Spelling Patterns

The ability to understand words phonetically is a great indicator of a child’s development in the understanding of words and language. Identifying patterns in spelling helps children gain the confidence to build vocabulary and reading skills. Children advance through identifiable stages in their development as spellers. A strong spelling instruction consists of building on a child’s word knowledge and enabling them to move through the necessary stages of word recognition.

Our spelling program can be used to supplement any developmentally based spelling program including Fountas and Pinnell’s Continuum of Literacy Learning, Jan Richardson’s The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading, and Words Their Way®. Teachers, for instance, can create their own word lists, or use our developmental spelling program alongside Words Their Way® to supplement students’ practice with similar word patterns.

VocabularySpellingCity’s spelling program is organized by stages in the process of learning to spell:

 Stage Grades Ages WTW
 Stage 1 Letter Sounds and Word Families K-1 5-7 K-mid 2
5-8 yrs
 Stage 2 Vowels, Digraphs, Diphthongs 2-3 7-9 1-mid 4
7-10 yrs
 Stage 3 Syllable, Prefixes, Suffixes 4-5 9-14 3-8
9-14 yrs
 Stage 4 Derivation Relations 5+ 13+ 10+ yrs
9-14 yrs


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Word Pattern Stage 1: Letter Sounds & Word Families
Grades K-1, Ages 5-7

In this beginning stage of spelling, children “learn their ABCs” by memorizing the letters in the alphabet, the sounds associated with each letter, and how to match the letters with the sounds they make. They also begin to learn about word families, which are groups of words with a common spelling pattern. Word families are sometimes called phonograms or rhymes and can help children learn to spell quickly because of their predictable word patterns. The common endings include the vowel (or vowels that make up the vowel sound) and the consonant letters that follow. Word families offer a useful tool to begin teaching spelling. In kindergarten, children hear and say rhyming words and begin to learn spelling patterns that form the basis for many common syllables. Word study for word families progresses from simple VC (vowel consonant) spelling patterns (it, an) to CVC, CVCe, and VCC spelling patterns.

Spelling Pattern Stage 2: Vowels, Digraphs, Diphthongs
Grades 2-3, Ages 7-9

In the second stage of spelling, children discover variant vowel sounds and how to recognize them. As they progress through this stage of spelling, most short vowel spelling patterns are performed correctly, as are high frequency words. They become comfortable using digraphs, two letters that spell one sound with consonants (ch, sh, th, wh, ck, ph, ng) as well as digraphs that spell vowel sounds (ai, ay, au, aw, ee, ea, ei, ie, oo, ou, oo, ow, oe, ue, ey, oy, oi). Diphthongs, the combination of two vowels that make a certain sound (not necessarily the sound of either vowel), are another milestone achieved during this stage of learning word patterns.

Word Pattern Stage 3: Syllables, Prefixes, Suffixes
Grades 4-5, Ages 9-14

The third stage of spelling sees children spelling most monosyllabic short and long words correctly, and applying what they have learned to longer, multisyllabic words, adding prefixes and suffixes with accuracy and understanding. Prefixes and suffixes may be spelled incorrectly, such as “per” for “pre”. By fourth grade, students should easily spelling most one syllable words and grade level high frequency words. Students will also begin to correctly spell new vocabulary words in their writing. The transfer of these spelling pattern will help to determine the correct meaning of unknown words they come across while reading.

Spelling Pattern Stage 4: Derivational Relations
Grades 5+, Ages 13+

The term derivational relations emphasizes how spelling and vocabulary at this stage grow primarily through derivation: from a single base word or word root, a number of related words are derived through the addition of prefixes and suffixes. In this stage, most common words are spelled correctly, but some spelling patterns can be confused, such as unaccented syllables, silent consonants, and some suffixes and prefixes.

Below is a simple chart to illustrate the four stages of spelling patterns, the grades when children typically learn these patterns, and the approximate ages of children in these various grades.

VocabularySpellingCity is a K-12 supplemental literacy tool that provides spaced and repeated practice to build vocabulary retention and reading comprehension in students. Our 40+ activities help students hear, say, write, break down, and play with words. Teachers, parents, and students love VocabularySpellingCity’s approach to teaching word patterns in a fun, engaging way.