Top 2 Ways To Learn Spelling Words Faster

JoAnne Nelson is our phonics expert and as a reading specialist she is often asked how to teach spelling using phonics.

This article contains her top 5 steps to teach spelling using phonics.

While many people today feel that spelling may not be important, you have only to take the long view to realize that when you apply to college or jobs, as well as in work communications, spelling becomes a reflection of literacy.

Therefore spelling is critically important to help children thrive in school, as well as throughout their lives.

The important question is how to teach spelling from the very beginning, so that it becomes an automatic and effortless lifetime skill.

Here Are 5 Steps to Teach Spelling Using Phonics

Before you can begin to teach spelling, it’s important to find a reading program that incorporates spelling, fluency and phonics.

One of the finest phonics-based reading programs I’ve ever used is SuperBooks.  Of course, there are others, but not all incorporate precisely what is needed to teach kids to read, while simultaneously teaching spelling and fluency.

SuperBooks helps teach kids to read in under two weeks, and presents a full spelling program simultaneously.

Once you have a comprehensive reading program in place, just follow these 5 easy steps to teach spelling using phonics. 

1. Review letter sound correspondence.

Make sure the students know the sounds of individual letters and groups of letters. 

As you teach word patterns known as phonograms you will be reviewing letter/sound correspondence.

Assuming students know letter sound relationships, we will move on to the second important step in teaching spelling using phonics. 

2. Teach word patterns.

In the SuperBooks story being read, create lists of words grouped by spelling patterns.

We will be using samples from SuperBooks that are easily transferable to lessons that can be applied in any setting.

Examples of rhyming word patterns include: ran, man, Dan, fan, and, sand, hand.  

Other word patterns are similar components of words known as phonograms like: ag, which forms other words including bag, rag, tag, brag, flag.

In order to incorporate spelling into the lesson you can group the words alphabetically, or categorize them by vowel sounds a,e,i,o,u.

For example words that begin with short e: egg, ed  end; or by medial sound: nest, rest, pest.  

This gives children more opportunity to read additional words that follow the same pattern. Patterns add hundreds of new words for them and thus, simply through repeated use, you are teaching the spelling of these words at the same time. 

3. Teach words in story context. 

As children read you want to involve meaning and comprehension from the beginning. 

An important component of teaching spelling using phonics is that students learn to spell the very words they are learning to read which understanding the meaning simultaneously. 

This process builds in comprehension which leads to fluency. 

Children see the words over and over and can begin to visualize them so that during their writing, they can recall the story and be familiar with the spelling of the words.  

In SuperBooks Kit 1, Book 5, Sad Sam as an example, we can look at how spelling is incorporated with learning to read in the Super books program.   

Sad Sam is a balloon man at a fair.  When a father shows up with some children and buys balloons, he is no longer sad.  Words include: run, runs, sad, mad, Sam, up…

Sad Sam is a man. Sad Sam naps.  Sid runs up to Sam.

Russ runs up the ramp. Sid runs up the ramp.  Did Russ run into Sid? 

Is Dad mad?  Dad adds it up. Is Sad Sam sad? 

4. Build vocabulary. 

Inside the back cover of each SuperBook, there are lists of words.

You can develop spelling word banks from these words by dividing the words into columns, noting similarities such as beginnings, endings, and middle or medial letters.

At this point, while the child uses word patterns, meaning in context, and other activites, it is important to show them how to visualize their words.

Tell the to look in an upwards direction and to see the words in various colors. During the dictation phase, in step 5, they can then retrieve the word they visualized by looking up and writing it down on paper.

5. Use Dictation

After reviewing the story they are reading and calling attention to the words in the inside back cover, use dictation as another method of teaching spelling. 

Start out orally dictating single words. Students have lined paper to write the words. Continue with phrases and sentences.

Dictation should be used a spelling activity with every book being read.  Recalling what they have learned is a necessary part of improving memory—in this case how to spell words from their stories.  

Dictation helps students practice several skills at once.  They are applying phonics skills, recalling words they can read, spelling the words and expanding their writing skills.  All at the same time!

Here are some dictation activities.     

Dictate the following words.  Review the visual and auditory patterns in the words. Have the children check their work by comparing what you have written on a chart or white board.  Be sure they correct any misspellings they may have made.          

Pretend the class has just read a story about a rain-drop named Drip Drop.  Words from the story include Drip Drop, pond, mom, dad, spin dips, add.  Again, review the phonological patterns in the words.  Then dictate the words.  

After dictating the words, dictate the following sentences using the same vocabulary from the story.

Drip Drop dips.  Drip Drop’s mom drops.  Drip Drop is in a spin.  The drops add to the pond.

As a follow up activity, students illustrate the sentences they have written.

As stories become more complex. The dictation also becomes more detailed.

So, there you have it.  It’s fun to know how to teach spelling using phonics because children learn so many things at the same time while doing a variety of activities. Language development, reading and writing has never been easier.  

JoAnne Nelson is the author of award-winning SuperBooks and a foremost expert in using phonics to help kids read in under two weeks.

She has written more than 150 inspiring books for sequential phonics readers that both teachers and parents love because the lesson plans are done for you and kids successfully read very quickly!

Visit to view SuperBooks Kits and Story Packs for use at home or in classroom.

SuperBooks are the original phonics-based “little books” program that has been successfully teaching children to read for over 40 years!


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