How to Guides

How to Teach Vowel Number 3 / e /

/e/ is vowel number three. It is midway between the vowels /ɪ / and /æ/ Some people from Eastern Nigeria may have a harder time saying the /e/ sound because it is not a letter in their alphabet. So, you may hear the sound substituted with /ɪ /. You can listen to the sound here. However, it is not a difficult sound to say with practice. It is also important… Read More »How to Teach Vowel Number 3 / e /

vowel 11 card

Learn the best way to teach Vowel 11 ɜ: [includes audio]

Vowel 11 /ɜ:/ is a long vowel sound. It is the last but one of the twelve monophthongs or pure vowels. You can read about how to teach all the other long sounds on our blog / ɜ:/ is a unique but difficult sound for most Africans to produce. This is because the sound cannot be found in most native languages. In Nigeria, many speakers simply replace the sound with… Read More »Learn the best way to teach Vowel 11 ɜ: [includes audio]

the u: sound title

How to Teach the Long u Sound

The long u sound is the ninth in the list of vowels of the English Sound System. Like /ɔ:/, we produce this sound with rounded lips. Also, it is a universal sound just like all the other long sounds we have previously discussed on our blog. You can check through our previous blogs to learn about the long e, a, and the/ɔ:/ sounds. In Nigeria, all the major dialects have… Read More »How to Teach the Long u Sound

/ɔ:/ sound title

How to teach the long /ɔ:/ sound

The /ɔ:/ sound is one of the symbols of the International Phonetics Association’s (IPA). It is the seventh sound in the list of vowels or the English Sound System. It is produced with rounded lips.  Like the long ‘e’, and /a:/ it is a universal sound. In Nigeria, all the major dialects have the vowel, so it is not a difficult sound for Nigerians to articulate. Each time you say… Read More »How to teach the long /ɔ:/ sound

the long a sound title

How to teach the long ‘a’ sound

The long ‘a’ is the fifth sound in the International Phonetics Association’s (IPA) list of vowels. When you look at the vowel quadrilateral, it is a back open sound. Like the long ‘e’, /a:/ is a universal sound. In Nigeria, all the major dialects have the vowel, so it is not a difficult sound for Nigerians to articulate. If you have ever visited a dentist, then you said /a:/. Also,… Read More »How to teach the long ‘a’ sound

the /i:/ sound

How to teach the long ‘e’ sound /i:/

The long ‘e’ /i:/ sound is the first sound in the International Phonetics Association’s (IPA) list of vowel sounds. When you look at the vowel quadrilateral, it is the first sound you see. We could describe the long ‘e’ sound as a universal sound. In Nigeria, all the major dialects have the sound, so it is not a difficult sound for Nigerians to articulate. The only difference that can be… Read More »How to teach the long ‘e’ sound /i:/

Silent letters photo

How to Teach Silent Letters

Beginning readers are often confused by silent letters. They have been taught that each letter has a corresponding sound or more than one sound. So, they are looking out for how to link letters to sounds as they read. The concept of silent letters goes against the first rule they have learnt.  They need to be given direct instruction on the addendum to the rule. Letters are silent for various… Read More »How to Teach Silent Letters

How to Teach Spelling

Do you know how to teach spelling? You may be one of those teachers who enjoy giving dictation. For example, you may understand how important learning how to spell is to learning how to read. You know that when a person is able to recognize the letters that spell a word, he would be more likely able to pronounce the word. But do you have lessons where you teach the learners how to spell?

Some teachers think that spelling is something that is acquired naturally as students learn how to read. They do not  think it is necessary to give deliberate instruction on spelling.  However, learners can be taught how to figure out the spelling of a word using different strategies depending on their age and level of understanding. In this post, we explain how to teach spelling to beginning learners by breaking words into parts.

Some Technical Words Explained

When teaching spelling, there are some concepts you need to understand. Understanding these concepts will better equip you to give purposeful instruction in spelling.  Here are some terminologies you should be aware of. We will be using them as we continue to talk about spelling:


The smallest unit into which a word can be broken.


The sound or sounds at the beginning of the syllable. In the word “Cat”, the onset is “C”; in the word “Stop”, the onset is “St”.


This is the open part of the syllable after the onset is removed. It is most likely a vowel. Going back to our earlier example, in the word “Cat”, the Peak is “a” while in the word “Stop”, the peak is “o”.


This refers to any consonant sound that ends a syllable. In the word “Cat”, the coda is “t. In “Stop”, it is “p”.


This is the peak and the coda. For two words to rhyme, they must share the same peak and coda.  So in “Cat” the rhyme is “at” while in “Stop”, the rhyme is “op”.

Closed Syllable:

When a syllable has a Coda, it is said to be a closed syllable. The syllable “Met” is closed because it  has a coda “t”. The vowels in closed syllables are usually short.

Open Syllable:

When a syllable does not have a Coda, it is said to be an open syllable.The syllable “Me” is open because it ends in the peak “e” and does not have a coda.  The vowels in open syllables are generally long.

Syllabic Structure:

Syllabic structure refers to how syllables are formed. There are six ways based on the grouping of consonants (C) and vowels (V) in a word. They are: V, CV, VC, CVC, CCVC, CCCVC, CCCVCCC, and VCCCC

Teaching spelling while teaching reading

When you begin to teach the pupils to read, you should give them spelling instructions too. This is why we recommended teaching the names of letters along with their sounds.  When the learners are able to differentiate between letter names and sounds from an early age, they find it easier to learn how to spell. Also when they are taught how syllables are formed they are better able to learn how to spell.

For example, we generally start teaching reading using two letter rhymes e.g -at, -ed, -ut  and on and then we introduce the onset c-at, r-ed, b-ut and then we move on to teach open syllables we, she, me. Teaching the learners why Me is /mi:/ and not /me/ and that if “t” is added to “me” it becomes /met/ and not /mi:t/ will prepare them to spell words which contain these syllables.

Breaking words into parts

Every English word can be broken into parts, a word has a least one part and some words have several. The longest word in English as recognized by Webster’s pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis has nineteen parts. No matter how long a word is, if you can break it into parts, you have a better chance being able to spell the word. This is because we can easily hear the patterns when we break the words into syllables.

For example, the longest word in the dictionary does not seem so scary when you break it into nineteen syllables or parts and say each part as if it was a word standing on its own. By listening to how the word is said, you can spot the open and closed syllables and spell them accordingly.

Let’s break the word down and see

Pneu     mo         no           ul            tra          mi           cro          sco         pic          sil

i            co             vol          ca            no           co           ni            o             sis

As you can see, the same principles apply for long words and for short words.

Other things to note about how to teach spelling

Just as you break words into parts before you spell them, when you spell out, you also say the words in the chunks in which you have broken them. The letters that spell a word are grouped and said together based on their syllabic structure. When the word has just one syllable, then we spell it based on their formation: Onset, Peak and Coda. Of course, you do not teach the children these terminologies, but you should consistently apply them as you teach reading and spelling.

There are other methods you can use to teach spelling as the learners move to higher levels. For example, you may teach the learners how to spot words within words. Learning the etymology or origin of words can also help with spelling.

A Sample Lesson Plan



Switch and Spell


But, bet, bid, cut, cot, dot, dog, got


Pupils will be able to spell 100% of the words in the day’s lesson


Pupils will be able to spell 75% of the words in the day’s lesson, pronounce the words and add the words to their word bank




Ring a bell, ruffle papers, bang a desk, play music or make some other sound.

Ask the pupils what sounds they know.

Listen while they make the sounds they love.

Remind the pupils that letters have sounds.

Ask for volunteers to give you letter names and sounds or say a letter name and ask pupils to give you the sounds or give letter sounds and ask for the letter names.


Show the base word by bringing the flashcards together.

Demonstrate switching sounds by replacing a different letter until you have completely new words.

Show the pupils where you started and how replacing each letter produces a different word.

Use another example to clarify also showing how replacing each letter creates a new word.


Call out the words in the day’s lesson and have the pupils write what they hear in their notebooks

Checking for Understanding

The teacher goes round the class and checks pupils notebooks.

The teacher gives individual attention to pupils who are not getting it right. Repeat the words slowly and help pupils identify the switched sounds.


Explain how switching sounds helps to learn to spell and red new words.

Review the examples given.


Grade the pupil’s work and give additional one on one help where needed.

Read More »How to Teach Spelling

How to Teach Letter Names

The letters of the English Alphabet are the foundation upon which the reading and speaking of English is based. Although knowing the names of the letters does not contribute directly to reading, it is correlative. For one thing, The letter names come in handy as identifiers. If you do not know the names of the letters, you may end up identifying them by sound, which would be incorrect. You will… Read More »How to Teach Letter Names


How to Avoid Causing People an Earsore

A sore can be excruciatingly painful. It sometimes can be embarrassing when you have a sore that has defied all manner of treatment on a part of your body that everyone can see. You may decide to have it bandaged as you endure the pain. There is another sore that is plaguing nonnative speakers of English. It’s called earsore. Earsore is one of the words in my list of new… Read More »How to Avoid Causing People an Earsore