A Multisensory Spelling Strategy (scroll down for video demonstration)


  Spelling Ex 1

    Spelling Ex 2

  • It is expected that students 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 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.

To view the spelling books Click Here

The Theory

Colour-coded Words

  1. Each word is colour-coded (the visual component) to represent the different phonemes (sound units) contained within the word.
  2. Letters written in black indicate a direct sound-symbol correlation.
  3. 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.
  4. Where relevant, the stem of the word is outlined.

Word Meaning

  1. Requiring the student to read the word and put it into a sentence ensures the student understands the meaning of the word.
  2. 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.
  3. A note will also be made if the word is in past tense (e.g., said), a plural form (e.g., men) or any relevant morphology (e.g., player – stem=play, suffix=er – a person who).
  4. 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.
  5. 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

  1. The student counts the number of letters in the word from left to right – the direction we read.
  2. The student identifies the letter at the beginning of the word (the student should say the letter name).
  3. The student identifies the first sound in the word (i.e., the sound that can be heard).
  4. The student identifies the letter at the end of the word (the student should say the letter name).
  5. The student identifies the last sound in the word (i.e., the sound that can be heard).
  6. 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.
  7. Every syllable has at least one vowel. This exercise reinforces this concept. The student identifies the vowel(s) (not the vowel sounds) for each separate syllable. Note: Sometimes ‘y’ acts as a vowel.
  8. The student identifies the unpronounced letter(s) in the word. Silent letters are the unpronounced letters. A letter is considered silently if it meets one of three criteria:
    *The inclusion or exclusion of the letter does not change the pronunciation (e.g., whether or not the ‘b’ in ‘lamb’ is written, the word would still be pronounced /lam/.
    *Historically the letter was pronounced (e.g.,the ‘k’ in ‘knit’ used to be pronounced).
    *There is a rule explaining the presence of the letter (e.g., there is a ‘d’ in badge because a ‘d’ is used in front of ‘ge’ after a short vowel – without the ‘d’ the word would be pronounced  to rhyme with ‘beige’.
    Note: 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/. The ‘k’ in ‘knit’ used to be pronounced.
  9. 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’).
  10. 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.
  11. Students identify letters occurring 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.

Sound-symbol Correlation

  1. Next students identify the letter or letter combinations representing the sounds in the word.
  2. These are the colour-coded letters.
  3. 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.

Phonological Awareness

  1. Students need to identify the sounds in the word.
  2. The student should make a fist and put up one finger for each sound.
  3. 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/.
  4. In addition, the word is phonemically represented in the answers section (e.g.,w-o-ch). Do NOT ever write this information or allow the student to write it.
  5. 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.


  1. 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. At this stage it can also be useful for student to vocalise the associated key picture and any rules (e.g., say ‘slow’ = /s/-/l/-/ow/ as in bow – ow as in bow is used at the end or words).
  2. Repetition is an integral component of the learning process.  Each of these steps reduces the amount of scaffolding provided. Having students write the word on the desk while an adult provides the auditory input removes the visual scaffolding.  Having the student say the sounds and write the word on the desk removes the visual and auditory scaffolding.
  3. More competent students can immediately say the sounds as they are writing the word on the desk and then on the second attempt, they can say the syllables as they write the word.
  4. 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.
  5. Where relevant the boxes also indicate stems, prefixes and suffixes.

Spelling Rules

  1. The spelling of English words is based on a code of letters representing different sounds and rules (or conventions) explaining correct usage.
  2. If there is a rule or convention relating to the word this is noted so that it can be discussed with the student.
  3. 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’.


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.


  1. Answers to all questions are provided to check that responses are correct.

Click on the images to purchase. Note: ‘For spelling age’ refers to the student’s current spelling age. If a student’s spelling age is 8 years, the most appropriate book would be the Multisensory Spelling Level G book.

Reading Level 1 Spelling
Reading Level 2A Spelling
High Frequency Words Book 1
High Frequency Words Book 2
High Frequency Words Book 3
High Frequency Words Book 4
High Frequency Words Book 5
For Current Spelling Age: 5 years

For Current Spelling Age: 5½ years

For Current Spelling Age: 6 years  
For Current Spelling Age: 6½ years 
For Current Spelling Age: 7 years
For Current Spelling Age: 7½ years  
For Current Spelling Age: 8 years
For Current Spelling Age: 8½ years 
For Current Spelling Age: 9 years
For Current Spelling Age: 9½ years  
For Current Spelling Age: 10 years
For Current Spelling Age: 10½ years  
For Current Spelling Age: 11 years
For Current Spelling Age: 11½ years
For Current Spelling Age: 12 years
 For Current Spelling Age: 12½ years
 For Current Spelling Age: 13 years

Anthony:  9 years 10 months

“This program is what we needed for our son.  Anthony’s has improved greatly in his reading and writing. “Teresa (Mother) – Bedford

Reading Accuracy Age:  Before:  8 years 4 months  After: 13+ years
Reading Comprehension Age:  Before: 9 years 2 months    After: 13+years
Spelling Age:  Before: 10 years 5 months   After:  11 years 3 months
Known graphemes:  Before: 31  After: 61
Number of lessons:  12 



If you have any questions or need assistance, please send Lillian a message.

* Indicates required field