How to Spell Sounds


Learning to hear sounds in words helps students to spell words. Learning to spell sounds also allows students to recognize patterns in words. The most useful approach teaches students to look for patterns, according to Patricia Cunningham, author of "Month-By-Month Phonics for Third Grade: Systematic, Multilevel Instruction." Students then use the patterns to read and write unknown words. Elkonin boxes, which help students to hear individual sounds in words, are a series of boxes drawn side by side for each sound in a word.

Things You'll Need

  • List of common rimes
  • Small items such as dried beans or coins

Elkonin Boxes

  • Instruct student to say the word slowly and try to hear all of the sounds in the word.

  • Draw a box for each sound (not letter) in the word. For example, for the word "play" draw three boxes side by side.

  • Demonstrate pushing a sound by pushing a small object, such as a dried bean, into each box as you say the sound. For the word "play," push a bean into the first box for "p," a bean into the second box for "l" and a bean into the last box for "a." Ask the student to try.

  • Remove the beans and instruct the student to write a sound in each box. Add any letters that are missing.

  • Teach students to spell the sounds of patterns. Teach the common rimes or word families, such as -ick, -ame and -all. Show students how to use one rime to spell many words by changing the onset, or beginning sound.

Tips & Warnings

  • When a student can hear the sounds of a word in order, move to a box for each letter.

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