How Teachers Can Accelerate Their Spelling Programs

How Teachers Can Accelerate Their Spelling Programs

For students it’s one thing to know how to spell, but it’s another thing to transfer that knowledge into writing.

Helping students successfully make this transition is a challenge faced by many teachers, according literacy expert Sharon Callen, who talked about the issue on The Teacher’s Tool Kit For Literacy podcast.

To do this, teachers must firstly find out what their students need to know through effective analysis of student writing.

Secondly, teachers must intentionally plan the teaching of spelling. This includes two strands:

1. Teaching children how to learn words

  • Included in the process is understanding and selecting the most useful words to learn (analysing writing to identify spelling needs is a helpful starting point), as well as learning words in the most effective ways using a range of human, print and digital resources.
  • Utilise the ‘notice, say, name, cover, write, check’ process.
  • Work through word structure strategies. As students become more knowledgeable introduce onsets/rimes, representations of consonant and vowel sounds, common spelling patterns, contractions, compound words, homophones, prefixes, suffixes and derivatives including words derived from other languages, acronyms and blended words such as ‘brunch’.

2. Teaching children strategies to spell unknown words

There’s three primary ways to do this.

  • Phonetic: Understanding the sound/symbol relationship to be able to represent every sound heard in a word with a letter or letters.
  • Visual: Seeing common spelling patterns – recognising these will help writers to try unknown words and help them to pronounce words when reading.
  • Morphemic: Understanding words and their parts – English is meaning-based language with words made of chunks of meaning including base, root, prefix, suffix, plural and contraction.

What should we be teaching at each year level?

Follow the ACARA Learning Area Descriptors for English – You can find the planning tools on Teachific.

You can then build a scope and sequence by grade level, such as:

  1. Foundation: Letter and word knowledge, phonological awareness, including onset/rime, learning words.
  2. Year 1: Learning words, using a phonetic strategy, using a visual strategy.
  3. Year 2: Learning words, using a phonetic strategy, using a visual strategy, using a meaning strategy.
  4. Year 3: Learning words, using a phonetic strategy, using a visual strategy, using a meaning strategy – most important strategy to learn from this point.
  5. Year 4-5: Learning words, using phonetic strategy, visual and morphemic strategies – majority of work focused on developing knowledge of how prefixes and suffixes are added to base words.
  6. Years 6-8: learning words, using phonetic strategy, visual and morphemic strategies.

Unpack this topic in much more detail with Sharon Callen in episode 27 of The Teacher’s Tool Kit For Literacy.

Here’s some incredible teaching resources to help accelerate your spelling programs.


Analysing a Student’s Writing to Check Their Spelling Knowledge

The Usefulness of Onsets and Rimes When Reading and Writing

Spelling: A Suggested Teaching Plan K-6

Teaching and Learning About Spelling

Personal Word Walls

Rimes A3 Flip ChartMini Lesson resource 

Greek and Latin Roots – A focus on Greek and Latin derivatives offers a powerful tool for teachers to nurture students’ vocabulary development

Spelling Pattern Explorations – Guiding students in exploring the word of English spelling patterns.


It’s Quite True a traditional tale by Dutchman Hans Christian Anderson, retold by Lis Mathiasen, Illustrated by Judith Price


Spelling K-8 by Diane Snowball and Faye Bolton

Get in touch

Need help activating an effective spelling program at your school? Contact Sharon Callen for a no obligation discussion about your needs.

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