–Triveni Goswami Vernal
(Registered Special Educator A64010)
Having a good understanding of “Phonological Awareness” –the ability to grasp the sound-symbol connection for each letter and the sounds it generates when spoken together, can help an individual to be more successful in spelling.
Phonological Awareness includes recognizing Phonemes (the smallest unit of sound that cannot be divided further), Syllables (the small group of sounds that can be said with a single push of breath eg. book), Rhymes etc. It comprises activities to blend, segment, isolate and manipulate phonemes and then move on to blending, segmenting, isolating and manipulating syllables. This helps the individual to recognize individual sounds and manipulate them to articulate them in the form of words.
Individuals who have challenges with Spelling tend to have difficulties associating the sound with the symbol (letter), hence it is significant to keep working on developing that association, such that they know how each letter would sound, in a given word, depending on its position. Teaching them to isolate various spelling patterns can help them in a major way. For eg. the use of Phonogram cards.
An example of Phonogram cards is given in the article, Multisensory Spelling Strategy for Struggling Learners, “Phonograms are just the spelling of a sound, such as ch for /ch/ and c for /k/. These cards only display one spelling pattern for a sound, as the focus is on the spelling of that sound” (https://thriveedservices.com/multisensory-spelling-strategy-for-struggling-learners/).
Multi-sensory welding as a strategy to teach spelling, can also help develop muscle memory, for better recall and retention.
Introduction of a new letter involves the process of Discovery of Sound. The sound of a letter can be either Voiced (producing a vibration while speaking) or Unvoiced (no vibration), and/or Blocked (the tongue and teeth touch each other during the production of the sound) or Unblocked (the tongue and teeth do not touch during the production of the sound). One can discover whether the Sound is Voiced/Unvoiced by placing two-three fingers on the throat while uttering the sound of the letter. For eg., the “g” sound is voiced, whereas the “f” sound is unvoiced. Example of a Blocked sound is “L” sound, where the tongue touches the roof of the mouth, just behind the teeth. In comparison, an example of an Unblocked sound is the “R” sound. The tongue allows the breath to roll out, without touching any part inside the mouth.
Multi-sensory welding to develop Sound-Symbol Association includes the following steps:
a) Write the letter on a sheet of paper.
b) Name and “air write” the letter 3 times.
c) Name and “finger write” (with the tips of fingers) the letter 3 times.
d) Name and “pencil write” the letter 3 times.
e) Present the Letter card to the child and ask them to Air Write once and Finger write the letter twice.
f) Present the Keyword and Letter Card and ask the child to—
i) Say the Sound x 1
ii) Key Word x 1
iii) Finger Write x 2
iv) Air Write x 2
The Orton Gillingham approach can help individuals overcome the challenges associated with language processing by creating a deeper understanding of phonemes, syllables, rhymes, discovery of the sound, and the sound-symbol association, thereby providing greater clarity on how words actually form and how they sound together, thus helping the individuals to spell better.
The Pride Reading Program provides several multisensory activities to teach spelling words —
“1. Letter Tiles
One way to help students learn spelling words is by using letter tiles. Letter tiles are a great way for students to manipulate and play with spelling words. They can be used to build words, spell words, and make words. Letter tiles are also a great way for students to learn spelling patterns. For example, if you are working on the spelling pattern /ai/, you can have students build and spell words with that spelling pattern using letter tiles.
If you don’t have letter tiles, you can use any type of manipulative that you have in your classroom. This could be magnetic letters, Scrabble tiles, Uno cards, etc.
Another way to help students learn spelling words is by using playdough. Playdough is a fun way for students to play but also learn spelling words. Some ideas on using playdough in spelling include:
• Use a pencil, chopsticks or even a golf tee and write the spelling words onto the surface of the playdough.
• Stick letter tiles onto the playdough so that they stand up and build the spelling words.
• Use letter magnets and letter stamps onto the surface of the playdough to build the spelling words.
• The students can also build the spelling words with the playdough by forming it into the letter shapes.
3. Use Shaving Cream
This activity never gets old! Spread shaving cream out on a flat surface or tray and have the students write out the letters or words or sentences. This is really messy but oh so fun! You can change it up by using pudding or whipped cream. You can also put shaving cream on a mirror in the bathroom – makes cleaning up a bit easier. Be creative and have fun!
4. Trace Over Highlighter
Students can trace over spelling words. This is a great way for students to feel the word as they are spelling it. Using a highlighter, write spelling words on a piece of paper. Now let your student pick out their favorite color pen and trace over your letters.
5. Sky Writing
Another great multisensory activity that really helps students feel the word as they are spelling is called Sky Writing. When Sky Writing, the students spell each word in the air by visualizing the word. You can then have your students close their eyes and ‘write’ the word a few more times in the air in front of them while naming the letters aloud.
5. Visualize the Word
Ask your student to close their eyes and visualize the word. Ask questions such as, “how many letters are in the word?” and “can you spell the word backwards” or “what is the second letter? The third? The fifth? etc.” This really helps the student visualize and learn the spelling word.
You can also dictate words and sentences with the target spelling rule to make sure the students are applying the concept correctly. The words and sentences that you dictate can include all the previously learned spelling concepts for review” (https://pridereadingprogram.com/how-to-teach-spelling-words/ ).
Targeted intervention can help build muscle memory, create better multi-sensory welding, and improve an understanding of how words form and how they sound like, when the basic units of sound come together. This understanding of sound-symbol association is the bedrock of all strategies that can improve the ability to spell words.
*Besides being a Registered Special Educator, the author is also Certified in Dyslexia Teacher Training (with knowledge of OG Phonics Intervention for Dyslexia)
Author Triveni Goswami Vernal
Triveni Goswami Vernal is an Autism advocate, registered Special Educator (CRR A64010) and an Independent Researcher. Her areas of interest include Autism, Disability Rights, Gender, Art and Northeast studies. She is a mum to an 11 year old on the Autism Spectrum
Creative representation for this blog is done by our extremely talented CreativeSaathi associate Kabir Vernal