Tier 2 word structure

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When teaching kids to read and spell polysyllable words, I’ve been trying to work with high-utility academic words, AKA Tier 2 Words. My main goal is to ensure learners can read and spell long words. All else being equal, they might as well practise this skill with words they can use across the curriculum.

Usually, I can’t realistically use the gold standard process outlined in the classic vocabulary selection text Bringing Words To Life for this. I only see clients once a week or fortnight, tweens and teens with learning difficulties tend not to communicate much about school topics, and their parents don’t always know what they are. Even when I do find out a school topic, prepare relevant work, and it’s time for their session, their class has often moved on.

So I tried a more generic approach: choosing words from the free grade-level Tier 2 wordlists on the Think SRSD website (thanks to its compilers, Karen Harris and colleagues at Hyde Park Central School District, and to the Think SRSD folk). However, these lists don’t sort words by number of syllables, and many words appear on more than one list. Often they are multi-morpheme words, like “endangered” (en+danger+ed), but useful base words like “danger” aren’t included, and nor are other useful derivations like “dangerous” or “endangering”.

To make the kind of list I wanted, I’ve combined the Think SRSD Tier 2 lists, deleted duplicates, sorted words alphabetically and by number of syllables, then added missing base words and extra derived forms in italics. My colleague Nicola Anglin and her parents (all excellent word nerds) made corrections and added words. We ended up with a 21-page document. Far too long to put in a blog post, but the top section is above, and you can download the whole thing as a pdf here.

If you find mistakes in the document (there are probably a few), want to suggest improvements or have other feedback, please send them in the comments.