How to Be a Better Speller | 123Read&Write

Some believe that you’re either a good speller, or you’re not. I happen to believe that anyone can improve their spelling capabilities utilizing a few secrets . . . well, not actually secrets; let’s call them little helpers. These little helping reminders will improve anyone’s spelling ability. For more help, try this Spelling Bee prepartory course. Or, simply visit The Spelling Bee Toolbox site. 

Practice makes perfect and improving one’s spelling capacity with regards to the English langauge is no different. Have your student or child practice these three little helpers:

  • Sound
  • Sense
  • Structure

I. Sound

By breaking a word into smaller parts (syllables), it becomes easier to sound out and spell. One aid which may benefit a child who is struggling with spelling is an understanding of the pronunciation key. For example, look at the following regarding the “i” sound:


Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 6.17.08 PM


Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 6.18.31 PM

Let’s look at the words below and how they are broken into syllables to hear where the sound breaks are.

voluntary = vol   un   tar   y (4)

substitute = sub   sti   tute (3)

primarily = pri   mar   il   y (4)

intensified = in   ten   si   fied (4)

explanation = ex   pla   na   tion (4)

A. Next to each of the following words, indicate the number of syllables that it has.

1. Tropical = 

2. Terrific =

3. Serious =

4. Blanket =

5. Wonderful =

Understand root words can also help with regards to using sound to help one’s spelling. Take for instance the dreaded silent letter! Take the word environment, for example. Most people omit the “n” sound when they say environment. However, if you were to look up the root word of environment, you’d see that it is environ (which means to surround). 

II. Sense

By understanding the meaning of a word can improve the odds of spelling correctly. One way to do this is by utilizing context clues surrounding certain words, to understand their meaning. This is especially true for those tricky homonyms. For example, when using “sense”, we can understand that berry is a fruit and bury is to put something underneath.

Look at the examples of homonyms below to see how each has its own distinct meaning.

meat = form of beef or food.

meet = to be introduced to someone

see = to visualize something

sea = a body of saltwater

dear = term of endearment

deer = an animal

A. The sentences below give a homonym pair to choose from. Choose which of the two words completes the sentence correctly.

1. A (night, knight) can seem like a long time if you’re afraid of the dark.

2. The (reeds, reads) along the shoreline blew with the breeze.

3. It is not a good idea to (lye, lie) about what mistakes you have made.

4. There is a (tacks, tax) on items you purchase.

5. The new puppy had short, brown (hare, hair).

III. Structure

Within the English language, there are some specifc rules, which control the manner in some words are spelled. These structured rules are as follows:


A suffix is a combination of letters placed with a root word to give it a new or additional meaning. For example, by adding the suffix “ness” to the “like”, you have an entirely new word: likeness. Many suffixes are fairly straight forward and easy to master (i.e. ly, ous, er); however, there are some that can be tricky and should be mastered to improve one’s spelling.

able - usually used with complete root words and more common that its counterpart ible. (i.e. dependable)

ible - not usually used with complete root words; often follow double consonants (i.e. horrible)

ance - the a makes the “ah” sound rhyming with “dance”.

ence - the e makes teh “eh” sound rhyming with “fence”.

I Before E or E Before C or . . . What?!

The whole problem with ei/ie is actually fairly easy to master. Keep this in mind:

  • “ie” is much more common that “ei”
  • normally, “i” before “e” except after “c” that makes the “s” sound

For example, look at the word receipt. Why isn’t it “ie” since it follows a “c”? Look at the 2nd bullet. The “c” is making the “s” sound, therefore it is spelled with an “ei”. Other examples include:




Other word forms which go against the “i” before “e” except after “c” rule are ones, which have the long “a” sound (i.e. sleigh, weigh, etc.)

Now, if the “c” makes the “sh” sound, it will mostly be followed by “ie”.  Examples include:




To Double or Not to Double . . . That is the Question

Most often when you add “ing” or “ed” to a word, you’ll likely need to double the final consonant if the following conditions are met:

- - - the word ends with a single consonant

- - - the consonant has a vowel before it.

  • emit/emitting (“i” is the vowel preceding the consonant “t”)
  • commit/committed (“i” is the vowel preceding the consonant “t”)

At times, regardless of rules, some words can be just plain difficult and need to me memorized. By looking here, you can see a list of the 100 most misspelled words. Yes, these just need to be practiced and memorized.

For some fantastic spelling resources, visit The Beach House TPT store! See below for a couple examples:

This spelling notebook includes everything you need to help make your spelling program successful!

This booklet is the ideal place for students to store their own individualized spelling lists. Whether you utilize Sitton Spelling, Words Your Way, or any other spelling program, this spelling notebook will work for you!

This packet includes 35 double-sided reproducibles designed to accompany the 6th grade Sitton Spelling program. This is the ENTIRE year's worth of Sitton Spelling units!

Sitton Spelling is the best spelling program out there! Not only does it improve students' spelling by teaching them the spelling patterns, it is also increases their writing skills because the Sitton Spelling program includes grammar and writing lessons.