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Nonsense Words

The following is an analysis of the Benchmark Assessment pages 4 and 5 that is on the DIBELS website. 

Your Nonsense Word Could be changed to: Your Nonsense Word Could be changed to: Your Nonsense Word Could be changed to: Your Nonsense Word Could be changed to: Your Nonsense Word Could be changed to:
wub   doj - *1 codge/dadge ik ick vus   nuk nuck / kun
ul ull zel zell feb   wuj wudge hiz * bizz
min   ros* coss kub* kun / ruck jaf jaff duz zud / kuzz
faj * fap ad* aff / da ked   ig   el ell
loj jom/modge et   yat   ol * lo* / oll* tov* vot
uf* uff ral   ep   kab* hab vif viff
tic* gick / cug dev* ved / dop   zac zack/cazz doc* dob coss
tik* zick / vit sij sidge/jiss zoj zodge/jozz mig   zut  
foj fodge/joff ib   jud   zek zeck/kezz vov* vot
ruz* ruzz/zur huf hud sib   ak jack/ka jec jeck/cedge
foj* fodge/joff hon* han tum   len   aj adge/jad
suv vuss kam* kim res ress kic kib/bick fav vaff
id ib wod* wib nej nedge sok koss/seck wif wiff
bis biss wem   av va jaj jadge ac ack
luj ludge/jull wan* wen uc uck bas sab/dass id (repeat) ig
bef beff/feb zij zidge/jizz ven   wil* wib vep  
lod   os oss hic* zick vos voss sov viss
ril* riss ves vess jos joss sej sedge jeb  
pac pab ec eck dok bock vut   feg  
vib   kov vock huv  vud seb   jit  

While I agree 100% with the concept of using nonsense words for diagnostic testing, I do believe that either the words chosen should follow the patterns used in English spelling or they should follow the patterns used in producing dictionary diacritical type spellings.  And certainly 28% correctly spelled is unacceptable, especially since they are nonsense words!

For example, in our language the /k/ sound in words of a one syllable base is spelled ick as in pick and nick, picking, and nicking.  However, the /ik/ sound when it occurs in words of a polysyllabic base is /ic/ as in picnic, panic, and scenic.  No single syllable based word ends -ac, ec, ic, oc, or uc.  Polysyllabic words such as maniac, Toltec, panic, and manioc can

The ending /j/ sound in monosyllabic base words using short vowels is dge as in badge, edge, ridge, dodge, and fudge.  To my knowledge the only word ending aj are haj and Taj  but then the ending j is pronounced /zh/.  As you probably are gearing this to the teaching only of single phonemes that are not represented by digraphs or trigraphs with the possible except of the ending ck,  I made more changes in the corrected version below.

The ending /s/ sound in monosyllabic base words using short vowels  is -ss as in grass, dress, kiss, toss, and cuss.

The ending /v/ is practically nonexistent in English spelling.  Perhaps, the monks had problems with their script and felt they just had to add the silent e to make the word look pretty.  Who knows?  Who cares?  So /hav/ is spelled have and to avoid misspelling /sav/ as save, we stick in a silent l to spell /sav/ salve. 

The ending /l/ sound is almost always ll in monosyllabic base words having the letter vowels e, i, o, and u as in will and willingness. In polysyllabic base words we have the single l as in peril, compel, numeral, Errol, and mogul.  The same is true with the ending /f/ and /z/ sounds.  Only al as in pal and gal has the single l.  The "awl" words have the double l as in all, ball, etc.

It is my opinion that in any assessments using nonsense words, misspellings of real words should not occur as does hiz for his, kub for cub, huf for huff, dok for dock, sok for sock, kab for cab, wil for will, duz for does, and pac for pack.  Nor should real words appear as nonsense words as do  tic ad et doc id "hon" el wan.  It is crucial, I believe, that no errors in phonics should occur as it does in the choice of the word wan.  That cannot rhyme with any other -an words such as tan, man, ran, etc.  The w- control prevents that.  In English spelling the letter a when it follows the consonant w (or its twin u as in squander) changes the pronunciation to "ah" as in wan, wand, wander, squander, etc.

For a more complete discussion, see "The Mechanics of English Spelling," in The Teaching of Reading and Spelling: a Continuum from Kindergarten through College as well as The W- and -R Controlled Clans, Volume 4 of The Patterns of English Spelling.

 My corrections would make your test of nonsense words of two or three phonemes (with no digraphs except the ck and the double letter digraphs ss, ll, and zz.) look something like this:

wub jod ick vuss kun
ull zell feb jum bizz
min coss ruck jaff zuzz
fap aff ked ig vel
jom em yat lom vot
uff ral ep hab viff
cug ved dop zack dod
vit jiss jozz mig im
joff ib jud zeck vob
zur hud sib ack jeck
joff han tum len jad
vuss kim ress kib vaff
vad wib jen koss wiff
biss wem vub jad ack
jull wen uck sab ip
beff jizz ven wib vep
lod oss zick voss voss
riss vess joss jess jeb
pab eck bock vut feg
vib vock vud seb jit

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