I am currently researching how to teach spelling.  Some methods say that if children are exposed to good literature eventually they will pick up spelling.  Others recommend copy work, so that students can learn spelling while practicing their handwriting.  Still others advocate lists of spelling words and weekly tests.  If you’ve followed my homeschooling efforts for long you can probably guess that I’m leaning toward using a little of all of those methods.

We already read a lot of books and Hannah does copy work, but I wanted to find a way to help her understand basic spelling.  Really, it’s mostly selfish, because she likes to write stories in her many notebooks and I get tired of her asking me how to spell things every three and a half seconds, especially when I’m working with the other kids.

So I decided to read The Writing Road to Reading because it describes how understanding basic phonemes and spelling rules can help kids spell the most common words in English and also help them to spell unusual words.  The method also purports to teach children to read and to appreciate literature, but we already have those under control so I mostly skimmed until I got to the spelling parts.  There is quite a lot of information on classroom teaching methods as well if you find that interesting.

I started Hannah and Jack out with the beginning of the phonograms list and the beginning of the word list.  Jack still has a difficult time writing, but he’s gotten much better at holding his pencil correctly and forming the letters properly, so I am happy with that progress.  Hannah already knows how to spell the beginning words so I’m trying to move her through until we get to words and rules she doesn’t know, but I wanted to start at the beginning to make sure we didn’t miss something.  Both kids like the lesson because they get to write in their notebooks.  Notebooks are a very big thing around here these days.  Jack took one to Sunday School this week in his blazer pocket and lost it, so if you find a small notebook with a red car on it filled with lowercase b’s and words like me, do, and, and go, please let us know.

While you can find lists of phonograms and word lists online, I do think the rule explanations attached to the extended Ayres word list in The Writing Road to Reading is helpful.  I found the book at our library, and it may be worth checking yours before you decide about purchasing it for yourself.

If you’ve taught your children spelling using this or some other method, would you let me know in the comments?  I’m always looking for new school ideas and book recommendations!


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

12 thoughts on “Spelling?

  1. Some of our children naturally picked up spelling and some to this day have to still think it through when they write. I read this same book years ago and found that it set me down a different path in my thinking, yet it wasn’t the solution for us. I ended up using finding that Sequential Spelling fit us the best as well as a 100 most used words list.

  2. Monica, thanks for those other references. I will check them out. I like the list format from the Writing Road but don’t think we would use all of it, as it seems a little dull and we already have a reading program that is working for us. Thanks again for commenting, I really appreciate your insight!

  3. Have you heard of the Riggs (aka Spalding) program for spelling? This homeschooling mother of 5 gives it rave reviews (scroll down to the spelling section):


    The program divides the English language into 70 phonograms; Children memorize the different sounds that each phonogram can make and learn spelling lists revolving around the sounds. If you’ve heard of the Phonics Road to Reading and Spelling, it’s based on the Riggs program.

  4. This post made me smile because whenever someone (recently her great aunt) asks Meredith, “What is your favorite subject?” she will say it is spelling. Spelling is my LEAST favorite subject to teach, however. I think she is a perfectionist at heart and she just loves to see a word printed on paper and feel like she got it right. Ha! We do copywork around here and we also use the Spelling Plus curriculum (and their dictation book, that corresponds with the spelling lists). CC Essentials uses these books and it’s a pretty inexpensive investment if you turn out not liking it. It has the 1,000 most commonly used words in the English Language. We do the lessons (which I think are boring but Meredith loves) and then at least one or two days I week, I put her spelling list into the website SpellingCity.com . Spelling City takes the spelling words and will either test the child for you or will create various different games for the child to play so that she learns it better. Anyway, that’s my 2 cents. 🙂

  5. Spelling is the sometimes-bane of my existence in our homeschool. I’ve finally settled on All About Spelling with my eldest, and I think it’s going to be a good fit. She honestly doesn’t like using the manipulatives (tiles), but I can see how it’s a good, multisensory approach. Of course, we haven’t been using it very long, so the jury’s really still out. . . 🙂

  6. All About Spelling has been great for us. We don’t always use the tiles either although I agree that it’s good for multisensory stuff. I let my kids spell the words out loud or write them (their choice) unless they’re having trouble – then we go back to the tiles. And we supplement with Spelling City too. Just found your blog – look forward to exploring!

  7. Hello Catherine – I read your comments about your research on how to teach spelling. I think you are wise in leaning toward using a variety of methods, but you spoke little about phonics.

    Tracey Tutor Early Reader Program teaches reading and spelling concurrently using a phonics based, multi-sensory, sequential approach. There are precisely chosen progressive spelling drills and much sentence dictation, interspersed with fun games and activities. Homeschool parents are trained and guided one step at a time to teach their students to the mastery level with continued reinforcement. This program is for students of any age and any level of ability.

    In early July, Tracey Tutor will offer its Pre-Reader Program including colorful DVD which builds the earliest foundation in phonics for students of any age.

    These programs have been used successfully for twenty years with average students and students with learning challenges such as dyslexia and autism, and can be viewed for consideration by you and your readers at http://www.traceytutor.com.

    1. Stephanie, my oldest two kids are already strong readers and have been through the Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading, which is a complete phonics program (and I highly recommend it, having looked at many), so I was just looking for spelling. But I left in your link in case others are looking for a phonics plus spelling program. I think it would depend on the age of the child and their ability level as to whether you’d want to link spelling and reading. I personally found that my kids were ready to read far before they were ready to write, so I liked how the Ordinary Parents Guide did not require writing.

  8. Quoting Catherine: “I think it would depend on the age of the child and their ability level as to whether you’d want to link spelling and reading. I personally found that my kids were ready to read far before they were ready to write…”

    Thank you Catherine for the Tracey Tutor link! I agree that children are often ready to read before they are ready to write. One of the goals of Tracey Tutor, however, is to minimize the time lag between reading and spelling. Tracey Tutor provides red and blue magnetic letters so even “pre-writers” learn to “spell” basic closed syllables. In my tutoring business, time and again, I saw the benefit of teaching phonics based reading and phonics based spelling concurrently. Granted, progress may be slower initially, but it pays off in the end. (Of course, all students should be read to regularly to learn voice inflection and fluency.) You were wise to use a phonics program! Thanks for exchanging ideas! If you attend the Atlanta Homeschool Convention at the end of this month, stop by our booth or visit our workshop! Blessings!

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