How do children learn to spell words?

There are two ways to spell words.

Remember the word as a sight word

Some students try to remember how the word looks when learning spelling words. This can work well for students with a good visual memory.

This strategy is also useful for remembering homophones (for example, which and witch) and irregular words (words that are difficult to ‘sound out’, such as sure and choir). However, this strategy is difficult to use for long, complex words, and it doesn’t help students spell unfamiliar words.

‘Sound out’ the word

Most English words can be sounded out if the student knows:

  • how to break the word into syllables and sounds
  • how letters and sounds are related
  • how to apply spelling rules

Efficient spellers are able to use both strategies effectively.

Many students who struggle with spelling have difficulties with phonological awareness skills such as:

  • identifying rhyming words
  • perceiving the difference between similar sounds (for example m and n)
  • identifying the first sound in a word
  • remembering the sequence of sounds in a word
  • breaking words into syllables

This means that they have difficulties 'sounding out' spelling words.

The Centre's Speech Pathologists use a variety of methods to develop phonological awareness skills, including Lindamood Phoneme Sequencing and computer-based programs such as EarobicsReading Doctor and Fast ForWord. They also use the Spalding Method to develop both 'sounding out' skills and sight word knowledge for spelling. 

Contact us for more information about how we help with spelling difficulties.