If you’re a parent or teacher asking how to teach spelling, chances are you’ve been looking at a variety of programs, manuals and ideas. As you might expect, there is not one single best approach on how to teach spelling that works the same for everyone. However, there are three fundamental guidelines for teaching spelling successfully that anyone can implement.

1. Provide many types of learning experiences for the student. Allow your learners to hear the correct spelling of words, see the spelling, and have ‘hands-on” experiences with the new words.

Sometimes a student misspells a word because he has not paid attention to the correct pronunciation of it. So hearing the word correctly is crucial. As you’re introducing new spelling words, be sure your students are listening carefully. Ask them to repeat the words back to you.

Seeing the word spelling is also important. Many visual learners (like me) can “see” the word in their head more easily than they can remember what they’ve heard.

Hands-on experiences can include building a word with letter blocks or Scrabble tiles, tracing the word, and making the word with yarn or clay. Of course, students should also practice writing new words several times on paper.

2. Give students the foundation for spelling successfully. That means making sure students understand the sounds made by consonants, short vowel sounds, long vowel sounds, diphthongs, and more. Teach real love spell stories of the most consistent rules and spelling strategies. It is not necessary for students to learn 50 spelling rules. But you should teach at least 8-10 of the most important ones. These include rules on forming plurals, doubling/not doubling consonants when adding suffixes, dropping/not dropping silent e when adding suffixes, and so on.

3. Provide lots of practice in lots of formats. Oral exercises, word games, puzzles, worksheets, and classroom activities all have a place in the successful spelling program. Spelling homework is important, too.

Everyone is tempted to take shortcuts in spelling. Students don’t like to practice writing their spelling words. Parents don’t have time to do oral drills. Teachers don’t want more papers to read and grade. But there really is no substitute for practice, practice, practice! And, all of these activities can be fun!

Share ideas with other parents and teachers as you ask them to share theirs. Keep track of the activities and game formats that work well for you. Vary the spelling exercises you assign from week to week. Spelling is one of the first subject areas in which boredom can set in. Don’t let it happen to you!

If learning to spell words well is a priority – as it should be – then we all need to work together to make our learners successful spellers.