Spelling: Instructional Guidelines
A spelling program has many components. Some of the main components that each grade level should introduce are highlighted below.
Examples of spelling concepts, Grades 1-3
- Short vowel patterns
To spell a short vowel sound only one letter is needed. (e.g., at, red, it, hot)
- Consonant blends (e.g., string, block)
A group of two or three consonants is a consonant blend. Each sound is heard in a consonant blend.
- L-Blends: (bl, cl, fl, gl, pl, sl)
- R-Blends: (br, cr, dr, fr, gr, pr, tr)
- S-Blends: (sc, sn, sk, sm, st, sp, sw, str)
- Consonant digraphs (e.g., shot, the)
A group of consonants that stand for one sound that is different from either of the letters.
- Long vowels
To spell a long vowel sound you must add a second vowel. The second vowel sound may be next to the first in the VVC pattern (boat, maid) or it may be separated from the first one, making a CVCe pattern (made, ride, etc.). Doubling a consonant can be thought of as "protecting" a short vowel because it prevents an incoming vowel from getting close enough to change its sound from short to long. This is known as the VCCV pattern and the first vowel remains short. Examples of consonant doubling include madder and dinner.
- Different vowel combinations for long vowels
- Silent letter graphemes
Examples of spelling concepts, Grades 2-3
- q followed by a u (the sound /kw/)
This sound is always spelled with the letters qu. (Sidenote: In the English language q is always followed by u.)
- drop e and adding ing
For words that end in "silent e", the e must be dropped before you add a suffix beginning with a vowel (such as -ing or -ed). For example: ride riding, cure curable, age aging, ice icicle, offense offensive.
- adding suffixes
- c, k, and ck
The sound of /k/: this sound can be spelled four ways. (c, cc, k, and ck)
- hard and soft c and g
The consonants c and g make twp different sounds, hard and soft. Below are examples of these sounds.
- Hard G: gorilla, gum
- Soft G: gem, gym
- Hard C: courage, cat
- Soft C: receive, cell
- plural endings
Plural words are always spelled with a single letter s, unless you can hear a new syllable on the plural word. In that case, use -es. For example: loss losses, bank banks, twitch twitches, tree trees, box boxes.
Adding prefixes generally does not change the spelling of the word. Common prefixes include:
- consonant doubling
A teacher's instruction should also include activities in homophones (sea/see), contractions (cannot; can't) and compounds (two words that when combined have a different meaning than when they are separate; e.g., cup and cake become cupcake).
How can teachers enhance spelling development in their classroom?
An awareness of spelling development can help teachers plan instruction. For precommunicative and semiphonetic spellers, teachers may teach alphabet knowledge, letter-sound correspondences, the concept of "wordness," and left-to-right directionality. At the phonetic stage, students might be introduced, in the context of writing, to word families, spelling patterns, phonics, and word structures.
Teachers can encourage purposeful writing, such as the writing of messages, lists, plans, signs, letters, stories, songs, and poems.
Teachers can also provide opportunities for frequent writing, which, when integrated with all aspects of the curriculum, should be a natural part of the daily classroom routine. Frequent application of spelling knowledge by students while writing encourages spelling competency.
Teachers can also make use of instructional games since children acquire language, in large part, from their alertness to language around them.
Spelling instruction should be FUN!
Instruction should be clear, but it doesn't have to be dull! Students can become word-pattern detectives, hunting for samples of words and looking for clues to help form their understanding of spelling rules. They can develop knowledge through word sorts and spelling games. The mastering of spelling rules and patterns through fun activities can make learning enjoyable for all!