How To Teach Spelling

how to teach spelling - mom and sonParents and teachers often ask how to teach spelling to their children. Is there one best approach? Is there one spelling program recommended above all others? And even, "Can't you just give me the magic formula to turn my struggling speller into a Super Speller?"

As you might expect, there is not a single approach on how to teach spelling that is best for all students, all parents and all teachers. However, there are some general guidelines I've found over the years that can be applied to almost every situation.

1. Use three kinds of experiences for the learner: auditory, visual and kinesthetic. In other other words, allow students to hear the correct spelling of words, see the spellings, and have 'hands-on" experiences. (See the side bar.)

2. Teach spelling words that make sense to the child. It is a waste of your valuable time (and the student's attention) to teach words -- even if found in a traditional spelling book -- that the student is unlikely to use and have little meaning.

On the other hand, you should include words from the student's science and social studies lessons, as well as words related to news events and special calendar days.

3. Give students the foundation for spelling successfully. That means making sure students understand the sounds made by consonants, short vowel sounds, long vowel sounds, diphthongs, and more. Teach some of the most consistent rules and spelling strategies. 

4. Simplify spelling whenever possible. Introduce words that have similar patterns at the same time. For example, teach aloud, around, count, ground, and sound during the same week.  Group tricky words together.  Show students er words in one list: perfect, alert, concern, perfume, expert. Then show them ur words in another list: turkey, return, hurricane, curtain. If students remember the spelling of one word in the group and some of the other words that belong in the same group, it's easier to spell the tricky syllables correctly.

5. Provide lots of practice in lots of formats. Oral exercises, puzzles, worksheets, and games all have their place in successful spelling programs. Spelling homework is important, too. All of these activities, believe it or not, can be fun!

Please note that we have many specific ideas for providing spelling practice which can be adapted to various grade levels. 
Here are some of my favorites:

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Worksheets, games and activities to use with any spelling words. Three volumes in all!

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A visitor writes:

"I have found your site
to be very helpful.  
I have a 1st grader
who gets 20 words
every week to study
for homework. There
were a few times she
would get them all

right, but lately she has been getting a few corrections.
The tips on your site
have helped me a
great deal, especially
the Scrabble idea.


---Claudia, Jamaica

Thank you, Claudia,
for sharing your

how to teach spelling - family with newspaper

If you're wondering
how to teach spelling,
be sure to include some
"hands-on" experiences
each week, especially
for young learners
and those who do best
with kinesthetic

Here are a few ideas:

1) Spell words using Scrabble tiles,
Boggle letter cubes, magnetic letters, or
even letters cut from newspapers and magazines.

2) Trace the correct
spellings of words. Or
spell words by gluing
string onto construction paper. 

3) Find spelling words
on cereal boxes, toy
packages and other
everyday items.