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How to Teach Spelling

The three column spelling method helps students encode any new spelling word. Learn how to teach spelling the Syllable Savvy way.


The secret of good spellers: Syllables
It's a Method: Not a Curriculum
Syllable Savvy Spelling is not just a curriculum; although you can purchase graded curriculum using this method.

It is a strategy for learning how to spell.

Syllable Savvy uses the three column spelling method. And you can use the three column method with any set of spelling words.

Try it with words your student is currently using.

How To Teach Spelling with a 5 Day Plan

These instructions assume a five-day academic week. Of course, we often think of a Monday through Friday academic week, but certainly there is flexibility on how the method is used.

If your academic cycle is longer or shorter, these instructions can be modified accordingly.

Syllable Savvy Columns

Day One: Introduce the List

1st Day: How to Teach Spelling with the Syllable Savvy Method

The first day the parent and student look at the new list together. The other days, students study independently.

The first column is the phonic spelling, the second is the regular spelling of the word, and the third column is the correct spelling syllable by syllable.

Together, look at the first word on this week's spelling list. Look at all three columns.

The majority of the words the students are probably familiar with. Their eyes will see the word written in its regular printed form in the center column.

Let's use the word "register" as an example. In the three columns it would look like this:

                        re ji ster                       register                       re2 gi2 ster4

Tell your student, "This is the word 'register.' Let's sound it out together." Pointing at the first column, sound it out syllable by syllable.

Bring their attention to the third column. "Here is the correct spelling." Point syllable by syllable and pronounce "re - gi - ster." "Look at the first syllable 're'. Is that how you would expect it to be spelled?"

In this example, the spelling and pronunciation are similar and likely what he or she expected.

"Look at the second syllable 'ji.' Is that how you would expect to spell it?"

Now the student notes a discrepency. They might have expected to spell it with a "j" not a "g".

Continue syllable by syllable through the word. After each syllable, the students decide if it is the expected spelling, or if there is a "trick" to it.

Students may want to underline or circle syllables that have unexpected spellings. That act helps to seal it in their memory.

After you have verbally talked through a word, fold the spelling list over so the student cannot see the second and third column. Ask them to spell the word. As they verbally pronounce each syllable, they write the letters of the syllable on a sheet of paper. They should speak and write each syllable together. Continue through all the syllables of a word before correcting that word.

Now, go syllable by syllable through the word and see if they spelled it correctly. Ask, "What are the three (or four, or other number) letters in this syllable? Are these the letters you wrote?" If they got all the letters correct, write the correct number at the end of the word as it is written on the third column.

If all of the syllables in the word are written correctly, it is time to go to the next word. However, if any letters are incorrect, point out the mistake, and have them write it again.

In this way, proceed syllable by syllable through the words on the list.

It may seem that this would take a long time. The first lesson or two will take longer as the students get used to the method. After that, it will take only a few minutes to introduce a new list each week.

Some older students who are stronger spellers may do this first lesson independently. Younger students and poorer spellers should have assistance on the first day.



Day 2 - 4: Independent Studying

Teaching Spelling: Students study on their own for three days

Syllable Savvy Columns

You can see in the diagram above that there are only two columns on their work page for days two through four. The phonetic column is listed and a blank line for them to write on.

The purpose of the phonetic column is to allow students to study their words independently. They do not need a teacher or partner to read the words on the list to them.

The student sounds out the word and then writes it on the blank line syllable by syllable. There are three workbook pages in the book for each lesson: one for days two, three, and four on a five day lesson plan.

Then, syllable by syllable the student self-corrects each letter using the third column on the first page of that week's lesson. For reinforcement, have the student write down the correct number of letters written in each syllable.

If the entire word is correct, the student can mark the word correct with a star or other symbol. If the word was written incorrectly, the student re-writes it on the next line of the spelling page to practice and reinforce the correct spelling.

Day 5: Spelling Quiz

The Spelling Quiz as an Assessment Tool

The fifth day is the spelling test or quiz. The instructor reads each word out loud and the student writes it on a new sheet of paper.

All the words in the list are read before the words are checked by the adult. The words are graded when the entire list is completed.

If a student misses a word on the spelling quiz, it can be added to next week's list.

What About the Other Words?

There are a total of twenty spaces on the lesson, but only fifteen words listed in each lesson. What are the other five words?

These are words you choose for your child to learn. These can be:
  • Words missed last lesson
  • Common words missed in their creative writing
  • Words that correspond to unit studies currently being studied




Try It for Free

Check Mark BoxYou can download lessons from Syllable Savvy Spelling and try the three column method for no charge.

The link above will also take you to a free download of the Instructor's Guide for more information on how to teach spelling the Syllable Savvy way.


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