Spelling patterns and generalizations are the basis of teaching students to read and write. People often believe that there aren’t spelling patterns in English because there are so many “exceptions” to the rule. This is why we add “generalizations” to the end of spelling patterns. English is a language made of multiple other languages, but there are still general rules that many words follow. Students need to know the sounds these words should make, the “rule” and then they sounds they might make, the “generalizations”.
Teaching phonics and spelling has gone in and out of style as the pendulum of education swings back and forth. As a teacher of 13 years, I truly believe that if we do not teach our students spelling patterns and/or generalizations, we are doing them a great disservice. This post will explain why I feel this way, AND it will include a FREE packet for you with four differentiated spelling pattern lists and activities for the long I spelling pattern.
Why are spelling patterns important?
My current school uses a reading program that is supposed to have “embedded” phonics, spelling and grammar instruction. Unfortunately, the lessons are minimal to non-existent. Additionally, the lessons start out the year with very complex spelling patterns, like double interior consonants, when my students can’t generally spell anything that is not CVCe. The program expects all students to work at the same rate and begin at the same place. Since I’ve actually been in a classroom, I can tell you this NEVER happens, no matter what demographics you are teaching or how good last years’ teachers were. So even though I’m supposed to teach my reading program only, I’ve added differentiated spelling pattern instruction into my day as a “supplement”.
Since this reading program’s spelling and phonics instruction is about as good as not teaching spelling patterns at all, our students have multiple holes in their reading and their writing. A small percentage of students who are able to learn to spell well without phonics can decode and spell very well. However, a much larger percentage of students are determining words based on context when they are reading, and are thereby not able to reproduce that word in their writing. They NEED to learn spelling patterns in order to read, write and spell.
How many spelling patterns are there?
I’m sure you’ve heard that English doesn’t follow any rules. This isn’t true. It is a Germanic language that includes many Latin words and Greek words. This means that some words follow German rules, some words follow Latin rules and some words follow Greek rules. So we have 3 different sets of rules to teach our students. But the end result is if we can tell them how to “generally” spell a sound with different spelling patterns, they have a set of rules to fall back on.
Since today’s freebie is a Long I Spelling Packet, I’ll address how many different ways there are to spell the long I sound. The spelling pattern examples I give my students for long I are: IcE (I, consonant, silent E), IGH, IND, and Y (When it’s at the end of the word). We also look at exception words like wild and pie which don’t strictly follow the rule but are close enough that students can begin to make generalizations. I post all of these spelling pattern rules on a growing anchor chart that students can refer to all year long.
How should my students practice spelling patterns?
After teaching the spelling patterns to my students directly, I give them plenty of time to work with the spelling pattern. However, I’m not a fan of memorization or simply writing the word over and over. Instead, my focus is on building new vocabulary and recognizing that pattern can be used in reading and writing. So, in my packet the students receive the following pages:
Learn the word: Students learn the words on their differentiated spelling pattern list using definitions and picture clues.
Write with the word: Students learn use their definitions and pictures to write out sentences using the correct meaning. This gives them a chance to apply the spelling pattern we’re working on (as well as ones we’ve previously worked on) while also working on their grammar and handwriting.
Sort the words: Students look at a variety of words that all make the same sound and sort out which pattern is being used to make those sounds.
Find the words: Students search through books to find words that make the similar sound. They think about the sound and then identify which pattern is being used to make these sounds.
Fix the word: Students use their editing skills to find and fix misspelled words with the given spelling pattern. This helps them think about the words in a whole different way.
Each different page helps students to think about the spelling pattern in an in-depth manner that helps them internalize the pattern rather than just memorize a list of words. Additionally, they are learning to apply the patterns to their reading AND their writing.
Have a great day!
– Heidi Raki