I’d like to let you in on a huge spelling secret.
This one secret has unlocked the door to spelling for many kids—including older kids who have previously struggled with spelling.
In fact, if I could teach only two spelling concepts to kids, this would be the second one I would choose. (The first concept I would teach would be the phonograms.)
So what is this secret to great spelling?
Segmenting is such a crucial skill for spelling that after it is introduced in the second lesson of All About Spelling Level 1, we reinforce it in every single spelling lesson through Levels 1 and 2.
Segmenting is the ability to hear the individual sounds in words. It improves phonological awareness and long-term spelling comprehension.
Think of segmenting as the opposite of blending. When we speak, we blend sounds together to make a word. In segmenting, we take the individual sounds apart. For example, there are three separate sounds in the word ham.
In the word shrimp, there are five separate speech sounds. Even though there are six letters, the SH phonogram represents the single sound of /sh/.
Segmenting can be taught using colored tokens, coins, or squares of paper. You can see a demonstration of how we teach it in the video below.
We start with short words that have initial sounds that are easy to hold, such as see (ssss-ee), row (rrrr-ow), and may (mmmm-ay). These words are easier for your child to segment into their separate sounds.
Then we move on to words that have initial sounds that aren’t as easy to hold, such as go, key, and pie.
After learning to segment words with two sounds, we can move on to words with three sounds, such as ship (/sh/-/i/-/p/).
After the student is able to segment words into speech sounds using tokens, we move on to segmenting words using letter tiles. It is a simple transition: the student still segments the word aloud, but instead of pulling down a token, he pulls down a letter tile for each sound.
There are three basic steps.
1. Dictate the word, and then point to the tiles to indicate to the student that it is his turn to use the tiles.
2. The student segments the word aloud, pulling down a tile for each sound.
3. The student reads the word he just spelled. Reading the word enables the student to self-correct if he has made a mistake.
After segmenting words with the letter tiles, the student is ready to move on to spelling with paper and pencil. The student can eventually go straight from hearing a dictated word to writing on paper, segmenting the word in his head if necessary.
So there you have it—one of my big secrets to helping kids with spelling. I hope you will try segmenting with your child.
Find more great tips for teaching spelling in my free report, “20 Best Tips for Teaching Reading and Spelling.”
This report gives you a glimpse into the proven strategies we’ve used to help over 150,000 amazing children (and adults) learn to read and spell.