image of the Classroom Alphabet program from

Teaching Spelling

in a Kindergarten Classroom

We all know that spelling is closely linked to reading and writing. We also know that spelling is not something we can introduce in a classroom without having a plan in place. Spelling has to be taught explicitly and sequentially for everyone. Some students pick it up quicker than others, but everyone has to learn the building blocks of the foundations of language.
Our brains are hardwired to learn to speak. Babies brain’s automatically listen to language and start to produce sounds and eventually words naturally. Babies begin babbling and then speaking with very little intervention. The baby will learn to speak by being exposed to the spoken word. It’s a natural human skill.
image of students work using Early Minds Classroom Alphabet Program
The written word is a relatively new thing in the evolution of learning. Our brains do not automatically learn the shapes of letters and how they are formed into words. We have to learn how to spell and read with direct explicit teaching. Different regions of our brain functions are repurposed to learn how to spell and read.
People who become experienced readers use and integrate several regions of their brain, primarily in the left hemisphere (Cunningham & Rose; Eden; Hudson et al., 2016)
The temporo-parietal helps us understand speech sounds and meaning. We use this area for sounding out and decoding unfamiliar words, and word analysis. The occipito-temporal helps us recognise faces and objects. We use this area for letter-word recognition, automaticity, and comprehension. This area is critical for automatic, fluent reading. The frontal region helps us form speech sounds. We use this area for the pronunciation of written words.
For your students to become fluent readers they need all of the regions of their brain to work together. This happens when they are explicitly taught a systematic spelling program regularly. They build familiarity with the program, confidence in their skills, and are able to comfortably access their decoding, word analysis, word recognition, comprehension, and understanding of the written word.
In a kindergarten class, using our alphabet program, I spoke to one of the teachers to see what their daily and weekly steps are for teaching spelling, reading, and writing.

Alphabet Program

An individual letter, following our scope and sequence, is introduced using a Large Classroom keyword Picture and Letter Card.
The teachers start by introducing the new letter sound and name with a Large Classroom Letter Card. They follow the script on the lesson page in the Classroom Alphabet Program and participate in the imaginative multi-sensorial actions with their students. They show the Large Classroom Picture Card and say the sound the picture begins with. They invite their students to put up their hands to think of other words beginning with this sound, and they make a large classroom dictionary with all the words brainstormed by the students.
Each student then works on their Individual Letter Dictionary page illustrating and writing words beginning with the sound. (The Individual Letter Dictionary pages were designed with a collaboration with the teachers letting us know what would work best for their classroom). The teachers cover the large classroom dictionary word list when the students are creating their own words and simple sentences. This gives the students an opportunity to sound out and print their own spellings. This gives the teachers an opportunity to see how the students are using and understanding the sound, how they are word building, and how they are able to create their own sentences. This classroom also uses an added printing program to supplement the learning and mastery of forming the letters. Our program is designed for teachers to use exclusively or to supplement with materials they already have, it’s a flexible program utilizing every opportunity to learn.
  • The students learn the names and sounds of the letters
  • They practise the direction of letters for printing
  • They identify the shapes of the letters in practise activities
  • They produce words beginning with the sound (brainstorming in the classroom for a word list - teachers add visuals and have a large classroom dictionary on the wall for the students to refer to)
  • They use the words in simple sentences
  • They create individual letter dictionaries
  • They have opportunities to practise word building
  • They blend consonants
  • They learn high frequency words - for automatic recognition rather than sounding out

All of these activities support a well rounded exposure to learning letter sounds and names in an explicit and sequential way. The students can independently complete the tasks as they are familiar with the program, and the kindergarten teachers have told me, “The students love it and really look forward to these activities during the week. It’s their favourite activity of the week.”

Teachers can decide to teach one sound a week, or teach more than one if that works for their classroom. The Classroom Alphabet Program is written with the teachers in mind. Everything is in one book allowing you to spend time teaching instead of finding resources or searching for activities.

Take a look at our Classroom Alphabet Program in the School section of our site.