Kelsie Syverson, EngEd 463: Chapter 5: Teaching Phonics and Spelling Patterns

Strategies Good Readers Use

  • Recognize that this is an unfamiliar word, and look at all the letters in order
  • Search your mental word bank for similar letter patterns and the sounds associated with them
  • Produce a pronunciation that matches that of a real word that you know
  • Reread the sentence to cross-check your possible pronunciation with meaning, If meaning confirms pronunciation, continue reading. If not, they try again
  • Look for familiar morphemes, and chunk the word by putting letters together that usually go together in the words you know

Guess the Covered Word

  1. Before class begins, write four or five sentences on the board that start with your students’ names, follow a similar word pattern, and end with words that vary in their initial sounds and word length.
  2. Cover the last word in each sentence with a sticky note
  3. Begin the activity by reading the first sentence and asking students to guess the covered word. Write down guess on the board next to the sentence.
  4. Next, uncover all the letters up to the first vowel (make sure to tell the students that you did this). Erase guesses that do not begin with that group of letters. Have students give a few more guesses that would make sense. Write them on the board. Remind students that the word needs to begin with this letter/s and still make sense in the sentence.
  5. Finally, uncover the whole word and see if any guesses were correct. Repeat this process with the remaining sentences.

This can also be used during science or social studies so that students don’t just relate this activity with reading.

Using Words You Know

Help students learn to use the words they already know to decode and spell lots of other words.

  1. Show students three to five words they know, and have these words pronounced and spelled.
  2. Draw four columns, and head each column with one of these words.
  3. Tell students that words that rhyme usually have the same spelling pattern.
  4. Tell students that you are going to show them some new words and that they should write each one under the word with the same spelling pattern.
  5. Explain to your students that thinking of rhyming words can help them spell. This time, do not show them the words but just say the word.
  6. End this lesson by helping students verbalize that in English words that rhyme often have the same spelling pattern and that good readers and spellers do not sound out every letter but rather try to think of a rhyming word and read or spell the word using the pattern in the rhyming word.


Making Words

As students manipulate letters to make words, they learn how making small changes, such as changing just one letter or moving two letters around, results in a completely new word. You can guide students to make these discoveries by carefully sequencing the words they are to make and giving them explicit guidance about how much change in needed.

Making Words lesson have three steps:

  1. You make words. Begin with short, easy words and move to longer, more complex words. The last word is always the secret word – a word that is made using all of the letters. As the students make each word, a student who made it successfully goes up to a pocket chart and makes the word with big letters so all students can see it. Have students make 10-15 words, including the secret word.
  2. Sort the words into patterns. This could include length of the word, the beginning letter, but every lesson should include sorting them by sorting words.
  3. Transfer the words. Once the words are sorted by rhyming words, have the students use the rhyming words to spell some new words with these rhyming patterns.

Modeling How to Decode Big Words

To decode and spell big words. your students must:

  1. Have a mental store of big words that contain the spelling patterns common to big words
  2. Chunk big words into pronounceable segments by comparing the parts of new big words to the big words they already know
  3. Recognize and use common prefixes and suffixes

Modeling is the most direct way to demonstrate to your students what to do when they encounter a long, unfamiliar word. Modeling is simply thinking aloud about how you might go about figuring out an unfamiliar word.

The Nifty-Thrifty-Fifty

The Nifty-Thrifty-Fifty words should be introduced gradually, and students should practice chanting and writing them until their spelling and decoding become automatic.

  1. Display the words, arranged by first letter, someplace in the room
  2. Explain to students that in English, many big words are just smaller words with prefixes and suffixes added to the word
  3. Tell students that one way to practice words is to say the letters in them aloud in a rhythmic, chanting fashion
  4. Once you have notices the composition for each word, helped the students see other words that work in a similar way, and cheered for each word, have the students write each word
  5. When you have a few minutes, practice the words by chanting or writing
  6. Once students can automatically, quickly, and correctly spell the words and explain to you how they are composed, it is time to help them see how these words can help them decode and spell other word. They use words they know and combine roots, suffixes, and prefixes to figure out how to spell lots of other words
  7. Continue adding words gradually, going through the above procedures with all the words. Do not add words too quickly, and provide lots of practice with these words and the other words that can be decoded and spelled by combining parts of these wordsIMG_E1159IMG_E1160

Classroom Application

I think rhyming words are one of the most important parts about becoming better readers and spellers because these words follow a pattern so I would teach a lot of rhyming activities even if it is just the students naming rhyming words as I write them down to show them the spelling pattern. I like the idea of teaching prefixes and suffixes and for the younger students I want to work with we might have to choose simple prefixes like “un” or “re” and suffixes like “able” and “ed” that they might come across more in their reading. Students will be reminded to use words that they already know.


Cunningham, P. M. & Allington, R. L. (2011). Classrooms That Work: They Can All Read
and Write. (6th ed.). Boston: Pearson

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