How to Teach Spelling

Every lesson is to some extent a spelling lesson. A decision must be made as to what words must be taught. The teacher will find material in:The words misspelled by the pupils in:

  • their written work
  • the Spelling book

A spelling book should be used with judgment, and it should not take the place of the individual and class lists made from the oral and written vocabulary of the children. It is not necessary that a pupil should know how to spell a word which he may seldom have occasion to use in writ- ing. It is sufficient that he should recognize it readily in reading.


In assigning lists of words to be studied call attention to the different words and more particularly to difficult parts in certain words. Call attention in a special manner to words which the pupil cannot spell. Time is often wasted in studying mechanically the words they already know. Have pupils decide which word requires the greatest effort to master.

Not more than seven words a day should be assigned to the intermediate grades, and in the grammar grades not more than ten. Fifteen to twenty words without preparation may be assigned for independent study. Tests may be given of words selected from the daily paper or from other branches of study.

There should be frequent reviews. Repetition, drill and practice are necessary.

Homonyms should always be taught through oral and written elliptical sentences.


Lead the pupils to formulate inductively the four most common rules in spelling. In grammar we emphasize the rules for words ending in y, f and fe, and for doubling a final consonant.

Words having the same prefix, stem or suffix should be taught simultaneously, e.g. transcribe, transcript, transcription.

The difference between vowels and consonants should be made clear to the pupils and they should be required to memorize the vowels.

The special teaching of one or two rules may be assigned to each grammar grade.

The words assigned for home study should be first studied with the teacher in school. Pupils should not be taught to commit lists of unrelated words to memory. It is a mistake to ask pupils to write the lessons a number of times.

Lesson Plan

Class Study. (20 minutes)

  1. Write one of the words on the blackboard and teach it in accord- ance with the following plan. Then write the next word, teaching it in the same way, and so on with the rest of the words.
    (a) While writing the word, pronounce it distinctly.
    (b) Develop the meaning orally, either by calling for a sentence using the word or by giving its definition.
    (c) Indicate the syllables. Call on pupils to spell orally, by syl- lables. Have them indicate what part of the word presents difficulties, or whether the word contains parts they already know.
    (d) Have pupils write the word, pronouncing it softly as they write it. It would be well to have a new sentence given, using the word, before they do this. This is to emphasize strongly the meaning of the word again just before the child writes it.
    (e) Allow the class a moment in which to look at the word again and then have them close eyes and try to visualize it, or use any other device of a similar nature. Have considerable repe- tition, both oral and written.
  2. After the various words of the day’s lesson have been studied in this way, allow a few moments for studying again the whole list, suggesting that each pupil emphasize the words he thinks he does not know. This time should be limited so that every pupil study inten- sively. Call upon pupils individually and in concert to spell the whole list without looking at the board. Refer them to the board again if they hesitate.
  3. Then erase all words from blackboard and dictate the words to the class, using each word in a sentence first.
    Every day’s work should include the new list of the previous day.

Source: Parochial Schools. Archdiocese of Boston (1923)