FISD supports direct spelling instruction with embedded opportunities for the authentic application of learning through writing. The goal of spelling instruction is to develop independence, fluency, and accuracy in writing. A quality program equips students with strategies for spelling words independently and proofing personal writing.

Spelling instruction should be ongoing, daily, and purposeful. Instruction should be interrelated and interconnected with all strands of language. The primary focus of instruction should be on teaching a variety of effective spelling strategies, rather than on just memorizing lists of words. Students must be given opportunities to work with words, to proofread their own writing, and to study spelling patterns. The key to spelling development is the understanding and application of spelling strategies that enable students to become independent and competent spellers.

Expert spelling is not easy, and, for many children, it is not as natural as learning to speak. Conventional spelling is learned over a long period of time. Typically, most children will need to study the patterns and consistency of English spelling for about seven years—before they can spell like adults.

Richard Gentry

Realities of Spelling Instruction

  • Children need opportunities to experiment with words during word work and writing.

  • Correct spelling is easily learned by some children, and some even tend to be natural spellers; however, some children have trouble with spelling.

  • Copying words and focusing on mechanics does not ensure the development of correct spelling.

  • Expert spellers develop a memory capacity for visual images of words.

  • Purposeful and authentic writing is the key to learning to spell.

  • Spelling proficiency develops within progressive steps.

  • Learning to spell is a conceptual process that involves thinking about and making connections with words, not rote memorization.

  • Children initially learn to spell by inventing spelling.

Inventing a spelling for an unfamiliar word -- also frequently referred to as temporary spelling, sound spelling, constructed spelling, phonic spelling, or developmental spelling -- is natural. We all do it. And kids do it all the time. However, contrary to what a lot of people think, invented spelling doesn't hurt kids; our failure to teach word-specific knowledge and correct spelling does...

Richard Gentry

Toolkit for Parents

  • Know and understand that spelling is a developmental process.

  • Know that authentic writing is the key to spelling instruction.

  • Praise and encourage instead of being critical of spelling errors.

  • Make time for writing.

  • Have fun with spelling.

  • Create a supportive literacy rich environment.

Parents are important spelling teachers who play an active role in shaping their children’s attitudes about spelling.

Richard Gentry

Resources to Use at Home

  • Dry erase board

  • Magnetic Letters

  • Alphabet stamps and ink pads

  • Variety of paper

  • Writing tools such as pencils, markers, pens, crayons, chalk

  • Index cards

  • Write words using rice, sand, shaving cream, salt

  • Magnetic cookie sheet or burner covers

… spelling in the home should extend beyond those frustrating Thursday night efforts to force children to memorize a list of words for the test on Friday. Spelling should be fun!

Richard Gentry

Study Steps

A systematic technique for learning the correct spelling of words by using a combination of visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile procedures was reported in Fitzgerald (1951) and validated by Horn’s research (1954). This technique continues to be supported in research.

  • Say the word.

  • Look carefully at each part of the word as you pronounce it.

  • Say the letters in sequence.

  • Close your eyes and spell the word.

  • Check to see if you have spelled it correctly.

  • Write the word.

  • Check to see if you have written it correctly.

  • If you misspelled the word, repeat the seven steps.

Writing allows them to add new words to their spelling repertoire and engages their thinking about spelling. In addition, writing at home gets kids to use their acquired spelling knowledge. It exercises their spelling skills and keeps them from getting rusty as spellers.

Richard Gentry


Gentry, J. Richard (1997). My Kid Can’t Spell!: Understanding and Assisting Your Child’s Literacy Development. New Hampshire: Heinemann.

Gentry, J. Richard (1987). Spel…Is a Four-Letter Word. New Hampshire: Heinemann.

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