How To Learn To Spell: A Complete Guide

Are you trying to teach someone how to spell? Take a look at a few key tips on how to learn to spell for English spelling below.

Spelling words in the English language can be a challenge. Many people feel like the correct spelling doesn’t make sense, and learners who do well in other academic areas may have difficulty figuring out consonant and vowel rules. In addition, memorizing spelling rules can be particularly difficult for people with learning disabilities, such as dyslexia.

Everyone can get better at spelling by taking a defined approach to spelling. Mastering prefixes, suffixes, and basic spelling patterns can make phonics easier. So what are a few steps you should follow if you want to improve your spelling skills?

Materials Needed

How to learn to spell materials
You will need pieces of paper you can use to practice spelling

If you want to get better at spelling, you must have several essential materials. These include:

  • Pieces of paper you can use to practice spelling
  • Writing utensils, mainly pencils with erasers, that you can use to practice your words
  • Flashcards that you can use to help you learn your words
  • A list of words you may want to start with
  • A computer with an internet connection that can help you look up more words 

You may even want multiple spelling lists that you can use to master more difficult words as your spelling skills improve. Once you have the necessary materials, you can take a proven approach to help you learn the basics of spelling. 

Step 1: Learn the Alphabet

No matter how smart someone might be, it is impossible to learn how to spell without understanding the basics. The English language has 26 letters. Each letter is responsible for making a different noise. Therefore, anyone who wants to learn how to spell must memorize the English alphabet. Kids of all ages know the alphabet song.

Even if someone is learning English as a second language, it might be helpful to watch a video of the alphabet song. That way, learners will have a grasp of the 26 letters. Once you are confident the person learning how to spell understands the English alphabet, it is time to look at the sounds the individual letters make.

Again, it is essential to make sure all sounds are pronounced correctly from the outset. Otherwise, it will be difficult for someone to “sound out” the problematic spelling. As you try to teach someone the sounds that the individual letters of the alphabet make, try not to rush through it. Even though you probably understand the sounds well, it may take someone a long time to learn the sounds made by each letter. It isn’t unusual for a school to focus on only one sound per week. After you are confident your student understands the sounds made by each letter, it is time to start forming words. 

Step 2: Form Basic Words

Now, you can start teaching students how to spell essential words. Remember that words that might seem simple to you can be incredibly complex for someone learning to spell for the first time. Always start with words that are two letters long. Ideally, you should pick words that sound very different from one another. This will make it easier for students to hear the letters that go into that specific word.

Some of the first words you might want to teach people how to spell include:

  • Am
  • At
  • As
  • On
  • In

I noticed that it is straightforward for people to hear the vowel and consonants used to form this word. So kids who have a mastery of the alphabet should be able to tell how to spell these words based on the sounds they make. Remember that everyone develops at their own pace.

For example, if you teach a young child how to spell, they may not have the fine motor skills to write the letters on paper. Therefore, you should confirm with them verbally the letters they are using to spell the word. Furthermore, try to speak slowly when teaching a beginner how to spell. If someone is not fluent in English, their brain might not process the information fast enough to hear the individual sounds forming the words. You do not want to crush someone’s confidence. Move through this step slowly. 

Step 3: Memorize Word Families

After your student starts to get the hang of two-letter words, you can reach her longer words. You don’t want to go for words with multiple syllables yet, but plenty of single-syllable words also use three or four letters. So make sure your student can master these essential words as well. As the vocabulary grows, it is time to focus on word families. A word family refers to a group of words that follows a pattern. For example, you might want to form groups based on words with a similar vowel and consonant patterns.

Here is an example:

  • The “AP” Family: Cap, Gap, Lap, Map, Nap (etc.)
  • The “ET” Family: Bet, Get, Jet, Let, Net, Vet (etc.)
  • The “IP” Family: Dip, Lip, Pip, Rip, Sip (etc.)

Notice that these words are very similar. They all follow the same pattern, so it should be relatively straightforward for someone to learn how to spell the individual words in this family. There are plenty of word families out there, and you may want to use multiple word families to communicate to someone how they can follow patterns to make it easier to spell specific words. Then, you may want to put together a spelling test that uses various spelling lists based on these word families. Learning a bunch of words from individual word families may take a while, but mastering word families is essential for spelling more difficult words properly.

Step 4: Blended Consonants

Students need to be able to hear the sounds of individual letters that are used to put together words. One of the significant challenges of blended consonants is that it can be challenging for someone to hear individual sounds when two continents are next to one another. Therefore, starting slowly when you are trying to teach blended consonants is essential. For example, one of the students’ most significant challenges is spelling words with “TH” in them. This can be a challenging sound for people to make, particularly young children. When they cannot make the sound themselves, they have difficulty hearing it in a word.

Here are a few examples of words that use the pattern:

  • That
  • This
  • Then
  • Those
  • These

It would help if you approached this section the same way you approached word families. Put together families with different groups of consonants. This will make it easier for new learners to hear them. You might want to put together another group of words that use the “NG” sound. A few examples include:

  • Thing
  • Ping
  • Ding
  • Sing

Once you feel your student has a grasp of blended consonants, you can move on to words with multiple syllables. 

Step 5: Try Out Multiple Syllable Words

When you approach words with multiple syllables, you need to take the same approach you have taken with the abovementioned words. Start with multiple syllable words with consonants and vowels that are very easy to distinguish. This will make it easier for students to hear the individual letters that must be put together to form the word.

Once you feel like your student has an easy time picking up clear sounds in words with multiple simple words, you can move to blended consonants. Keep in mind that regular practice is essential for reinforcing the rules above. This is particularly important with words that have multiple syllables. The words are longer, so memorizing the letters can be more challenging. Mnemonics might even be helpful at this stage. Every learner is different, so it is essential to customize the lessons to meet their needs.

Tips on how to learn to spell

If you or someone else is trying to learn how to spell, there are several essential tips to keep in mind. They include:

1. Spell Out Loud

This is particularly important for people who are learning to spell beginner words. Spelling aloud is essential because it will teach people the names of the letters they are putting together. Then, when someone says the letter’s name, it will also trigger the sound it makes. If you say the letter out loud as you spell, you may catch yourself using incorrect letters before you put them down on the page. Even though you probably will not be able to speak during a spelling test, spelling out loud is a great way to practice.

2. Perfect Practice Makes Perfect

Speaking of practice, you need to practice regularly if you want to get better at spelling. One of the fun ways to practice is to use flashcards. You can put the word down on a flash card, ask someone to say the word to you, and then you can write it down. If you are practicing yourself, you may want to put your word families on a flash card.

You may want to put the e family’s name on the front of the card and then include all the names of the words in the family on the back. Then, when you see the family, you may want to test yourself to see how many of the words from the family you can get right.

3. Look For Patterns

If you try to memorize words without a pattern, it will be challenging for you to memorize them all. Therefore, you need to have a proven pattern or strategy you can use to memorize different words quickly.

That is why grouping your words into families is so important. For example, you may want to look for prefixes and suffixes that make sense together. Or, you may want to use rules such as “I before E.” By looking for patterns, you can categorize different words into different groups. In addition, it will reduce the sheer mental strength you need to use to learn how to spell. 

4. Read as Much as Possible

Once people learn how to read, it will be easier to learn how to spell. If you want to get better at spelling, you need to read as much as possible. By encountering many different words from many different places, you will have an easier time learning how to spell them.

Reading is also great because you can put individual words in context. Once you see them in a sentence, you will place that word in that specific context in your mind. It will make it easier for you to figure out what “looks right” and what “looks wrong” as you try to spell different words. This is also a great way to learn difficult words with challenging letter combinations.

5. Focus on the Origin of Words

Finally, as you try to master more difficult words, you should try to focus on the origin of specific words. Where did those words come from? If you are wondering why words are spelled a specific way, there is a good chance that the spelling is based on Latin, Greek, or some other ancient language.

You may notice patterns if you look at the origin language for root words. That is why people competing in a spelling bee always ask for the language of origin. First, you can learn about the different rules that govern different languages. Then, you can use that information to spell the word correctly. 

If you want to use the latest grammar software, read our guide to using an AI grammar checker.

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