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Effective Spelling Lessons

Helpful Spelling Guidelines and Expected Patterns

You can help students learn to become better spellers by directly teaching helpful spelling guidelines and patterns. These guidelines and patters are for students who already developing a foundational phonologic approach to spelling. Please see the article Effective Reading Instruction: Teaching Children How to Spell. This article contains detailed information on helping students develop spelling skills and includes links to effective beginning spelling lessons.  

Each spelling lesson listed below presents and explains a guideline and includes a list of applicable words to practice application of this guideline. These spelling lessons in this article are copied from the spelling program found in the Back on the Right Track Reading Lessons program. Back on the Right Track Reading Lessons is copyrighted © 2006 Miscese R. Gagen. All rights are reserved.  Right Track Reading Lessons also contains similar spelling lessons. You can  preview Right Track Reading Lessons Spelling Lessons 1-8.

The spelling sections of Back on the Right Track Reading Lessons and Right Track Reading Lessons include a total of 31 Spelling Lessons which directly teach a specific pattern or guideline. All spelling lessons include word lists or are cross referenced to appropriate word lists located in the reading lessons.


 Spelling Lessons

Helpful Spelling Guidelines and Patterns

Read and review the guideline or pattern. Look at the listed words. Notice the specific pattern or guideline. The have the student write spelling words that meet the guideline. By reviewing the guideline and then writing/spelling these words the student can ‘see’ and practice the expected pattern. The majority of these lessons are not memorizing a rule, but rather learning the guideline or pattern and understanding how and why it works.

Spelling Lesson 1: Every syllable has a vowel

Syllables are simply the hunks of sound within a spoken word that we say with a single puff of air. It is important to know every syllable has a vowel.  Knowing that every syllable has a vowel is a fundamental element of spelling English words.

Practice Words: little    sparkle    struggle    handle    angle    apple    article    triple    principle

flexible    possible    table    tumble    riddle    puzzle  fiddle  single    grumble   tumble   saddle

raffle   simple  bubble   terrible   brittle   cattle    jungle   stable     dazzle   dribble   candle    scribble

Spelling Lesson 2: ‘Silent e’ ~ Learning the 5 types of ‘silent e’ and knowing when to use the ‘silent e’.

“Silent-e” is found at the end of many words. It is important to realize in most cases this ‘silent-e’ is not randomly added to the end of words. Although the ‘e’ is ‘silent’, it has very important purposes. There are five ways the ‘silent-e’ occurs. Spelling is easier when you understand the important functions of this ‘silent e’. The five primary functions of ‘silent-e’ are:

1. In the vowel-consonant-e combinations the ‘e’ is needed to make the first vowel say its name. This is the most common occurrence of ‘silent e’ when the ‘e’ is acting as a necessary partner of the other vowel. It is not ‘magic’. This ‘e’ has a specific function. The final, silent ‘e’ is the hardworking partner for the vowel in the vowel-consonant-e combination.  (tim-time, bit-bite, at-ate, not-note, rob-robe, cod-code, home, strike, graze, flute)

Practice Words: See Reading Lessons # 22 - 26.

2. In words with ‘ce’ and ‘ge’ where the ‘e’ is necessary to make the ‘c’ have the /s/ sound (as in dance, chance, fence, justice, sentence, prance, prince, peace) or the ‘g’ have the /j/ sound (large, charge, manage, change, edge, fridge). This ‘silent-e’ is necessary to make the ‘soft c’ /s/ or ‘soft g’ /j/ sound.

Practice Words: See Reading Lesson # 27.  

3. In words ending in ve: In the English language words do not end in v. Therefore, the ‘e’ is added to the end simply to prevent the word from ending in ‘v’. This ‘e’ often does not change the sound of other letters in the word.

Practice Words: have, give, love, above, live, active, native, captive, passive, massive, active, negative, motive, relative, expensive, aggressive, descriptive, detective, sensitive, informative

See Reading Lesson #64 for additional words.

4. In words with ending consonant blend and le ending, the ‘e’ is necessary because every syllable needs a vowel.  This was explained in Spelling Lesson 1.

Practice Words: See words listed in Spelling Lesson #1 on the preceding page.    

5. And of course, some words have a final ‘silent-e’ for no apparent phonetic reason. Maybe it is just to make spelling difficult and confusing! Although the ‘e’ is not needed phonetically, a spelling pattern does exist for many of these words.  Notice most of the ‘no-reason’ silent-e words end in the /s/ or /z/ sound spelled with the letter ‘s’.  These ‘no-reason’ silent-e words do need to be practiced and learned.  Grouping by similar spelling patterns helps the student learn these words.

Practice Words: (house, mouse, grouse, louse);(please, crease, lease, tease, grease, decrease, increase, release); (geese, cheese); (cruise, bruise); (cause, pause, because, clause); (loose, choose, goose); (some, come, done), horse, promise, noise.

Spelling Lesson 3: No English words end with the letter i

No English words end with the letter ‘i’.  It is very helpful to remember this in spelling because you must spell the word in a pattern that does NOT end in ‘i’.

Exceptions are words from other languages and proper names.

· taxi (short for taxicab);

· macaroni, manicotti, rigatoni, (The Italian ‘noodle’ words)

· radii, nuclei, (the plurals of some Latin words found mostly in math and science)

· alkali (French from an Arabic word); zucchini (Italian); chili (Spanish); kiwi (Maori)

· lei, Maui, Hawaii,  Molokai  (You guessed it; these are Hawaiian words.)

· Proper names can always provide exceptions. For example: location names (Cincinnati, Missouri, Mississippi… ), personal names (Jeni, Heidi, Toni…), and numerous surnames.  There are also a few common nouns originating from proper names ending in ‘i’. For example the wildland firefighting tool, ‘pulaski’ was named after Edward Pulaski, a US Forest Service Ranger and firefighter hero of the ‘Big Burn’ that raged though Idaho and western Montana in 1910.   

While this trivia on word origination and search for exceptions may be interesting, the guideline “No English words end in the letter i” remains a very useful spelling guideline for the vast majority of words the student will encounter.

Spelling Lesson 4: No English words end with the letter v

As previously discussed in the ‘silent e’ section, no English words end with the letter ‘v’. If a word ends in the /v/ sound, you must add the ‘silent e’ to the end just so that the word does not end in ‘v’. This is most common in the -tive and -ive suffixes.    

Practice Words: See Spelling Lesson #2 “Silent e” words ending in -ve and Reading Lesson #64.

Spelling Lesson 5: No English words end in the letter j

No English words end in the letter ‘j’. Therefore if a word ends in the /j/ sound, you must spell the /j/ ending with either the ‘ge’ or ‘dge’ ending.

Practice Words: charge, barge, rage, strange, range, edge, ledge, pledge, stage, page, fridge, change, large, cottage, savage, engage, package and words from Reading Lesson 27 and 57.

Spelling Lesson 6: If g= /j/ then it must be spelled ‘g+e’, ‘g+i’ or ‘g+y’

To have the /j/ sound, g must be followed by ‘e’, ‘i’ or ‘y’. Remember ‘g’ can keep the /g/ sound if ‘e’, ‘i’ or ‘y’ comes after it (get, give, girl, gift, gear, shaggy). However, if the ‘g’ has the /j/ sound an ‘e’, ‘i’ or ‘y’ must come immediately after the ‘g’. This guideline is extremely helpful when accurately spelling words that contain the g=/j/ sounds.

Practice Words:  gym, ginger, gentle, gyroscope, giant, giraffe, geometry, general, gender, energy, gypsy, biology, ecology,  other -ology endings, Spelling Lesson #5 and Reading Lesson # 27 and #57

Spelling Lesson 7: The /j/ sound: Is the /j/ sound spelled with j, g or dge?

The /j/ sound can be made by either 1) the j,  2) the g+e, g+i, or g+y, or  3) the dge combination.

Practice Words: See Reading Lessons # 5, 27 and 57.

Spelling Lesson 8:  If c = /s/ then it must be spelled c + e, i or y

 c+e      c+i      c+y   =  /s/


The important fact that ‘c always has the /s/ sound whenever e, i or y comes after it’  is extremely helpful when accurately spelling words that contain the c=/s/ sounds. This dictates the spelling guideline that to have the /s/ sound the ‘c’ must be followed by an e, i or y.  

Learning helpful spelling guidelines and practicing common patterns can help your child or student improve their spelling ability. Back on the Right Track Reading Lessons contains these and 23 other helpful spelling guidelines.  

The tools to achieve reading and SPELLING success!

Additional free information on teaching students to read using effective direct systematic phonics instruction is located at Reading Information and Information & Resources for Teaching Reading pages of the Right Track Reading website.

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This article was written by Miscese Gagen a mother with a passion for teaching children to read proficiently by using effective methods. She is also a successful reading tutor and author of the reading instructional programs Right Track Reading Lessons and Back on the Right Track Reading Lessons. The purpose of this article is to empower parents and teachers with information on teaching children how to read. We CAN improve reading proficiency, one student at a time!  More information is located at ~ Copyright 2010-2013 Miscese R. Gagen