Pattern Spelling

Angelisi stated the following about the concept of pattern spelling in her research: “Encouraging students to search for certain spelling patterns in words can help them remember the spelling of the word better”, with the idea of patterns here being a reference to rhyming patterns, consonant or vowel clusters, prefixes and suffixes (2000, p. 5). Despite that and numerous other researchers advocating its use as one of the most effective methods around, pattern spelling is still one of the most underestimated teaching techniques around today. As such, you would be forgiven for not having heard of it or using it before.

Pattern spelling is essentially the technique that takes full advantage of the patterns that exist in different words, such as the following according to Westwood:

  • Group One – Other, Mother, Smother, Brother, Bother.
  • Group Two – Sand, Stand, Strand, Sanded, Stranded.
  • Group Three – Ease, Cease, Lease, Please. (2008, p. 70)

These words all have specific letter patterns or letter clusters in common. As such, they are linked together to the point at which a student would struggle to spell the others in each group if they have issues with just one of them. Although this is a real problem, it makes life easier for teachers because your job is to make sure that they are aware of the patterns. When the patterns are taught and taken on board, you are fully able to ensure that they do not have difficulties in spelling the rest of the group.

However, with all of the above information, there are many teachers that simply stand in front of a white board with a pointer and get classes full of students of all ages to recite the patterns over and over and over again. This is not effective and will do absolutely nothing to teach your students so avoid this method and focus on more creative teaching methods and exercises, such as those outlined in this module.

Your Lesson Plan

Content – Pattern spelling, the identifying of patterns and using them to teach spelling.

Goals & Objectives – The main goal of this particular lesson is to identify patterns in words that students have difficulties with, help them to decipher and remember the patterns and ensure that all words in the same pattern group are memorable in the future.

Materials & Resources – None

Introduction – Introduce pattern spelling via worksheets that group words together, such as the one included in this module. Explain what pattern spelling is and highlight the common problems with spelling all pattern words in a particular group.

Development – Encourage your students to discuss pattern spelling and identify groups of patterns. Allow this section of the lesson to be interactive, meaning that they can shout out answers as and when necessary. This encourages participation and the development of the concept.

Practice – Choose any one or two exercises from those outlined in the next section to help students to practice the skills that should be taught in this particular module.

Notes – Pattern spelling can be very boring so make sure that you use any tools you have at your disposal to make it a little more fun. Pairing pattern spelling with visual cues is always a good idea. Teaching techniques for this particular area vary but develop your own style and stick to it so that it makes complete sense to your students.

Selected Exercises

Most pattern spelling teaching methods are on the creative side to ensure that it captures the attention of students. Failing to use such exercises can result in boredom and learning very little so trying the following exercises can get your students off to a good start and reinforce the points you will discuss in the introduction and the progress made by the development stage.

Choose at least two of the following exercises. They need not be time consuming but are easy to pick up:

  • Use poetry and nursery rhymes. Ask your students to name their favourite rhyming poetry and nursery rhymes and then write them out, illustrating them as you do. You should then ask a student to highlight just one letter pattern in the nursery rhyme and ask them to explain why it is a pattern. The sounds will highlight the patterns as you say the nursery rhyme aloud but the interactive nature of the task means that students have hands on experience so you get the best of both worlds (Westwood, 2008, p. 13). Songs and chants serve the same purpose so that approach will work too.
  • Spend just a few moments at the start of the lesson warming up the vocal chords with a few tongue twisters. Tongue twisters always play on words and the patterns that they contain so take the time to enunciate them carefully to highlight different patterns. This will be a lot of fun and help your students to learn to spot patterns too.
  • Use visualisation to spot the patterns in words. Get the students to create flow charts on which they can write words with the same patterns. This can be played as a game, with every student having to write a word down with the same pattern, as per the groups highlighted in the introduction of this module. There are plenty of patterns to choose from and you can even offer prizes to the individuals that get the most. The flow charts can then stay on the walls as a reminder of how to spell all the words within the pattern.
  • Encourage your students to get creative with art supplies. Give them a word to spell with the sole instruction that they have to highlight the pattern element in a different style or colour. You will find that they will come up with all sorts of variations that make it easy to remember.

Choosing any of the above exercises will have a good impact on your students because they will be able to learn through injecting a little fun into their spelling lessons. You will find that, if taught properly, your students will tend to take the lead on this particular module so you can take a back seat and let them learn interactively. Just make sure that they follow your instructions and you will find that pattern spelling teaches itself.

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