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You are about to learn my top tips for taking the struggle out of spelling. Every one of these tips is designed to accelerate your students learning and to help him or her retain more of what you teach. Some of these tips may surprise you, and you will probably find some ideas that you have never considered as being related to the teaching of spelling. You may want to print out this report, grab a highlighter, and make notes in the margins. And pleasefeel free to contact me with any questions you may have. Im here to help.

...taking the struggle out of spelling

Tip #1: Tip #2: Tip #3: Tip #4: Tip #5: Tip #6: Tip #7: Tip #8: Tip #9: Tip #10: Tip #11: Tip #12: Tip #13: Tip #14: Tip #15: Tip #16: Tip #17: Tip #18: Tip #19: Tip #20: Spelling Is More than Just Memorization Break Words into Sounds Represent Sounds with Phonograms Multisensory Activities Are Best Color-coded Letter Tiles Accelerate Learning Reliable Spelling Rules Save the Day Silent E Has Five Jobs Teach Syllable Types Tame the Rule Breakers Teach Word Parts Make Review a Priority Dictation Exercises Are Important Teach Proper Homophone Usage Provide Diverse Writing Opportunities Keep the Focus! Reading Builds Up Visual Memory Keep Lessons Short but Frequent Misspellings Can Be a Teaching Opportunity A Strong Foundation Is Key Use a Roadmap

Tip #1: Spelling Is More

than Just Memorization

Most spelling programs are a variation of the list-on-Monday, test-on-Friday approach. This approach has the students look at the word, cover it up, and then try to remember the order of the letters. Such programs teach spelling as if words were made up of a random string of letters. Memorizing long strings of letters doesnt work for many kids. The look, cover, write, repeat method fails them. The mammoth task of having to learn thousands of words this wayand then remembering them past the spelling test on Fridaybecomes overwhelming. Some children simply shut down and give up. For new spellers, and for those who struggle with spelling, there is a much better way! Instead of memorizing the spelling of thousands of different words, they can learn just 72 phonograms and a handful of useful spelling rules. This method is much more manageable for them. Approximately 97% of the 17,000 most common words can be spelled using just these phonograms and a small number of reliable spelling rules.

Tip #2: Break Words

into Sounds

When we speak, we blend sounds together to make a word. For example, when we say the word ham, we are blending the sounds /h//a//m/ together quickly. When we spell, we can take those individual sounds apart. That process is called segmenting. A quick way to know if your student can segment words is to ask, What sounds do you hear in the word pan? If your student isnt able to easily identify the three individual sounds (/p//a //n/), teach him how to segment words. This is an important skill that will make learning to spell so much easier for your student. After the child learns to hear the individual sounds, he can represent each sound with the corresponding letter or letter combination. And that leads us to Tip #3...

Tip #3: Rep res

Sounds wit h Phonogram s


* *

What is a phonogram? A phonogram is a letter or letter combination that represents a sound. There are 72 common phonograms. For example: ck is a phonogram that says /k/ as in clock. s is a phonogram that says /s/ as in sat or /z/ as in present. oy is a phonogram that says /oi/ as in oyster. Why are phonograms important? Each sound in a word can be represented by a phonogram. Lets take the word past. If you pronounce the word slowly to hear the individual sounds, you will hear four different sounds: /p////s//t/. For each sound, we write down a phonogram: p-as-t. When students know the phonograms and which sounds they represent, spelling is so much easier. If they know that the sound of /j/ at the end of a word is spelled with dge, spelling the word bridge becomes simple. They do not need to remember b-r-i-d-g-e as a string of letters. Instead, each sound is simply represented by a phonogram. Memorizing words as strings of unrelated letters usually results in frustration. Children who are taught to spell using the phonograms, on the other hand, see spelling as a doable task. How do I teach the phonograms? I have found that the quickest way to teach the phonograms is by using flashcards. Introduce four phonograms at a time, adding more as the child masters them. Readyto-use flashcards are included in the All About Spelling program.

Tip #4: Multisensory

Activities Are Best

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Why are multisensory activities important? Children learn best when they can use all of their senses. When they can see something as it is explained, and hear about it, and then do it with hands-on activities, they are much more likely to retain the new information. How do I use multisensory activities? Visual activities can include demonstrating spelling rules with color-coded letter tiles. With the letter tiles, you can demonstrate rules and patterns and how they apply to various words. The child can see a conceptand it makes sense to him. Another good visual activity is to use Word Banks. Word Banks are lists of words all following the same spelling rule or spelling pattern. Children are able to grasp the similarities between these words when they see them all grouped together. Auditory activities can include discussing new spelling rules and concepts. When a new letter combination is introduced, such as au, children can learn it quickly by saying the sound as they write it. Oral review is an important auditory activity as well. Kinesthetic activities include hands-on activities such as manipulating letter tiles to test out spelling rules, feeling the shape of the letters and letter combinations as they write them and say them, and compiling personalized word lists. Children learn more quickly when they are taught through their strongest mode of learning, and they learn even more when all three pathways are involved. The All About Spelling program includes all of the materials you need for these important multisensory activities.


Tip #5: Color-coded

Letter Tiles Accelerate Learning

What are letter tiles? Letter tiles are square manipulatives that contain the 72 phonograms. They are the perfect manipulative for teaching spelling.
t i m b er

Color-coding makes it easy for students to see the role that each type of letter plays in a word. For example, consonants are blue, vowels are red, and phonograms representing the sound of /er/ (such as er, ir, and ur) are purple. Why are letter tiles important? Letter tiles are important because they turn an idea or concept into something your student can see and manipulate. Letter tiles demonstrate new concepts in spelling lessons and help the student practice spelling new words. Spelling rules are a very abstract thing. They are hard to explain to a child, especially if that child has some attention issues or auditory processing difficulties. When you start talking to most kids about how we use -dge for the sound of /j/ only after a short vowel, they tend to zone out. Its just too many words to process, and too abstract to sink in. But if we demonstrate this same exact concept using letter tiles, it is suddenly so much easier to understand. And the child needs to understand a concept in order to remember it long term. How do I use letter tiles? I strongly suggest using the letter tiles on a magnetic dry erase board. This eliminates the need to set up the tiles each day and keeps them from getting lost. And best of all, kids love magnets.

Tip #6: Reliable Spelling

Rules Save the Day

Soon after learning to spell, students figure out that there are often several possible spellings for the same soundthe sound of /j/ can be spelled j, g, or dge, for example and thats when knowing some rules will come in handy! There are 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. Many people feel that English spelling is unreliable because they have been taught so-called rules that simply arent true. For example, the common saying when two vowels go walking, the first does the talking is false 60% of the time. Students who are taught trustworthy spelling rules, on the other hand, see the logic behind spelling. How do I teach the spelling rules? The best way to teach spelling rules is by demonstrating them with letter tiles and then reviewing them with flashcards. Spelling rules should not be taught in isolation. After you present the rule, teach words that follow it.


Tip #7: Silent E Ha s

Five Jobs

What are the jobs of Silent E? You are probably familiar with the most common job of Silent E, which is to make the vowel before it long, as in the word note. But did you know that Silent E has four more jobs as well? Job #2: Make the c or g soft, as in the words dance and hinge. Job#3: Keep u and v from being the last letter in a word, as in have and clue.

* *

Similarly, Jobs #4 and #5 explain the reason for Silent E in words like castle and awe. Why is it important to know the jobs of Silent E? Understanding the five jobs of Silent E helps students see the patterns of English spelling. Instead of seeing English as being random or full of exceptions, they can see that there are reliable patterns. This makes it easier to categorize words and remember their spellings. How do I teach the jobs of Silent E? Teach the five Jobs of Silent E one at a time. When children are learning VowelConsonant-E words, discuss the first job of Silent E. When they learn the rule that English words dont end in u or v, explain how Silent E is added to the word so that u or v isnt the last letter. When they are learning about words that end in Consonant+l-e, like pickle, thats when you can discuss how Silent E adds a vowel to a syllable that wouldnt otherwise have one. In All About Spelling, we recognize the importance of helping children organize their developing minds. We provide them with a special Silent E Book in which they can group words according to the jobs of Silent E.

Tip #8: Teach

Syllable Types

What are syllable types? There are six basic syllable types in English. First, we teach Closed Syllables. A closed syllable ends in a consonant. The vowel has a short vowel sound, as in the word bat. Next, we teach Open Syllables. An open syllable ends in a vowel. The vowel has a long vowel sound, as in the first syllable of apron. As the student masters each syllable type and the related spelling words, we continue on until all six syllable types have been taught. Why are the syllable types important? With the knowledge gained through labeling syllable types, students can answer spelling questions for themselves, such as: Why do we double the p in stepping but not in weeping? Why do we need a double consonant in little but not in maple? How do I teach syllable types? Syllable types are best taught when students can divide words into syllables and label them using meaningful symbols. I recommend doing this right on your dry erase board when the student is using the letter tiles.

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Tip #9: Tame the

Rule Breakers

* *

What are Rule Breakers? Rule breakers are those words that do not follow the spelling rules. Have a procedure in place to help students memorize these tricky words. How do I teach the Rule Breakers? Here are some practical ideas for you: 1. Ask your student which part of the word doesnt follow the rules. Have your student circle that portion of the word to draw attention to it. In All About Spelling, we actually throw these words (bad guys) into Jail. This helps the concept stick in the students mind. 2. Use tactile methods such as having the student write the word with his finger on carpet or on the table to help cement the unusual pattern. Here are more ideas for tactile surfaces: 3. Teach similar troublesome words together, such as one and once, and would, could, and should. 4. For words in which a sound is muffled, encourage the student to pronounce for spelling. For example, when we say the word cabin, it often sounds like cabun. To pronounce for spelling, we would emphasize the last syllable: cab-IN.


Tip #10: Teach

Word Parts

Thousands of words can be made with prefixes, suffixes, and root words. Knowing these word parts enables students to spell words such as neurologist, multitude, and chiropractic. For example, recognizing the Greek root graph gives students a clue as to how to correctly spell words like geography, graphic, and graphite. Its also important to know how to add prefixes and suffixes to base words. There are some simple rules that will help your child correctly form longer words with ease. All About Spelling presents these rules in an easy-to-remember way.


Review a Priority

Tip #11: Make

Consistent review is the key to getting spelling facts and spelling words to stick. Teaching something once or twice does not mean our children have actually mastered it. Mastery takes time and practice. However, achieving mastery doesnt have to be boring. Have your students practice spelling concepts with the letter tiles and flashcards and through dictation. Use a variety of techniques to ensure that your students retain the knowledge they need to become successful spellers. A few minutes of review every day can go a long way. Here are six strategies for spelling review that will help you get information into your students long-term memory: Review is built right into the All About Spelling lesson plans, helping your students achieve mastery.


Tip #12: Dictation

Exercises Are Important

Dictation exercises are great practice and allow your students to use their spelling words in context. Start out with short dictated phrases and then move on to sentences and, eventually, paragraphs. In the dictation exercises, remember to include only words that have already been taught. I suggest ending every lesson with dictation exercises. This provides real world practice for students without the stress of generating new ideas. Dictation is a bridge between spelling and writing that can increase writing skills and confidence. It also helps increase childrens working memory as they practice holding more words in their minds at one time. A good working memory is important for all areas of learning.


Tip #13: Teach Proper

Homophone Usage

* *

What are homophones? Homophones are words that sound alike but are spelled differently. Heres an example of homophones being used incorrectly: Eye wood like ewe two meat my hoarse. This is an extreme example, of course, but students are faced with the choice between these sound-alike words every time they write. Do I use their or there? What about led or lead ? How do I teach homophones? I recommend teaching the word with the most common usage first and introducing the other homophone later. Remember to explain the meaning of the homophone when teaching your student how to spell it. Include homophone pairs in dictation exercises so that students can practice choosing the correct word for the sentence. Here are several articles on homophones, including worksheets, games, and a Homophone Machine to tickle your funny bone:


Tip #14: Provide Diverse

Writing Opportunities

To build your students spelling ability and confidence, it is important to provide as many writing opportunities as possibleno matter what subject you are teaching. There is an infinite number of ways to incorporate writing into every type of lesson, so use your imagination to create engaging cross-curricular writing activities. Examples include writing out math word problems, writing step-by-step instructions for a science experiment, writing a favorite lunch menu, writing out a shopping list, writing a story about a pet, writing a poem about a historical figure, writing letters to pen pals, and creating a class newsletter or magazine. The possibilities are truly endless!


Tip #15: Keep the


Spelling skills are used in real life as often as math skills are, so it is extremely important to stay focused on spelling lessons. Thats easier said than done when a child is struggling with spelling! Here are some ideas to help you keep focused on spelling:

* Have a predictable schedule and stick with it.

* Dont allow interruptions to the spelling lesson.

* Eliminate background noise: turn off the radio, the television, and the ringer on the phone.
that spelling is getting pushed * If you find the first subject of the day. aside in favor of other subjects, teach spelling as progress. At Spelling, * Chart your childs parents!) can All Aboutfar theyvewe provide progress charts so that students (and see how come.

* Visualize how much easier your childs life will be in the future when he is able to spell with ease.


Tip #16: Reading Builds

Up Visual Memory

Read, read, read! Set aside time for reading books and magazines, word banks, and the students personal spelling lists. The words for beginning spellers are fairly regular, but intermediate students will be faced with words that arent as straightforward. For example, a student may wonder if /rn/ is spelled rane or rain. A student who reads on a regular basis can draw upon his visual memory of the word in order to spell it correctly. Reading is so important that each level in the All About Spelling series has corresponding short story collections. As children read and enjoy these beautifully illustrated stories, they form a visual memory of how the words should look.


Tip #17: Keep Lessons

Short but Frequent

Short, frequent lessons are much better than longer, sporadic lessons. In a short lesson, your childs attention is less likely to wander, and youll find that you can accomplish more. Keep the lessons upbeat and fast-paced and use teaching tools and activities that engage the childs interest. For most students, I recommend fifteen to twenty minutes per day, five times a week. You can adjust the length of the lesson up or down according to your individual childs attention span and specific needs.


Tip #18: Misspellings

Can Be a Teaching Opportunity

When your student makes a spelling mistake, take a look at what caused the error. Is there a spelling rule or concept that needs to be reviewed? Is the student pronouncing the word correctly? Are letters being transposed? If you tackle the cause of the misspelling, you will help your student grow in spelling ability more quickly. Here are ideas for handling spelling errors in your childs writing: from the task Students have a lot to focus * Separate the task of writingword spacing, of editing. punctuation, capitalization, on at oncehandwriting, grammar,

* * * * *

spelling, plus trying to think up original ideas and how to present them in a logical and interesting manner. Write on one day and edit the next day. If they dont find all of their own spelling errors, you can either point them out directly, or put a light X next to each line where there is an error. Then ask them to read it one more time to see if they can find the error. Once the student finds the spelling error, determine if it is a phonetic error or a rule error. If it is a phonetic error, have him pronounce the word exactly as he wrote it. If it is a rule-based error, ask him if there is a rule that applies to the word he wrote. If the word can only be determined visually, ask if he knows any other letters or letter teams that can stand for the same sound. Make note of the misspelled words so you can be sure to review them in the next spelling lesson. Only hold your students accountable for words and patterns they have already studied. Keep corrections light and positive; remember, this is hard work for your children!

Tip #19: A Strong

Foundation Is K ey

Very often, the reason children struggle with spelling is that they are missing some basic yet important information. For example, most struggling students switch letters or leave out letters entirely. They do so because they dont know how to hear each sound in the word. They often spell words in nonstandard ways because they dont know the phonograms or reliable spelling rules. They cant identify syllables or the reasons for adding Silent E. Without these basic skills, spelling can be very difficult. The solution is to help students build a strong foundation. Teach them clearly and simply, adding just one new skill at a time. Bring clarity, instead of confusion. When working with older children, start at the beginning, briefly review the concepts they do know, and concentrate on the concepts they dont know. Help them quickly build that strong foundation, and then move on. Your child will be a much stronger speller by doing this, and youll both be much less frustrated. We designed the All About Spelling program to be relevant for all ages, whether your students are 6 or 66. The program can be used by children and adults to build a strong foundation for literacy.


Tip #20: Use a


When youre driving to an unknown destination, its a lot easier to get where you are going when you have a detailed map in front of you. Teaching spelling is the same way. If you want your students to reach their destination, youll need some well-planned lessons to guide you. Lesson plans help you keep your eyes on the roadthat is, your attention on your studentsinstead of on trying to figure out what to teach next. Teaching without a lesson plan means that concepts may be presented in a disjointed manner, which will only confuse your children. When lessons are planned ahead of time, however, youll be confident knowing that youre not missing any important components or forgetting to cover a crucial concept. Youll be able to keep the lesson moving and keep your students engaged. Keep in mind the following guidelines when planning your spelling lessons or when evaluating prepared lesson plans: be sequential, with each * Lessons shouldfoundation for the next. lesson building upon the previous one and laying the include daily * Lessons should each child. customizable for review, use multisensory techniques, and be


I hope you have found this report helpful for both you and your student. If you would like to take a look inside a program that incorporates all of the tips and suggestions in this report, I invite you to visit my website at

...taking the struggle out of spelling

Farkus, R.D. (2003). Effects of traditional versus learning-styles instructional methods on middle school students. The Journal of Educational Research, 97, no. 1. Gillingham, A. and Stillman, B. W. (1997). The Gillingham manual: Remedial training for students with specific disability in reading, spelling, and penmanship (8th ed.). Cambridge: Educators Publishing Service. Hanna, P.R. and others (1966). Phoneme-grapheme correspondences as cues to spelling improvement. Washington: U.S. Office of Education Cooperative Research. Rippel, M. (2006). All About Spelling Level 1. Eagle River, WI: All About Learning Press.