First Year Teacher Self-Study Course

First Year Teacher is a self-paced professional development course for novice K-3 teachers, developed by Reading Rockets. The program provides teachers with an in-depth knowledge of reading so they are prepared to guide their students into becoming skilled and enthusiastic readers.

Photo of teacher and students

Spelling: Intro

Many people think spelling is memorizing all the words in a dictionary and that spelling comes naturally to some and not to others. This understanding is wrong! Good spellers aren't born they're taught! Nearly 90 percent of English words can be spelled if you know basic patterns, principles and rules of spelling. If a child can spell a word, he or she can usually read the word. Students can use these rules as an aid to spelling unknown words. Good spellers are better readers and writers.

Putting spelling in perspective

There are about 400,000 words in a dictionary. Only 13 percent of these words are truly exceptional, in that they must be memorized by sight. In about 50 percent of these words, sound and letter associations connect perfectly. These words don't have to be memorized. The remaining 37 percent are easily learned through instruction of letter-sound correspondences. It is these last two categories from which 90 percent of written English words derive and where students can learn to understand spelling principles and patterns.

Spelling instruction should include

  • Alphabetic principle: Knowledge of which individual letters match up to sounds, in a left to right sequence (In the word cup each sound is represented by a single letter).
  • Pattern information: Which groups of letters function as a pattern to represent sounds (Examples of patterns would include: CVC (Consonant/Vowel/Consonant) pattern to form short vowels (e.g. like the word cat) or CVCe/CVVC patterns to form long vowels (e.g. like the words same or meat).
  • Meaning information: Which groups of letters represent the meaning (The prefix re- as in redo, means to do again).

Adapted from: Bear, D.R., M.A. Invernizzi, S. Templeton, F. Johnston (1996) Words Their Way: Word Study for Phonics, Vocabulary and Spelling Instruction.

Spelling Patterns

The Johnson School in Charlottesville, VA, has its own homegrown reading program called RISE (Reading Initiative for Student Excellence).

Spelling: Intro
Diary of a First Year Teacher

Diary of a First Year Teacher

Join Barbara Zielinski, a first grade teacher at River Plaza Elementary School in Middletown, NJ, during her first year teaching.

"You may have tangible wealth untold. Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold. Richer than I you can never be — I had a mother who read to me." — Strickland Gillilan