Developing a strategy on how to teach spelling effectively is an important part of a balanced literacy program. An effective spelling strategy does not focus on the temporary memorization of a few words but rather provides children with the skills they need to spell a wide variety of words correctly. Here are three important points to consider when teaching spelling words and patterns to children.

Phonemic Awareness

The basis for learning to spell is an understanding of phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness is the ability to recognize, distinguish, and later manipulate the sounds in words. For example, a simple word like “cat” has three phonemes: /c/ /a/ /t/. Other words include phonemes which are the combination of letters to make a sound. For example, the phonemes in the word “kick” are /k/ /i/ /ck/, with the “ck” combining to make the final sound.

An understanding of phonemic awareness provides children with a foundation for spelling words. One method to teaching phonemic awareness is to focus on words with common spelling patterns. Spelling worksheets and printables provide word lists for kindergarten students all the way to fifth grade. The lists group words from the same family, such as “ai” words like “grain,” “brain,” and “chain.” The lists also include Dolch sight words, high-frequency words that do not necessarily fit into a specific word family. For example, the word “the” is a bit of an anomaly and requires automatic recall, particularly since it appears so frequently in texts.

Give Direct Instructions

Direct instructions are important so children can learn common spelling patterns. Start with the most basic phonemes, which are individual letter sounds. With the mastery of a small list of sounds, children will be able to build short, simple words.

Next, begin introducing children to common spelling patterns. Focusing on word families will allow children to see how letters combine to make a single sound. Refrain from grouping words from different families. For example, introducing “ai” words and “ea” words at the same time can create confusion. Instead, allow children to demonstrate mastery with one-word family before introducing another.

Students Need Spelling Practice

To learn spelling words, children need opportunities to practice reading and writing the words. “How to Teach Spelling” describes methods such as guided writing, games, and using magnetic letters to practice spelling words. The goal is for children to learn words not merely in isolation but also in different contexts. It’s also important, of course, to keep children engaged. Using a variety of activities that allow for independent practice can help make learning spelling words fun.

Last Words

It is not unusual for students to experience difficulty with spelling. It is, after all, a complex process that involves multiple skills. For example, children need to have knowledge of many phonemes and be able to translate them into print. They need to know the many spelling rules that exist in our language but also recognize the words that don’t follow the rules.

There are many ways to teach spelling effectively. Important is to look at different strategies when children are struggling with spelling. Strategies like rhyming words, writing with different modalities, and using anchor charts can support their spelling development. We know that providing multiple ways to learn information and skills is beneficial for all children, not just those who may be struggling.