Tips for teaching spelling — and a free lesson (with printables!) for spelling long e (ee, ea)

Did you know that even though my first grader is learning spelling at school, I’m taking her through Word Study at home?  I love Word Study because it takes a developmental approach to teaching spelling — it’s also fun because it involves hands-on word sorts and games.  My daughter doesn’t usually resist — too much. :)

We keep it simple.  Since my daughter is already learning spelling at school, I don’t need to overdo it. But whether you’re a classroom teacher, a homeschooling parent, or someone like me who likes to fill in the gaps, Word Study doesn’t have to be complicated.

tips for teaching spelling - the measured mom


Here are a few quick tips for teaching spelling with Word Study:

1. Remember that spelling lessons should be about finding logical spelling patterns and NOT just memorizing word lists.  Instead of giving lists of random words, give lists with words that can be sorted into two or three groups based on certain features.  A simple sort could be sorting between words that end with ap or an.  A more challenging sort could be sorting words that double the final consonant, drop the e, or have no change when adding a suffix.

2. Give your child many opportunities to sort the spelling words.  Ideally, your child should sort the words at least once a day leading up to the spelling test.  You’re aiming for understanding, accuracy, and speed.  Always have your child read the words aloud after sorting — and make sure she can name the pattern for each column.

3. Give opportunities to write and learn the words – but avoid mindless copying and busywork.  Writing the words five times each?  Not the best.  Spelling word searches?  Not ideal.  Instead, have your child write the words in their appropriate columns (a written sort), write and illustrate the words, use them in meaningful sentences, or find another way to promote understanding of vocabulary.

4. Apply the spelling to real reading and writing whenever you can.  A great way to do this is a word hunt: get out a few books and have your child hunt for words that match the spelling patterns.  Call attention to related words when you see them on signs or in the grocery store.  Hold your child responsible for these words (and related ones) in her writing assignments.

5. Always find a way to keep learning interesting and fun. We do this by playing at least one spelling game a week.  Not sure what to play? Don’t worry – I’ve created a few already, and I plan to create lots more.  Check out the ones I’ve created so far. (Download each of them for free!)

A spelling lesson for words with short e and long e spelled ee and ea

In most spelling curricula, you won’t find simple short e words paired with long e words.  The reason we do this in Word Study is because it provides a chance for children to analyze and compare spelling patterns. When they listen to the words, they think about the vowel sound and determine the spelling pattern.

Some memorization is involved — when distinguishing between ee and ea.  I’ve found that repeated exposure and games does the trick for most kids – when they’re learning at their developmental level. (Not sure how to find your child’s spelling level? See how in this post.)

tips for teaching spelling (2) - the measured mom

Here’s our word list for the week.  Where do I get it from? I follow the sequence in the back of the Words Their Way book.  I pick and choose from the recommended lists until I have 20 spelling words. You can create your own or use my list (it’s in the free printable pack at the end of the post).

During the week, my daughter sorted the words in various ways.  Here are just a few examples:

1- Teacher-directed closed sort.  You define the categories and have your child complete the sort.

“Today we’re sorting words that have short e and those that have long e spelled ee and ea. We also have two oddballs.  Let me see you sort the words.” 

2- Student-directed closed sort.  Let your child sort the words on her own.

“Can you sort these words into patterns?  Now, can you tell me about each of the columns?  What do you notice about the oddball words?” 

3- Blind sort.  

“I’m going to read the words to you without letting you see them.  I need you to help me sort them.  Point to the spot on the table where they should go.”

tips for teaching spelling (3) - the measured mom

Here’s how it looked after she sorted the words.

tips for teaching spelling (4) - the measured mom

We also played my newest spelling game, Give Me a Clue, a few times. It gave her practice spelling the words and also let her do some detective work as she tried to guess which word I was holding based on a single clue.  You can adapt this for any word list! You can read about it here. It’s in the printable pack too.

sentence art - the measured mom

Many years ago, my sister had this regular assignment in school called Sentence Art.  As her big sister, I always liked seeing the sentences and illustrations she came up with.  I ended up using this idea in my own classroom, and this week I decided to give my daughter a crack at it.  She had to write six sentences using spelling words – with the goal of using more than one word per sentence, if possible.  Then she had to illustrate each one.  (You can get your own printable in the lesson pack.)

I modeled it first, and then my daughter completed the page.  I think she did a good job for her first shot at it (even though sentence #4 doesn’t quite work!).

Want all the pieces of this week’s lesson? Get it here: Word Study Lesson (short e, ee, ea) – the measured mom

Page 1: Terms of Use
Page 2: Spelling list
Pages 3-7: Large spelling words
Pages 8-9: Give Me a Clue spelling game
Page 10: Sentence Art

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© 2013 – 2014, Anna Geiger. All rights reserved.

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