A Multisensory Spelling Strategy
- It is expected that student will learn two words each day using the unique multisensory spelling strategy outlined below and revise two words each day.
- The revision consists of the last few steps of the learning the word process. That is, the students identify the sounds in the word, draw a box for each sound (the boxes should look exactly the same as in the original word including dotted boxes and arrows) and then the student write the letter or letter combinations representing each sound in the boxes. The word is covered and then written again on the line.
- Every word has a set of extension exercises (located at the end of each set of 10 words) that require students to add prefixes or suffixes, find rhyming words or identify other words that use similar graphemes, identify the part of speech, write the letters in alphabetical order, write a homophone, etc. These exercise help develop and apply orthographic knowledge, which is the third step in Frith’s literacy acquisition model.
- At the end of each week, the 10 words learned during the week should be tested by reading out the dictation sentence.
- After the first three units, students should also be tested on the words they learned the previous week and three weeks prior to that and these are listed at the bottom of the page.
- Each word is colour coded (the visual component) to represent the different phonemes (sound units) contained within the word. Letters written in black indicate a direct sound-symbol correlation. All other phonemes are written in colour. Silent letters are shown as a dotted outline. For example, the sounds in watch are /w/, /o/, /ch/. The /w/ is represented by the common graphic form of ‘w’ and therefore remains in black print The /o/ is represented by the letter ‘a’ and is coloured red. The /ch/ is represented by the letters ‘c’ and ‘h’ and therefore these two letters are written in the same colour (i.e., blue). The ‘t’ is silent and consequently, is shown as a dotted outline.
- Requiring the student to read the word and put it into a sentence ensures the student understands the meaning of the word. At times there will be alternative ways of pronouncing the word (e.g., read = /r-ee-d/ or /r-e-d/) or alternative meanings (e.g., watch as in look or watch as in time piece) which should be discussed with the student. A note will also be made if the word is in past tense (e.g., said), a plural form (e.g., men) or is an extension of a root word (e.g., player – play). At this time, words with a similar pronunciation but a different meaning (e.g., where, wear, we’re) or commonly confused words (e.g., where, were) should also be discussed. Each of these elements takes the student passed pure rote learning into a deeper understanding of how English is encoded.
Internal structure of the word
- The student counts the number of letters in the word from left to right – the direction we read.
- The student identifies the letter at the beginning of the word.
- The student identifies the first sound in the word.
- The student identifies the letter at the end of the word.
- The student identifies the last sound in the word.
- Syllabification is the first step in segmenting a word into its sound components. The adult and student together orally segment the word into syllables and clap each syllable as it is spoken.
- Every syllable has one vowel sound. This exercise reinforces this concept. The student identifies the vowel(s) for each separate syllable. Note: Sometimes ‘y’ acts as a vowel.
- The student identifies the unpronounced letter(s) in the word. Silent letters are the unpronounced letters. The ‘t’ in ‘watch’ is silent because whether or not the ‘t’ is present the word would still be pronounced /woch/. However, neither the ‘a’ nor ‘r’ in ‘start’ is silent because both of these letters are required to represent the /ar/ sound. Similarly the ‘e’ in ‘made’ is not silent because it is required to make the /ay/ sound. Without the ‘e’ the word is pronounced /mad/.
- Students are required to find smaller words inside the word being studied without rearranging the letters. For example, tar, star, tart and art can be found inside start. This exercise provides reinforcement of the letters and letter patterns in the words and can also be used to provide a cue to remember difficult spellings (e.g., ten in sentence, or ant in important).
- Double letters are two of the same letter appearing together (e.g., ‘tt’ in little). Identifying double letters provides an opportunity for the discussion of the rule ‘Double the next letter to keep the vowel short when the next syllable begins with a vowel’ and exceptions to this rule.
- Students identify letters occuring more than once in the word. This exercise provides further reinforcement of the letters in the words and any patterns that may be occurring with the word.
- Next students identify the letter or letter combinations representing the sounds in the word. These are the colour coded letters. It is beneficial to link the graphemes to the same key picture (e.g., ‘ee’ for tree) each time it is encountered to reinforce the sound/symbol correlation.
- Students need to identify the sounds in the word. The student should make a fist and put up one finger for each sound. The number of sounds is equal to the number of solid boxes on the back of the page. For example, although ‘watch’ has 5 letters it only contains 3 sounds – /w/, /o/ and /ch/. In addition, the word is phonemically represented in the answers section (e.g.,w-o-ch). This exercise focuses on the auditory component of learning a word. It is important that the student does not look at the word during this task but rather focuses on the sounds that can be heard.
- The next step is for the student to trace over the letters provides tactile input into the learning process. Saying the sounds in the word at the same time consolidates the sound/symbol relationship.
- Studies in Neuro Linguistic Programming have found that when recalling previously seen images (e.g., the spelling of a word) we instinctively look up and to the left. Therefore, asking students to look up and to the left and to spell the word forwards and then backwards to strengthen this link.
- Spelling the word backwards requires the student to have a visual image of the word and consequently provides an additional means of reinforcing the spelling of the word.
- If the student has difficulty spelling the word forwards, return to tracing the word and saying the sounds and then try again. If the student has difficulty spelling the word backwards, have him/her spell the word forwards and then try again.
- There is one box for each phoneme (sound) in the word. Silent letters are represented by a dotted box. The student places the letter or letters representing each sound in the boxes provided as they say the sounds. For example, the word ‘watch’ has three phonemes represented by three boxes, plus a silent ‘t’. A ‘w’ is written in the first box, ‘a’ in the second box, ‘t’ in the dotted box and both ‘c’ and ‘h’ will be written in the third box (representing the /ch/ sound). The student should say each sound out aloud as the letter(s) representing the sound are placed in the appropriate box. The final ‘e’ in split digraphs (commonly referred to as fairy, magic or bossy ‘e’) is represented by a dotted box with an arrow pointing to the letter it is affecting. At times a letter may have two roles and this is represented with an arrow. For example, the ‘e’ in cent is used with the ‘c’ (ce) to represent the /s/ sound, but also represents the /e/ sound. Consequently, an arrow will link the box containing the ‘e’ to the box containing the ‘c’.This exercise reinforces the sound/symbol relationship while simultaneously requiring auditory, visual and tactile responses.
- The spelling of English words is based on a code of letters representing different sounds and rules explaining correct usage. If there is a rule relating to the word this is noted so that it can be discussed with the student. However, there are often inconsistencies in the application of these rules (due to derivations and influences from other languages) and consequently if the word does not follow the normal rule pattern, this exception is indicated. It is important that the student learns that the words is a ‘rule breaker’.
- The student is required to check to see if the word has been spelled correctly. Having the student assume responsibility for checking whether or not the word is spelled correctly assists in the development of editing skills.
- If the word is incorrect it is important to discuss the point of error, correct and have the student try again to ensure accurate learning occurs.
- The student then covers the boxes and writes the word a second time on the lines provided. Writing the word a second time assists in the retention of the correct spelling.
- The lines are colour coded, with a dotted line indicating the midway point, to assist students in letter formation. The colours represent the ground (brown), the grass (green) and the sky (blue). Students should be encouraged to form letters correctly, using the correct starting position and moving in the correct direction. All letters should ‘sit’ on the ‘ground’. The letters a, c, e, i, m, n, o, r, s, u, v, w, x and z should all touch the ‘grass’. The letters b, d, f, h, k, l, and t should all touch the ‘sky’. The ‘hump’ of the b, d and h should touch the grass and the ‘kicking’ of the k should fit under the grass. The letters g, j, p, q and y should start at the grass and the ‘tail’ extend under the ground equal distance from the grass.
- Answers to all questions are provided to check that responses are correct
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