Teaching Spelling

If you are following BEE Spelling or any Words Their Way based program, you may be interested in these resources:

Resources for Letter Name Alphabetic Spellers

Resources for Within Word Pattern Spellers


Spelling knowledge

In order to teach spelling effectively (and make it interesting) we need to recognise that speller should know about a number of fundamental aspects of the English language: morphology, etymology, orthography and graphophonic knowledge (I may have left some out as I learn more about this). As I continue my journey in learning more about this, I am collecting notes on some of these important background knowledge areas.

Morphemes - a morpheme is the smallest unit of meaning in speech and writing. Words are formed using one or more morphemes. A free morpheme can usually stand alone as a word. A bound morpheme needs to be attached to a free morpheme - prefixes and suffixes are good examples of bound morphemes. There is plenty of information on the web about morphemes, here are some interesting starting points for learning more:

Notes on my spelling program

My spelling program in my first year out was fairly basic, and was a simple implementation of BEE Spelling, using word lists and Words Their Way word sorts. (Good introduction to Words Their Way at elltoolbox.com). I have now started to update the summary below with my slightly updated program. Obviously there are lots of ways to teach spelling and often one of the best ways is integrated into the literacy program, so that words are always discussed in context. I agree with this but also think there is merit in focused word study on its own.

So nowadays my program works sort of like this (although these notes are unlikely to ever catch up to the details):

  1. Give a spelling inventory to the class as often as required (usually once a term) and create a class profile
  2. Each week students receive a new spelling list or word sort, copied on to coloured paper to match their group. They stick this in their literacy book.
  3. They do spelling activities throughout the week, either on separate pages or in their books. These would usually include games and word sorts. I have also started creating some spelling word searches to match their word sorts for fast finishers.
  4. At the end of the week, or the beginning of the following week, they do a partner test on a sheet of paper and hand it in to me for review.

Spelling Inventories

Traditionally, there were a number of spelling tests used to measure the spelling capabilities of your students. The South Australian Spelling Test is one such test. Nowadays, if you are using a developmental model of spelling instruction, you probably want to look at what spelling knowledge they have in more detail, so you will want to administer a spelling inventory. This is all explained in Words Their Way and you can also find many copies of their inventories on the web by Googling "spelling inventory". The most commonly used one in year 1 is the Primary Spelling Inventory.
After I had used the Primary Spelling Inventory a few times in one year I thought it would make sense to use a modified one so that students did not just learn the words. On the spelling inventories page I've collected a few more inventories you can use in primary school.
I created this inventory as a possible alternative to the standard "fan-riding" one. (still a draft!)

Spelling websites and Tools

There are some good websites to help with spelling activities. Here are some that I know of!

Spelling Videos and other resources

When I started my spelling program in 2013 I wanted to start it with something that would catch the attention of my students and make them think spelling could actually be interesting. I wondered whether there was a good video around that would inspire them. I don't know that I have found the right one yet but here is a list of videos that I thought were interesting and worthwhile.


Spelling Lists

Here are copies of some spelling lists, if you want to use them in your program. I break them up by term so I can alter them at least several times a year if I need to,rather than prepare a year in advance.

Term 3 Spelling Lists