9 Ideas to Improve Student Spelling in Your Classroom (2024)

9 Ideas to Improve Student Spelling in Your Classroom (1)

Sick of your students making the same spelling mistakes year after year? It’s easy to create fun spelling activities, but making the learning stick can be a challenge.

It’s time to go back to the basics to see how children learn to spell. Then review the way you’re currently teaching spelling in your class and across your school. We’ve got nine practical tips to help you improve spelling ability, tackle those common problems, and teach your students how to become better at spelling.


  1. The Elements of Spelling
  2. 1: Teach Phonics and Sight Words
  3. 2: Look for Rules and Patterns
  4. 3: Ditch the Spelling Tests
  5. 4: Increase Reading Time
  6. 5: Teach Etymology
  7. 6: Keep Your Classroom Walls Useful
  8. 7: Shift the Responsibility
  9. 8: Give Spelling Quality Time in Your Curriculum
  10. 9: Support Students with Dyslexia and Dysgraphia

The Elements of Spelling

Learning to spell contains four key elements. Students combine these to write familiar words and make plausible guesses at unfamiliar spellings.


From Greek, phono means sound and logy means study. We use phonology (also known as phonics) to teach young children the smallest units of sounds. Each sound (phoneme) is represented by a letter (grapheme) or group of letters. As they grow older, children learn how to break words down into sounds (segmenting) and put them together (blending) to spell.


From Greek, orthos means correct and graphia means writing. Students use orthography to apply common spelling rules and patterns used in English. Students with strong orthography can more easily spot misspelt words and make plausible guesses at new spellings.


From Greek, morpho means shape. Students learn to spot the smallest units of meaning (morphemes) within longer words. This includes understanding prefixes, suffixes, and compound words. Through morphology, students can learn about different tenses and spot known words within larger ones.


From Greek, etumos means true. Etymology is the study of the origin of words (their "true" meanings). The English language is complicated and often difficult to spell because so many words don’t follow common phonemic patterns. This reflects its long history of conquest and invasion. Learning the meaning behind words can help students remember to spell other words with the same etymology.

1: Teach Phonics and Sight Words

Learning phonics is the essential starting point for our youngest students learning to write their first words. This should be a fun, fast-paced, and multi-sensory experience. Young children can learn phonemes by tracing them, making them from dough, writing with different materials, and cutting and sticking activities. They need plenty of repetition to remember the phoneme (sound) and grapheme (letter shape), so the more fun the better.

Alongside phonics, children need to see and spell "sight words." These are words we use all the time (high frequency) and non-decodable words, like was. We expect children to know these on sight, without needing to decode. These will be the vast majority of words that our young students write, and they can make phonemically plausible guesses at the rest.

2: Look for Rules and Patterns

Often as teachers, we break longer words down into syllables to chunk them for spelling, but that can awkwardly break them and lose the root words hidden within. Instead, try splitting words into morphemes, the smallest unit of meaning, to find words within words. Teach children to spot patterns and rules.

This is useful for learning prefixes and suffixes and naturally leads on to a deeper understanding of tenses. Children can then learn the words which break these spelling patterns.

3: Ditch the Spelling Tests

Yes, you read that right. For far too long spelling has been removed from the process of writing, taught discretely with children learning (often random) long lists of words for weekly tests. Teachers become frustrated when children score 10/10 for a test, then continue to mis-spell these words when writing.

Instead of keeping spelling separate, put it right back into the writing process. Allow children that vital free writing time, where they’re encouraged to be creative and adventurous with their word choices. Then build in time for self-correction, teaching of morphology, and the fascinating etymology of the English language.

4: Increase Reading Time

Students often avoid writing words they don’t know how to spell, but they’ll never use words they’ve not encountered before. Children need to hear stories read aloud regularly, daily, wherever possible. Reading high-quality texts is essential to develop the broad vocabulary you want your children to use when writing.

For example, a child is more likely to spell the word submarine if they are familiar with other sub- words like submerge and substandard. They learn through morphology that this prefix means below and they’ll recognise the word marine as something to do with water. With this wider cultural knowledge, the spelling of submarine becomes the easier process of adding two known morphemes together.

9 Ideas to Improve Student Spelling in Your Classroom (2)

5: Teach Etymology

It’s not enough to teach phonics and expect children to learn to spell accurately. The English language is fascinating, rich, and varied. It tells the story of invasion and expansion. And, it often doesn’t play by the rules you’ve taught students to follow.

When introducing new vocabulary, pull words apart to show how older meanings have changed over time to form new words. A quick Google search will help you discover the ancient origins of our language.

6: Keep Your Classroom Walls Useful

Too much visual clutter and children just stop seeing the spelling resources around them. Make your classroom walls more useful and less pretty. If it’s difficult to put up, remove, and add to your spelling displays, you’re unlikely to find the time to do it.

Model to students how they can use classroom resources to check common spellings they need or remember a particular pattern you’ve been learning about. Many teachers use large whiteboards they can write onto and wipe off as needed.

7: Shift the Responsibility

How often do you correct the same spelling mistakes? You flick through books and see students have continually corrected spellings you’ve pointed out, but have then made the same mistakes again. It’s very frustrating for teachers!

Change the norm by putting the emphasis on students correcting their own spellings. Train them to use dictionaries and dedicate time to finding and correcting spellings after writing. Get them to keep their own dictionary of words they often get wrong so they can quickly self-correct.

Older students will enjoy using software like ProWritingAid to improve their spellings along with their grammar and overall writing ability. Unlike the wiggly red line in Microsoft Word, ProWritingAid helps them learn about mistakes so they don’t make them again.

8: Give Spelling Quality Time in Your Curriculum

Teaching spelling is vital. Children won’t just pick it up. Make sure your school has a systematic approach to teaching phonics, common spelling patterns, prefixes, suffixes, and irregular words. Make activities fun and practical—just don’t make them so enjoyable that students don’t remember the learning.

Too often, spelling is banished to one day of the week or homework activities instead of being an integral part of the curriculum. Children rely on short-term memorising for a weekly test. It’s only with regular practice and application that they’ll learn accurate spellings. Think systematically and long-term. No one can transform a student’s spelling over night.

9: Support Students with Dyslexia and Dysgraphia

Students with dysgraphia and dyslexia often find spelling more difficult than other students. They may struggle to remember which graphemes represent phonemes, irregular spellings, and forget the letters used in common sight words. This difficulty often continues throughout adult life.

There are plenty of excellent resources on the market to help these students in the classroom, but you can also add in simple supports to help make the learning process easier.

  • Teach mnemonics, e.g. big elephants can add up sums easily to spell because
  • Use different colors to write morphemes so that students can see root words, prefixes, and suffixes
  • Encourage students to highlight the part of the word they find tricky
  • Use flashcards to practise sight words
  • Revise spelling patterns and rules to apply

Dyslexic and dysgraphic students may find it hard to use a traditional dictionary to find and correct spellings independently. Instead, train them to use special versions like the excellent Ace Spelling Dictionary which relies on initial sounds.

Final Thoughts

For students to become good, confident spellers, they need every element of spelling taught systematically. Early spellers often rely on phonological knowledge, but this soon becomes insufficient with the huge range of words that simply can’t be phonemically decoded. We have to plan how to move students on from relying solely on phonics.

If you’re finding students are constantly making the same mistakes, stop and re-evaluate how you are teaching spelling as a school. It’s time to put spelling right at the heart of the writing process.

Want to use ProWritingAid with your classroom? Download this free book now:

ProWritingAid Teacher's Manual

Editing technology like ProWritingAid provides immediate, personalized feedback that will help students to better understand grammar and writing techniques.

In this guide, we walk you through exactly how to use ProWritingAid in your classroom and give you tools and templates for creating a rigorous, effective independent writing practice with your students.

9 Ideas to Improve Student Spelling in Your Classroom (2024)


9 Ideas to Improve Student Spelling in Your Classroom? ›

Use flashcards or play matching games to let your child see the words lots of times - the more times they see the word, the better they will be able to read and spell it. Use cut out or magnetic letters to build words together, then mix up the letters and rebuild the word together.

What are the 9 ways to improve English spelling? ›

Then, learn the rules and don't forget the exceptions too!
  • Don't spell words the way they are pronounced. ...
  • Watch out for prefixes, suffixes and more. ...
  • Beware of 'ie' or 'ei' ...
  • Silent letters – ignore them while speaking, include them while writing. ...
  • Get down to the roots. ...
  • Differences between British English and American English.
Jan 6, 2022

How can I improve my students' spelling? ›

Tips for teaching spelling
  1. Let them get creative.
  2. Write words out by hand.
  3. Encourage reading.
  4. Spell the word out loud.
  5. Keep words on display.
  6. Play games to practice.
  7. Teach typing.
  8. Explain mnemonics.

How can I help my child improve their spelling? ›

Use flashcards or play matching games to let your child see the words lots of times - the more times they see the word, the better they will be able to read and spell it. Use cut out or magnetic letters to build words together, then mix up the letters and rebuild the word together.

What are the different method of teaching and improving spelling? ›

Look-cover-write-check– This is a well know strategy for learning to spell that involves looking at the word, covering it, writing it and then checking to see if the word is correct. Ask your student to try several possible ways of spelling a word to see if one 'looks right'.

What is the best way to improve spelling? ›

  1. Crosswords and codewords. Puzzles are a good way to make your brain work harder and improve your general knowledge, but they're also a good way to improve your spelling. ...
  2. Mnemonics. ...
  3. Spelling competitions with friends. ...
  4. Put posters and flashcards up in your room. ...
  5. Write lots.

How do you teach spelling creatively? ›

It's easy enough to create spelling word fortune tellers, and having spelling the word out loud is very helpful for auditory learners.
  1. Make and Use a “Word Catcher" ...
  2. Magnetic Letters, Alphabet Blocks, or Scrabble Pieces. ...
  3. Create Your Own Crossword Puzzle. ...
  4. Play Spelling Word Memory. ...
  5. Trace the Words in Rainbow Colors.

How to help a student struggling with spelling? ›

How to Help a Poor Speller
  1. Encourage mastery of the sight words. ...
  2. Make sure your student understands the different sounds that letter combinations make. ...
  3. Help your child recognize word families. ...
  4. Help your child memorize common spelling rules. ...
  5. Practice, practice, practice.
Apr 10, 2023

How can a teacher develop spelling concept of student? ›

Apart from conducting tests, ask your students to write something on their own. This spelling practice makes them choose words, try out the different spelling, and correct themselves. Writing improves the usage of words and also spelling. Encourage them to read more.

How to help a 3rd grader with spelling? ›

The following strategies will help your child to spell grade level words:
  1. Using spelling patterns.
  2. Learning word families.
  3. Knowing about position-based spellings.
  4. Identifying syllable patterns.
  5. Using a range of ending rules.
  6. Knowing about meaningful word parts (prefixes, suffixes, root words)

How to help a 4th grader with spelling? ›

Teaching Spelling in 4th Grade: Effective Strategies
  1. Provide Word Lists With Related Activities.
  2. Build Spelling Context Through Writing.
  3. Emphasize Spelling Rules.
  4. Have Students Find Spelling Mistakes.
  5. Gamify Studying New Spelling Words.
  6. Provide Practice Opportunities.
  7. Share Different Spelling Strategies.
Feb 22, 2021

How to help with spelling words? ›

  1. 15 New Ways to Practice Spelling Words at Home.
  2. Create a set of flashcards. ...
  3. Create a second set of flashcards with the definition of the word on it. ...
  4. Use both sets of flashcards to play spelling Memory. ...
  5. Use alphabet magnets or Scrabble tiles to spell out each word.
  6. Write the word list on a piece of construction paper.

What is the 6 step method for teaching spelling? ›

In fact - spelling requires a student to hear the word correctly, syllabicate the word, segment the word at the phoneme (sound) level, identify what letter/letters make the sound they hear, remember any irregular patterns (i.e. patterns in lock words), remember any hom*ophones and apply the correct spelling based on the ...

Can teachers help children improve their spelling ability? ›

If we want our students to become better spellers, we must give them ample opportunities to practice spelling the skills we have taught and are currently teaching. Just like a football player may practice targeted skills, children must also be guided in their instruction.

What makes a good spelling lesson? ›

Children need to be taught to draw on multiple sources of knowledge to become confident spellers. For example, known words, common letter strings, word structures and meanings. Children take different routes into the spelling system and don't follow a linear stage-based route.

What are the 100 frequently misspelled words in English? ›

Documented list of common misspellings
  • absence – absense, absentse, abcense, absance.
  • acceptable – acceptible.
  • accidentally/accidently – accidentaly.
  • accommodate – accomodate, acommodate.
  • achieve – acheive.
  • acknowledge – acknowlege, aknowledge.
  • acquaintance – acquaintence, aquaintance.
  • acquire – aquire, adquire.

How can I improve my English writing skills? ›

How to improve your writing skills
  1. Review grammar and spelling basics. Grammar and spelling form the foundation of good writing. ...
  2. Read what you want to write. Knowing what finished writing can look like can guide your own. ...
  3. Proofread. ...
  4. Get feedback. ...
  5. Think about structure. ...
  6. Write. ...
  7. Know some common fixes.
Feb 8, 2024

What 4 main languages influence spelling in English today? ›

There are 4 distinct layers of English: Anglo-Saxon, French, Latin, and Greek. All 4 layers have resulted in unique spellings in the English language. As teachers, we should explicitly teach the prefixes, suffixes and roots associated with Anglo-Saxon, Latin, and Greek.

What is 12 spelling? ›

12 in words is written as “Twelve”.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Rueben Jacobs

Last Updated:

Views: 5524

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (77 voted)

Reviews: 92% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Rueben Jacobs

Birthday: 1999-03-14

Address: 951 Caterina Walk, Schambergerside, CA 67667-0896

Phone: +6881806848632

Job: Internal Education Planner

Hobby: Candle making, Cabaret, Poi, Gambling, Rock climbing, Wood carving, Computer programming

Introduction: My name is Rueben Jacobs, I am a cooperative, beautiful, kind, comfortable, glamorous, open, magnificent person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.