Creating a culture of spelling in your classroom

There are two reasons for teaching spelling through a consistent approach like TST. The first is obviously to make sure students are spelling accurately but the second is equally important if not as obvious. It helps to create a culture of spelling in your classroom. It becomes a conversation rather than a lesson and the conversation can be initiated by students as well as teachers.

This post is for any teacher with students of almost any age (8 to adult) who struggle to spell any of remember, because or tomorrow. Teachers in all sectors mention those three words frequently so I thought I'd use them to form an introduction to creating that conversation which can transform spelling for your students.



The student who writes rember instead of remember, is recalling the word visually and trying to write down what they see in their mind's eye. It bypasses the aural, the very thing that makes this word easy to spell.

How many syllables?

Say them clearly.

Say the sounds as you write.

Most will say whole syllables as they write.

re mem ber remember

If they need more support, make puzzles and do the full That Spelling Thing lesson.


Because is far too often taught with mnemonics which offer no transferable knowledge and favour those who already have good memories. Instead, use the spelling conversation:

How many syllables?

Say them clearly.

Can you write be?

Say the sounds as you write.

Most can write be without any help.

What's the next syllable?

What's the first sound in 'cause'?

How do you write the /k/?

Again, most will write a letter c.

What's the next sound?

I can help you here; it's <au> like in August or Australia.

Use letter names (a-u) and try to find a word that sounds the same. In my accent both August and Australia work, as does cause - as in a good cause. However, this blog is read globally so I know these won't work for all of you. If you can't think of a good word for bundling then your students will have to work a little bit harder on remembering that spelling.

What's the last sound in cause?

We spell it <se> like at the end of cheese or please.

For your next spelling test, make each grapheme worth a mark so 'because' is worth a maximum of 5. It will help students concentrate on what they need to remember and not on what they already know.

As with remember, make a puzzle and work from there if necessary.

By working on only two words you've got the language of syllables, sounds and spellings. You can refer to the spellings as graphemes if that's the best language for your students. Globally there are different ideas about terminology so make the best choice for your class. The important thing is that all your students can stop thinking about elephants and ask:

How do you spell the /au/ sound in because?

A mnemonic lets you spell one word but knowing how to ask about a grapheme can change the culture of spelling in your classroom.


Lots of students struggle with this word and even teachers say they have to stop and think about how many m's are in tomorrow.

If you use Twitter you might have been led to believe that morphology and phonics are mutually exclusive.That's a very strange perspective taken by people for reasons I can't fathom. We're in the business of empowering our students in their literacy by helping them become independent and accurate spellers. Therefore, we use both units of sound and units of meaning depending on which is best for memory and expanding vocabulary.

Instead of worrying about how many m's are in tomorrow, start with today and tonight and look at the morphemes that make up these words.

According to, to in these three words means at or on the. The question then isn't how many m's in tomorrow but

what does morrow mean?

According to the Oxford Concise Dictionary, it's an archaic word meaning

the next day.

So, bundle today, tonight, tomorrow and add in together for good measure.

That's my three word introduction to creating a culture of spelling in your classroom.

  1. Everyone, including the teacher, should approach spelling with spoken syllables and sounds.
  2. Learn to concentrate on the spelling (grapheme) that's likely to trip you up. Bundle words with similar sounds and spellings.
  3. Use morphology when it trumps phonics for supporting memory. Why try to remember whether accidentally is spelt with one l or two when you can learn the <ly> suffix? accident, accidental, accidentally.

This is the starting point because, as we say frequently in That Spelling Thing,

learning about spelling is cumulative and collaborative.

Enjoy the process and ask lots of questions on social media.