Sunday, February 06, 2005

Faughnan Reading and Spelling database

I'm engaged in a small project to see if I can help integrate the diverse approaches that our son's school is taking to teaching him reading.

The research I read, and the opinions of leading reading researchers, currently favor an integrated, structured and coordinated approach to teaching reading that spans home, schools, special education, tutors and aides and regular classrooms. The current research paradigm is that the bulk of effort should focus on phonemic education; it's an open question as to what value "whole word"/"whole language"/word-recognition approaches add to this. Certainly our son's educators believe strongly that the whole language approach (Edmark, etc) brings some additional value. In the absense of research, and in the absence of individualized prescriptions (functional MRI, genome analysis, etc) expert opinion has to be credited.

I think it is true of every organization, not just a school, that coordination and integration is extremely challenging. In a school, where a class is a compromise between the needs of the one, the needs of the many, and funding this challenge takes on another meaning. Integration may not occur on a time scale that will be meaningful to our special needs reader.

We are, for better but more likely for worse, trying to take on some of that integration role. To that end I am compiling a word database (currently Microsoft Access 2000) that relates different word lists used by my son's varied teachers (Fry, Dolch, and top 100) to his spelling assignments and to his knowledge (read, spell). I'll probably add sample sentences too. Words will be associated with phonemic attributes (isPhonemic, etc).

The goal is to use this to track his progress, to try somehow to coordinate what he's being taught at school, and to generated some exercises to complement his homework. As a side-effect it also contains the above lists (based on the linked sources, at least one word appeared twice in a single source, suggesting a bug on data entry).

A published version of the access database is here. As I work on it I'll add reports, views, documentation etc. If anyone has a particular interest in this database, or would like other formats (FileMaker for Macintosh, Excel, tab delimited) or reports please email me at

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