How To Teach Spelling
In Logical Steps
If you don’t know how to
teach spelling and need help…you’ve come to the right place.
you are a parent, tutor, student or even a teacher. By sharing my experiences, I am sure I can
make the process easier for you. Over the years I have taught spelling to a
range of students from preschoolers through to adults.
Key Points About How To Teach Spelling
including the best spellers, find some
words difficult to spell.
and reading are almost opposites.
Reading involves looking at letters on a page and turning them into
sounds. Spelling is more difficult
because you have nothing to see. You have to think about the sounds in your
head then turn them into letters. Next they must be put into the correct
needs to be taught in logical stages to make sense.
- Children and adults
generally, but also those with learning difficulties can always make good progress… so don’t give up on them.
It is important to monitor how they are progressing compared with others but do not become anxious if
they are not learning as quickly. The secret is to be patient and teach
at their speed not the speed you wish they could learn at.
you are attempting to teach your own child and feel it’s not working, find a
good tutor to help them. You will both
to spell should be enjoyable. Relax and keep
it light. For younger children make games out of spelling. They love moveable letters as they can manipulate them quickly, and easily alter them if they make a mistake. It also allows them to experiment and learn what works and what doesn't. fun and your child will
love learning to spell and will be more likely to remember what they have
How To Teach Spelling to Beginner Readers
In the first year or two of learning to read it is possible to start learning to spell at the same time. This is how I teach spelling.
Alphabet letters and the sounds they make.
- Often children know the names of the
letters in the alphabet because they have been taught The Alphabet song.
it is time to learn the sounds the letters make.
must be pronounced correctly from the outset.
secret when learning to teach spelling is to teach the sounds in a particular sequence, perhaps one a day or
one every few days, depending on how quickly your child is learning. Often schools will teach only one a week.
- I start with the letters…a
m s t
c r h f…as
they can at the next stage be turned into words which your child can start reading then spelling. Many
four year olds are capable of
learning both this and stage 2 below before they go to school, if taught this
Stage 2: The first words I teach
- These are… am as at. They learn them by slowly and carefully sounding
out each letter because they have been taught the… a m s t....
in the first few weeks. This might appear simple but to some children it can seem
complex… so move at your child’s pace.
- If your child
knows their sounds, they should be able to learn to spell them. Some may be
able to write them using a pencil while others may not have yet developed the fine
motor skills to do this. In this case you can write large letters on squares of
paper then cut them up or use a good set of clear lower case moveable letters.
- Often beginner readers can’t hear the individual
sounds in a word when you say them at normal speed. They are said too quickly for
their brains to process.
- This is what I do. I say the word am at normal speed, and then tell them I am going to turn a magic
key in my back which will make me speak like a slowly, like a robot.
- I jokingly
make the sound of a key turning. I say
the word am again then say the word
really slowly like this….aaaaaaaammmmmmm.
I look excited and say “Wow, it
- I say to the child, “If I turn a magic key
in your back you might be able to say it in slow motion like me. Shall I try? “ (Children always say yes, so I
make the sound of the key turning again)
repeat the ‘aaaaaaaammmmm’ sound then ask them to repeat it once or twice.
- Then I ask if they can hear the first sound
(aaaaaa). If they can’t, I repeat the
whole word slowly and ask again if they can tell me the sound the first letter
ask if they can find the moveable letter that matches the sound ...aaaa.
- Reinforce them by saying, “That’s great,
you’ve found the …aaaa…sound. Now let’s see if we can find the next sound in
the word am….aaaammmmmmmmmmmmmm. Can
you tell me what it is? Now, can you find the (moveable) letter that makes that
- Repeat this exercise until they understand
and before you know it, your child has spelled their first word!
- Do this exercise again to spell as, then at. That’s three words they’ve learned to spell.
- If your child is having difficulty…go back
Stage 3: Word Families
- There are many different word families or words with
similar patterns in spelling. Start when you are learning how to teach spelling with the easiest word families. They are what teachers call CVCs
(which just means consonant, vowel, consonant.) Each CVC word starts with a consonant, has one vowel in the middle, then finishes
with a consonant.
- I teach them like
this. I start with the vowel a in
the middle and work through the different words families below, with that
particular vowel. This means your child
will really know this vowel sound before they move to the next. After this I move on to word families with
the vowel e…then i o u as you can see below.
The a Word Families
at family ... cat mat
sat rat bat fat
an family ... ban fan
man pan ran
ad family ... bad
dad had lad
family ... cap gap lap
map nap tap
The e Word Families
et family ... bet
en family ... ten den
hen Jen men
ed family ... bed fed
led red Ted
i Word Families
in family ... bin din pin tin win
id family ... bid
did hid kid lid
ig family ... big
jig pig wig
ip family ...dip hip lip nip
pip rip sip tip zip
it family ... bit fit hit kit
lit mit pit sit
o Word Families
ot family ... cot dot
got hot jot lot not pot rot tot
og family ... bog cog dog fog hog jog
op family ... hop lop mop pop top
ob family ...Bob
hob job mob sob
family ... box
The u Word
ub family ... cub hub rub tub
ug family ... bug dug hug jug
mug rug tug
un family ... bun fun run sun
Stage 4: Consonant Blends
The next set of word patterns you should focus on when you are learning how to teach spelling is consonant blends. Below I have a link to an article on them. There I explain...
- what they are
- what order they should be taught in
- a fun method of how to teach the spelling of them by breaking them up. Get this right and your child will find them much easier to learn.
- Click to go to Consonant Blends.
Teach your student the method I explain on that page
and it will make learning to spell them more logical. After they’ve practised
breaking them up, they will be ready to rebuild them by spelling them.
Consonant blends which occur at the ends of words like ng and nk, are a little more
difficult to say and therefore to spell.
This is because they sound nasal and it's not as easy to distinguish between the letters.
Teach them to your student this
- exaggerate the individual sounds and show them the moveable letters that make those sounds
- point to your nose and laugh when making
nasal sounds. This will help your child remember that it sounds nasal.
- when practising end blends, keep it simpler at the start, by ensuring there are no blends at the beginning of the word as as well e.g. list sold
pond. The words in the example start with a single sound. Once words like these
have been conquered, then try words with blends at either end like flash sting stamp.
- dictate the words listed in the Consonant Blends article and ask your student to write them. If writing is difficult, they can use the moveable cards.
Stage 5: Complex Spelling
How to teach spelling at
the next level is more complex.
I have covered this aspect of spelling in a
separate article on this website.
When you click on the first link below it will tell
you how to approach difficult words and crack their codes. You will see
examples of misspelt words and how to tackle the errors.
Go From How To Teach Spelling To Difficult Spelling Words
How To Teach Spelling To Correct Spelling Of Words
How to Teach Phonics To Phonics Literacy Homepage
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