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Effective Spelling Practice

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My last post discussed the role of the diagnostic pre-test as part of a balanced spelling program. I provided links for spelling word lists, including Vowel Sound-Spelling Patterns (for primary or remedial spellers), Outlaw Words (non-phonetic words), Dolch High Frequency Words, Commonly Confused Words, and the Eight Conventional Spelling Rules . I suggested that summer would be the best time to assess the spelling of your children to prepare for fall instruction and offered an essential resource: the comprehensive Diagnostic Spelling Assessment.

As I previously mentioned, each of the six posts will begin with a brief reflection about the instructional spelling component, follow with a rationale for teaching that component, and finish with some free instructional spelling resources. The components of each of the six posts are as follows:

1. Diagnostic Assessment 2. Sound-Spellings 3. Spelling Rules
4. Spelling Lists and Tests 5. Spelling Practice 6. Integrated Spelling and Vocabulary.

This week we explore how to use appropriate spelling practice as part of a balanced spelling program.


□ I provide opportunities for students to practice words missed on the diagnostic pre-test.

□ I provide both memorization and writing practice for spelling words.

□ I connect spelling practice to structural analysis of the words.

□ I integrate spelling and vocabulary instruction in our practice.


Effective spelling practice is not exclusively memorization. Good spelling practice connects to language development, vocabulary, structural analysis, auditory processing, and writing.

Language Development

The ways that words are spelled are determined by etymological influences. For example, the British spell the /er/ as “re” in theatre, while Americans spell the /er/ as “er” in theater. The ways that words are spelled are also determined by derivational influences. For example, the “ch” spelling in Greek has a hard /k/ sound, so the word chorus is spelled accordingly.


The ways that words are spelled are often determined by the morphemes (words parts with meaning). For example, we spell emigrate because the prefix e means “out of,” while we spell immigrate because the prefix means “in or into.”

Structural Analysis

The ways that words are spelled are further determined by structural issues. For example, we spell begin with one n, but beginning with two n’s because of the consonant doubling rule. We pronounce unaccented vowels with the schwa sound in multi-syllabic words.

Auditory Processing

Spelling is an auditory skill, not a visual one. We “encode” the sounds we hear into the written alphabetic code. Good spelling practice involves syllabication rules, oral blending, and word fluency.


We spell in order to write coherently. Students need to practice effectively proofreading to catch inadvertent spelling errors.

Spelling Resources

Language Development

http://www.etymonline.com/ and http://www.yourdictionary.com/



Structural Analysis


Auditory Processing




In next week’s How to Teach Spelling Part VI, we’ll deal with the fifth P-Post-test and have more resources to integrate spelling and vocabulary instruction.

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 programs to teach the Common Core Language Standards. Each full-year program provides 56 interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics and include sentence diagrams, error analysis, mentor texts, writing applications, and sentence dictation formative assessments with accompanying worksheets (L.1, 2). Plus, each grade-level program has weekly spelling pattern tests and accompanying spelling sort worksheets (L.2), 56 language application opener worksheets (L.3), and 56 vocabulary worksheets with multiple-meaning words, Greek and Latin word parts, figures of speech, word relationships with context clue practice, connotations, and four square academic language practice (L.4, 5, and 6). Comprehensive biweekly unit tests measure recognition, understanding, and application of all language components.

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out the YouTube introductory video of the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) program.

The author also provides these curricular “slices” of the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) “pie”: the five Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits Grades 4−8; the five Differentiated Spelling Instruction Grades 4−8 programs (digital formats only); and the non-grade-leveled Teaching Grammar and Mechanics with engaging grammar cartoons (available in print and digital formats).

Pennington Publishing's Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)
Grades 4-8 Programs

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