Welcome back to our spelling series! In this post we’ll discuss spelling rules and which ones are worth teaching.
First, I should note that I am talking about spelling, not reading rules. Some rules, like the FLOSS rule, make perfect sense when it comes to teaching spelling. But I don’t think that we need to explicitly teach this rule for children to read words like hill, miss, and buzz. It’s enough to demonstrate that a double letter is only pronounced once.
At the same time, I believe that phonics and spelling instruction should be aligned in the early grades, so teaching the spelling rule makes sense to me – as long as we understand that children do not need to know this rule to read. It’s useful when children are spelling.
Must-know spelling rules
In addition to learning basic letter-sound correspondences, children need to know alternate spellings and when to use them. They need to know rules about dropping and doubling letters. They know when to use a silent e. They need to know which letters are “illegal” at the end of English words.
These are the spelling rules and patterns that I think are important for teachers and students to know.
Are there other spelling rules and patterns you should teach?
This is largely a matter of opinion. Here are other resources with a list of rules that is not identical to my preferred list.
- Logic of English has a longer list of spelling rules. You can learn about the rules in detail in Denise Eid’s book, Understanding the Logic of English.
- In her book, Spelling for Life, Lyn Stone has a set of uniquely named spelling rules. (All her books are worth purchasing!)
- Silver Moon Spelling Rules is a program that focuses on a set of 21 rules. You can learn more by downloading the Progression of Skills on this page.
How to teach spelling rules
1. State the rule.
In her book with Charles Hughes, Anita Archer explains that rules are generally understood through an If-Then statement.
For example, if a one-syllable word ends with a short vowel and /ch/, then /ch/ should be spelled with tch.
2. Present examples and non-examples.
Examples of this rule include catch, notch, and sketch.
Non-examples include bench (because the word ends with a short vowel plus a consonant before the /ch/) and beach (because the word has a long vowel).
3. Guide students in analyzing examples and non-examples.
For example, ask your students how to analyze the word switch. How is /ch/ spelled in this word? Why?
A nonexample would be the word stench. How is /ch/ spelled in this word? Why?
4. Check students’ understanding of the rule.
One way to do this is to do spelling dictation with immediate feedback. Dictate words that follow (and don’t follow) the rule. After students spell each word on paper or on a dry-erase board, post the correct spelling and discuss it as needed.
- Explicit Instruction, by Anita Archer
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Click on the image below to see all the posts in my spelling series!