How to Teach Spelling So Kids Will Remember

Sarah Major

Sarah Major, M.Ed. is passionate about working in harmony with a child's immaculate design to support their learning strengths. As a Title 1 Program Director and Designer, Sarah earned awards for creating her own multisensory educational resources that have now been sold in all 50 states and over 150 countries. By design, Sarah’s approach transforms symbol-heavy spelling content into whole-brain materials that engage all learners through an emphasis on understanding letter sounds rather than memorization.

A common concern for parents and teachers is that even when the children score perfectly on their spelling tests, they don’t always carry that knowledge over into their reading and writing. In other words, they memorize and write their spelling words for the test, but their new-found knowledge is not carrying over into practice.

There are also children who find it nearly impossible to memorize spelling words, so they consistently fail spelling tests. This inability to successfully memorize is not a learning flaw at all! Many children (upwards of 60% of all children) are right-brained, visual, kinesthetic, or tactile enough that memorizing sequences of letters is just not in their wheelhouse. They learn successfully and quickly when they can use those amazing right-brained elements to learn.

That is where Child1st comes in. We have done the hard work for you of designing lessons that are a natural fit for these gifted children. Lessons written in their own learning language that work for all kids in the classroom or at home.

But first...

Why teach spelling

  1. We want our kids to know how to spell words so they become proficient writers.
  2. One happy byproduct of successfully teaching children to spell is that their reading levels soar. Teaching spelling the right-brained way makes language make sense.

Why teaching spelling hasn’t always worked

Many types of learners cannot memorize and retain facts that involve symbols. (This includes memorizing words or math facts, too!) They might be able to retain the letters and sequence of a word for a few minutes, but 30 minutes later, the information will have disappeared from their brains.

  1. Memorizing words for a test is different from applying spelling to reading or writing. For those children who can memorize a list of words for a test but who cannot apply that knowledge beyond the test, the problem lies in the fact that they utilized memorization for the test, but the information was not meaningful and wasn’t stored in long-term memory. The goal of studying was passing a test, not learning to use the words in writing.
  2. Traditional spelling lessons require children to learn a sequence of letter names. We’ve all heard children repeating word spellings to prepare for a test. Sometimes they are asked to copy the word list five or ten times. Children also are asked to clap and snap for consonants and vowels. But no matter what the tactile component or the chanting component, the children are still just repeating a sequence of letter names! But words are made of sounds, not letter names. One you can hear and write, the other you have to memorize.

Now, here comes the good part!

    How to teach spelling so they will remember

      1. Focus on the SOUNDS in words rather than letter names. I promise that if we taught spelling this way, our efforts would be better spent. No memorization is required!

      2. Group words with similar spelling patterns together in a list. For example, instead of picking a theme for a word list, such as months of the year, choose a list of words that share a sound spelling such as Long I spelled IGH.                                              

      Bad list

      3. Capitalize on the child’s amazing visual memory. If you group the words you have chosen in a column, visually this will help the child see what the words have in common. The brain of a child LOVES patterns!

      Good list

      4. Use color! Once your words are in a nice column, have the child use a crayon or highlighter to color only the letters the words have in common.

      Kids remember spelling                        

      5. Point out that the highlighted letters all say (long) i. For instance, in the word HIGH, there are only 2 sounds: h – i. Easy to sound out, so no memorization needed!      

      Sentence Illustration

      6. To take spelling into reading and writing, have the children make up sentences that use the words on their list. NOT a sentence for each word, but rather they should cram as many IGH words into one sentence as possible! See the example above.

      Night sky

      7. Finally, ask the child to illustrate their sentences. The fact that the child wrote a sentence using several related words and then illustrated them will take the learning into writing and into long-term memory!

      How to Teach Right-Brained Phonics & Spelling

      And it's ready to pick up and use immediately!

      Load image into Gallery viewer, The Illustrated Book of Sounds & Their Spelling Patterns, 3rd Ed.

      The Illustrated Book of Sounds & Their Spelling Patterns, 3rd Ed.

      • All your spelling lists are made for you.
      • All the sound spellings in our language are taught.
      • There are 2-4 difficulty levels for each sound.
      • The book is ready to use. Just copy the page you need.
      • For Kindergarten through adult!
      Use this method for teaching spelling and help your child become a better writer, a better reader, and love learning in general!
      This approach to teaching spelling is research-based (see Group 4) and has proved to bring kids to grade level in reading and beyond!

       All Sound Spelling Teaching & Display Cards have corresponding lessons in The Illustrated Book of Sounds & Their Spelling Patterns. Or save by getting the Right-Brained Phonics & Spelling Kit.

      Sound Spelling Teaching & Display Cards

      Watch the video to see why this approach is so effective


      Our spelling and phonics products take content that is symbol-heavy and transforms it into whole-brain resources that reach and engage all learners at one time, including visual, kinesthetic/tactile, and auditory learners. 

      Find products especially designed for your visual and kinesthetic learners

      SnapWords®: Sight Words & Explicit Phonics 

      SnapWords® are a wonderful right-brained tool that combine sight word recognition and explicit phonics instruction in one resource

      IGH SnapWords®, Child1st Publications

      Since its inception in 2006, Child1st has emerged as the leader in providing resources that parents and teachers alike can pick up and use. By their very design, Child1st resources meet the needs of children without the teacher-adult having to receive special training.  We exist so that every child has the opportunity to learn in their own learning language. 


        • Raquel

          For anybody who wants to buy the book. click on the word book where it says…. This book will be a life-saver! and it will take you where you can purchase the book.

          Good luck!

        • Caroline Smith

          This is very helpful technique to learn and remember spellings easily. I will suggest it to my kids to learn spellings easily. Can you post some more blogs?
          spelling practice for adults

        • Paula

          Hi, i live in Australia. I am interested.
          Can you letme know where to purchase please


          I need this book,how I can get it.

        • Mathapelo Makgamathe

          Where can I find the book entitled how can I teach my child spelling. Your tips are very helpful

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