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Effective Spelling Strategies

Good spellers use a variety of strategies for spelling. These strategies fall into four main categories—phonetic, rule-based, visual, and morphemic. All About Spelling  teaches all four strategies to help your student become a successful speller.  

Phonetic Spelling Strategies

The first strategy that should be taught to beginning spellers is to listen for each sound in a word and to represent each sound with a letter or combination of letters. If you teach the phonograms—that the sound of /ă/ is spelled with the letter a and the sound of /n/ is spelled with the letter n, for example—the student will be able to accurately represent the individual sounds he hears in a word. Segmenting words is a great way for students to practice this strategy.   

Take the word brush, for example. If the student can identify the individual sounds and knows the phonograms b, r, u, and sh, he will be able to spell the word easily. Hundreds of words can be written correctly simply by applying this phonetic spelling strategy. 

Rule-Based Spelling Strategies

The beginning spelling student will soon recognize, however, that there are often several possible spellings for the same sound—the sound of /j/ can be spelled j, g or dge, for example—and that's when knowing some rules will come in handy! There are many reliable rules and generalizations in English spelling that will help students make the correct choices in their own writing. For example, knowing the rules regarding the use of c and k and knowing that the sound of /ch/ is usually spelled tch after a short vowel helps us write the word kitchen. And knowing generalizations can help us correctly spell words like acceptable and automatic.

Visual Spelling Strategies

Does the word look right? Good spellers often try spelling a word several ways to see which way looks correct. This is where the word banks in the All About Spelling program come in. Each word bank focuses on one concept, such as the sound of /j/ spelled dge, and helps build the student’s visual memory of words related to that particular concept. Visual memory is important when it comes to correctly using homophones, too, like pray and prey or tale and tail. Extensive reading and word games will also help your student build visual memory. 

Morphemic Spelling Strategies

Morphemic strategies are based on the knowledge of how the meaning of a word influences its spelling. All About Spelling teaches words with Greek and Latin roots and words based on other derivatives, how to add prefixes and suffixes to base words, and how to form compound words and abbreviations. Morphemic strategies enable good spellers to spell words such as neurologist, multitude, and chiropractic.

As spellers become more competent, they will usually use a combination of all four strategies in their writing. Most people don’t even realize that they are using these approaches to spelling—with practice, the strategies become automatic and are employed on a subconscious level.

More All About Spelling Strategies

In addition to these four main spelling strategies, the All About Spelling series teaches a number of other strategies that good spellers may use for a small number of words.

  • Look up words in an electronic spell checker or dictionary to verify the spelling. Use the spell checker on the computer.
  • When reading, be on the lookout for unfamiliar words and make a mental note of the spelling.
  • Recognize which words are "troublemakers" and identify the tricky parts.
  • Use mnemonics, a memory device that helps you remember something. Some common spelling mnemonics include a friend is there to the end, it is definite, and piece of pie. While we don’t encourage kids to overuse this strategy, mnemonics can be helpful for remembering Rule Breakers and troublemakers. If the device is overused, it becomes difficult to remember all of the mnemonics, which defeats the purpose!
  • Keep a personal resource list of words the student tends to misspell and use the list as a reference while writing.

Most spelling programs rely only on visual strategies, such as looking at a word list and writing each word ten times. Others rely on phonetic strategies, which work well at the beginning level but leave students without an effective strategy when approaching words like knowledge or bicycle. All About Spelling provides a balanced approach to spelling strategies.