Spelling Rules: why to teach them

I was never a good speller. I went to a parochial school and spelling tests and spelling bees were a weekly trial for me. I clearly remember when in fifth grade Sister Rosa tried to bolster my self-esteem by giving me the easy words in the spelling bee as usually, I was the first one out.

Spelling instruction consisted of weekly memorization of a list of words that were tested on Fridays a day I began to dread. For the most part, how we were taught was memorizing the letters in the words depending on our visual memory. There just was only so many words I could remember.

We were taught phonics as part of our reading instruction so this was another way that we could learn to spell.  We had this manilla card with all the word families on it that again we memorized but there was a pattern to this so I was better able to remember.

I did better with some of the words for which we were taught a trick, such as using a mnemonic which helps the brain encode and recall important information. This helped me remember some of the words that were tricky for me. I was taught the principal was my pal and the rule ” I before e except after c”.

One of the ways I loved learning was the learning of Latin and Greek roots, suffixes, and prefixes. There was a great television show that would break these words apart unfortunately I have forgotten the name of it.  The direct teaching of these greatly assisted me in remembering not just the spelling of words but also the meaning. I loved it so much that I studied Latin for four years in high school.

Reading has always been a passion of mine. I love all the worlds that open up when you read. Because of this love, I want to assist students in the reading process. This has lead to taking course work and evidently getting certified as a dyslexia specialist.  It was in studying reading process that I learned about spelling rules. I am embarrassed to say that I was helped as much as the students I was teaching. When you learn a rule there are fewer words that you need to memorize.

Good spellers know:

  • sound-symbol correspondence including an understanding of digraphs, syllables, vowel sounds
  • prefixes, suffixes, and root words
  • spelling rules

I am working with a group of second graders and we are learning the floss rule.

I created some BOOM cards to help my students practice this rule. At first, I had a whole deck with all the doubles but there were so many cards some of my students had difficulty so  I separated them out. Once they were able to do the separate set of BOOM cards they then tackled the larger mixed deck. It was fun for them to find the pattern. Even though they could say the rule it was not until they practiced it over and over, did the understanding occur. As one child called out to another ” Hey this is easy, we double the /f/, /l/, /s/, and /z/after the short vowel.”

When we can evoke all the senses in learning we have a better chance for the information to be remembered. This deck begins with the rule displayed and then the student is asked to help the students do their spelling test by using the FLOSS rules and being detectives evoking some emotion as they spell out the words asked for.

This spelling rule is usually introduced in first and second grade, but the practice may be needed by older students too. I love the students discovering the pattern so as they go through the cards it is easier. This success builds success.

The narration is fully automated so that there are fewer steps for the student. The children that I work with need this type of automatic narration and if I can eliminate the cognitive load to just what I want them to concentrate I have better success. Their task is to SPELL THE WORD BY TYPING IN THEIR ANSWER.

Working with my students there are times I will do this with the student and have them spell out loud and I type the answer. These are fabulous for distance learning

If you want to try them out click on the title which will bring you to the TPT page and on the second page of the preview you will be able to try out the first four cards.


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