequency dictates the placement of a Core Word in the Sourcebook Series, but the way the word
is handled varies depending upon its difficulty. If it’s too easy, it is paired with challenging springboards
to related skills; if it’s too difficult, it is introduced, but followed up with ongoing opportunities for
Jan, thank you for your inquiry. Let’s continue to work together to support English language literacy!
Do you have a question? Call me at home or toll free at the office, send me an email, or set up a complimentary
conference call for a group of colleagues who have questions. • email:
• home phone: 480-473-7277 • office phone: toll free at 888-WE-SPELL (937-7355) or 480-596-5100
Rebecca Sitton’s SOURCEBOOK Series for Teaching Spelling and Word Skills for Grades 1–8
Published by Egger Publishing, Inc. • Call us toll free at 888-WE-SPELL •


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