To find out what words we could make using some of the simplest phonics, I thought I’d better get my geek hat on and find a list of all the words there are. I ended up using SCOWL, a wordlist split into various sized lists according to how often they are used. I picked around the top 20% of words and grepped through them looking for words only using the following:

s, a, t, i, p, n, e, h, r, m, d and ck (the ck is one sound, as in duck or rock).

Using the following command line:

grep -h '^[satipnehrmdck]{1,4}$' english-words.{10,20,35,40,50,55}|grep -v c[^k$]|grep -v [^c]k|grep -v c$|sort -u > ~/Desktop/available-words-ck.txt

This gives us these words:


Using that list of 552 words chose some suitable target words for the kids to try and spell. Suitability is fairly subjective, but we generally tried to stick to words that were nouns, and were things that are easy to illustrate clearly. The words also had to be quite distinct from eachother, for example Hear and Ear would get easily confused as they describe similar concepts with words that sound almost identical.

This is the list of words we finally went for, which has a couple of ‘easter eggs’ added for luck. Can you guess which ones they are?

  • ant
  • arm
  • ear
  • hack
  • hair
  • hand
  • hat
  • head
  • hen
  • man
  • map
  • neck
  • net
  • pen
  • pie
  • rain
  • rat
  • sand
  • sea
  • spam
  • star
  • tea
  • tent
  • tree