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.

Would you like your learners to become spelling masters? Why not talk to a member of our team of experts to learn about bespoke services we offer that can help.


3 thoughts on “How to Teach Spelling”

  1. Pingback: How to Teach Letter Sounds - Institute of Certified Communicators

  2. Pingback: Spelling Words With Silent Letters - Institute of Certified Communicators

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