Learning to spell and learning to read are connected. According to research, both draw on similar cognitive practices and on the same knowledge, such as the relationships between letters and sounds and the relationship between vocabulary growth and reading comprehension. Here are some tips and strategies on how to teach spelling words effectively while at the same time following evidence-based research on teaching spelling.

How Do You Pick  Spelling Words?

Using diagnostic and prescriptive principles need to be implemented into the spelling lessons that are appropriate for both reading and spelling.

  • Diagnostic means that the teacher makes the decision for instruction based specifically on the needs of the student.
  • Prescriptive means that the teacher assesses and creates lessons based on where the student is at in their current spelling and reading ability. Both reading and spelling are taught for mastery.

1.  Multiple Students

Not every student in a classroom is going to be at the same spelling level. Spelling must be taught in a logical order that makes sense to the student. Just picking random words without any connection to a lesson that the student is working on will not work.

This means that the teacher will need to assess each individual student’s spelling level first, and then group each student together by level. Each group will learn and move forward together.

2.  Use Systematic Phonics

Research has shown that children need to be taught spelling and reading at the same time using systematic phonics.

Systematic phonics is taught in a planned sequence with the most common and basic skills occurring at the beginning such as the beginning vowels and blends and then progressing to advanced spelling skills that will include suffixes, prefixes, and morphology.

Students are taught to spell in systematic phonics by using the patterns of the English language and learning the patterns for spelling the sounds in words. For example, the /k/ sound is sometimes spelled with ‘ch’ like in the words monarch, school.

If you would like to see an example of a systematic phonics Scope and Sequence:

Click>>> HERE

Using a structured, systematic and cumulative approach when teaching spelling patterns to students gives meaning and connection to each lesson. The student learns a spelling rule, practices the spelling rule a lot and then progresses to the next spelling rule but keeps practicing the ‘already learned’ spelling rules.

3.  Watch a Spelling Lesson in Action

Would you like to watch a lesson where a teacher teaches spelling and reading simultaneously using systematic phonics? Watch it here:


What is the Process of Teaching Spelling Words?

Each spelling rule must be taught explicitly using a systematic, structured, sequential, and cumulative approach. What does this mean?

Let’s say that you are teaching the spelling rule ur like in the word hurt. Your current spelling list will then include ur words like surf, urchin, burlap, etc.  

1.  Teach and practice the spelling rule ur explicitly and use activities and repetition. (Activities are listed below.)

2.  Dictate words and sentences with the spelling rule ur and make sure the student is applying the spelling rule correctly.

3.  If the student or group of students are not comfortable with the spelling rule ur, keep practicing until they get it. Obviously the goal here is to get the spelling words to stick.

4.  Read words, sentences and decodable text or stories that contain the spelling rule ur in them. This is where reading and spelling are connected. You want your student to recognize the spelling rule ur in text.

5.  Always monitor progress and never teach a new spelling rule until the current spelling rule is solid.

6.  Review Review Review. As you teach a new spelling concept you will continue to review the previously learned spelling concepts.

What are Some Multisensory Spelling Activities?


When you teach spelling words, make it fun, memorable, and interactive by using multisensory activities. Studies from the National Institutes of child Health and Human Development have shown that for children with difficulties learning to spell, a multisensory teaching method is the most effective way for these students to learn. 

Multisensory teaching means the teacher must tap into all learning modalities – see it (visual), feel it (tactile), hear and say it (auditory), and move with it (kinesthetic).

Here are some fun multisensory spelling activities that you can try out with your students:

1.  Letter Tiles

Have the letter tiles in alphabetical order on a desktop. Dictate a spelling word to your child. Have the child repeat the word and then bring down each letter in the word to build the word in front of them. Letter tiles are really helpful in building lasting memories to help make those difficult words really “stick.”

2.  Playdough

Roll out the Playdough so it becomes a flat surface. From here the kids can get really creative.

  • Use a pencil, chopsticks or even a golf tee and write the spelling words onto the surface of the playdough.
  • Stick letter tiles onto the play dough so that they stand up and build the spelling words.
  • Use letter magnets and letter stamps onto the surface of the playdough to build the spelling words.
  • The kids can also build the spelling words with the playdough by forming it into the letter shapes.

3.  Use Shaving Cream

This activity never gets old! Spread shaving cream out on a flat surface or tray and then let the child write out the letters or words or sentences. This is really messy but oh so fun! You can change it up by using pudding or whipped cream. You can also put shaving cream on a mirror in the bathroom – makes cleaning up a bit easier.


4.  Trace Over Highlighter

Using a highlighter write spelling words on a piece of paper. Now let your student pick out their favorite color markers or pens and trace over your letters making sure that the color they use is darker than the highlighter you used.

5.  Sky Writing

When using the sky writing, the child will stretch her arm out as far as it can go. The child then uses their pointer and middle finger to form the letters in the air at least two feet high. This form of writing in the air allows the child to feel the energy flow from her body into the sky as she is using her entire body to form the letters!

This whole body movement helps the student cement the idea of how each letter is formed, both physically, visually, and audibly. This whole body experience uses muscle memory to store the information into the brain which is used later on when spelling the words on paper.

Watch Ms. Renee use various multisensory activities to help students read very difficult words by breaking them up into syllables:

 For some more multisensory spelling games and activities, you can read my previous posts: 

Welded Sound Building Blocks

Fly Swatter Phonics Game

Spelling BINGO

I Have A Spelling Resource For You!

Thank you for reading my post today! You might also enjoy reading my previous posts:

My Favorite Sight Word Activities

Show Me an Orton-Gillingham Lesson

The Science of Reading: What All Teachers Should Know

Please don’t leave without checking out the PRIDE Reading Program. The PRIDE Reading Program is an Orton-Gillingham curriculum that is used by teachers, tutors, and homeschooling parents worldwide with great success. 

>>The PRIDE Reading Program<<

evidence based reading instruction dyslexia

Karina Richland, M.A., is the author of the PRIDE Reading Program, a multisensory Orton-Gillingham reading, writing and comprehension curriculum that is available worldwide for parents, tutors, teachers, and homeschoolers of struggling readers. Karina has an extensive background in working with students of all ages and various learning modalities. She has spent many years researching learning differences and differentiated teaching practices. You can reach her by email at info@pridereadingprogram.com or visit the website at www.pridereadingprogram.com