The process of teaching students how to read and spell words is the heart of Foundations lessons, the place where all the skills they are learning come together. Foundations students begin by learning phonograms individually. After learning phonograms, spelling lists are introduced in the material. The spelling lists are not spelling tests. The purpose of the spelling lists is to guide students through Spelling Analysis as they apply phonogram and spelling rules to the specific words. See our article Purpose of Spelling Analysis and Spelling Lists for more information.
The steps for teaching spelling words are modeled in some of the early Foundations lessons (Foundations A lessons 21 and 33, and Foundations B lesson 45). They are also provided for your reference on the Spelling Analysis Quick Reference, explained in our spelling dictation video, and modeled in this series of videos.
This article is an overview of important pieces you'll want to remember when teaching spelling analysis in Foundations.
Foundations Spelling Analysis Steps
- Follow the steps with each word. The steps work together to strengthen phonemic awareness, phonics, and critical thinking skills. The Spelling Analysis Quick Reference is a great reference.
- Say-to-Spell. Dictate the word as written in the say-to-spell column. Say-to-spell involves clearly articulating any sounds that may be obscured, distorted, or silent in everyday speech. Have the student repeat the say-to-spell before segmenting.
- Finger Spell. As the student segments the word, hold up fingers for each sound to give clues about the phonograms used: one finger for single-letter phonograms, two for two-letter phonograms, and so on. Finger spelling helps visually separate the sounds and provides important clarification. See our Finger Spelling Examples below.
- Verbally Cue the Phonogram. If the student needs additional clarification, let them know which spelling of a sound to use by saying its sounds.
- Example: "speed" (students segmenting, you finger spelling and cuing):
- /s/ - one finger (“use /s-z/”)
- /p/ - one finger
- /ē/ - two fingers (“use /ē/ double /ē/“)
- /d/ - one finger
- Write the Word. Have the student write the word, sounding it out as they go. Then have them sound it out for you as you write the word.
- Analyze and mark it together. The markings and spelling hints columns guide you in what needs to be discussed and marked for each word. Analyzing the phonograms will build spelling skills and is helpful in learning to decode complex words. Students can take the lead on marking words as they learn the process. Encourage them to do so!
Spelling List Tips
- Do not do what the student can do independently. For example, do not segment the word for the student once they can segment alone. Provide support by segmenting quietly along with them and finger spelling, but let them do the work. Do not write the word yourself until the student writes it and then segments it again for you.
- Provide information the student does not know on their own, like whether to use the phonogram EE or EA to spell a long /ē/ sound or use the phonogram K or C to spell /k/. If a student forgets a phonogram they have learned, supply it. Provide any information the student needs to spell the word, as you are teaching how to use the phonograms to spell this word.
- You can correct Foundations spelling if you want to, but remember that if they made a phonetically accurate guess, they've done something great even if it was incorrect. You can say, "Great guess! Actually, in that word, we use the phonogram /k-s/," or "We use a different phonogram in that word. Do you remember another phonogram that says /s/?" Then move on.
- We generally do not promote spelling tests. Having students write words using phonograms and spelling rules is a better way to assess what students have learned. The percentage of language arts time devoted to spelling practice at this stage should be minimal. Students still learning to read should spend most of their practice time on phonogram games, handwriting activities, and reading fluency games. See our article Purpose of Spelling Analysis and Spelling Lists for more information.
Finger Spelling Examples
Example: Red /r-ĕ-d/
Example 2: Read /r-ĕ-d/ (the past tense verb pronounced the same way)
Two fingers let the student know that the two-letter phonogram EA, not the phonogram E, is saying /ĕ/.