How are Reading and Spelling Connected?

Hi, friends! In this week's blog post, I'm chatting about the connection, and its importance, between reading and spelling. In many classrooms across the nation, reading and spelling are taught in isolation. This provides little connection between the two, when in reality, reading and spelling are reciprocal skills. 

Let's break this down a little bit. We can think of reading and spelling as being different sides of the same coin. Reading, or decoding, is applying the sound-symbol relationships and successfully blending them to read a word. Spelling, or encoding, is the ability to segment words by individual sounds and use the correct sound-symbol correspondences in written form. 

So, continuing with the coin analogy, let's look at each side of it as being reading on one side and spelling on the other.

Reading: Breaking Down the Decoding Process

👀 We see a word in its written form.

👄 We segment each phoneme (sound) within the word.

🗣 We then blend those sounds 👂 together to form a word. 

🧠 We connect the spoken and written word to the meaning or multiple meanings. 

Spelling: Breaking Down the Process

👂 We hear a word.

🧠 We think about the meanings we may know.

👄 We segment each phoneme (sound) within the word. 

📝 We write the corresponding graphemes (letters) that represent the spoken speech sounds (phonemes). 

What are the instructional implications? 

Explicitly teaching reading and spelling together is a powerful and effective approach. There is no need to wait to apply spelling linkages. When we teach decoding (reading) and encoding (spelling) together, we are helping children map the sounds to print. 

Where to Begin When Teaching Reading and Spelling

🟡 Link sounds to print right from the start. Before spelling words, students can practice linking the individual sound they hear with the corresponding grapheme(s) (letter/s) representing a single sound). 

🟡 Explicitly teach phoneme-grapheme correspondences. Connect sounds to letters from the start. This instruction helps students link the sound that they hear with the letter representation for that sound. Over time, more and more phoneme-grapheme correspondences are taught. 

🟡  Add daily review of previously taught sound-symbol correspondences to your reading lesson. By having students connect sounds to print by mapping the sounds to the letter representations, they solidify the connection between what we hear and what letter represents that sound. From here, students then practice applying this skill to spelling by segmenting words into individual phonemes and writing down the corresponding graphemes. Read more about spelling linkages HERE in this blog post. 

🟡 Use a systematic approach. Following a scope and sequence that builds in knowledge and application is a key component of structured literacy. Systematic phonics instruction teaches the mastery of sound-symbol relationship and application to solidify the orthographic mapping process.

🟡 Provide ample opportunities to apply phoneme-grapheme mapping and spelling applications. The English language is considered a deep alphabetic orthography but, yet, a reliable one. The sound-symbol relationships are regular enough to directly map the sounds to their letter representation 50% of the time. An additional 36% of the words are directly mapped from sound-letter correspondence patterns, except for one sound-letter representation, usually a vowel. Surprisingly, only about 4% of all words in English print are so irregular that they do not follow consistent patterns or explanations. Once you understand this, the power of phoneme-grapheme mapping is apparent!

🟡 Explicitly teach spelling generalizations. Once we understand the power of phoneme-grapheme mapping, we can look at the layers of the English language and reliable spelling generalizations. That is a blog for another day! 😉

🟡 Reflect on spelling programs and instruction. As we understand the science of reading and how our brain learns to break the reading code, we need to reflect on our programs and approaches. We also need to be smarter than our programs and shift our approach to align with what research shows to be the most effective way to teach all learners. Keeping the two sides of the coin in mind as we plan our reading and spelling instruction is critical for helping students solidify their knowledge in the code.

Explicit instruction in our language's code provides students with the necessary knowledge to read and spell words within the English language. Accurate and fluent word reading AND spelling depend on our phonics knowledge. As we see, there is a need for us to shift our instructional practices to link reading and spelling from the start. 

I hope this breakdown of how reading and spelling are connected have helped you understand the need of linking the two right from the beginning. Next week, I'll chat about how to connect spelling and reading in multisyllabic words. Comment below and let me know if you teach with this approach and your thoughts on it. 

Have great week!




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