Using Spelling Rule Cards and memorizing spelling rules

Today a customer wrote us to ask about using Spelling Rule Flash Cards and memorizing the spelling rules in Logic of English lessons. She writes:

My question has to do with the spelling flashcards for Essentials. I am unclear on how we are to use them; is there somewhere in the TM where this is discussed? Do we review the spelling rules daily? Do we expect students to have them committed to memory? When we are dictating words for spelling analysis, I see particular spelling rules referenced. Does the teacher say it, or the student, or only if they need help with the word?


Hi Kacie,

In Essentials, whenever you need to use one of the Spelling Rule Flash Cards, the Teacher's Guide will tell you: it will be listed in "Materials needed" at the beginning of the lesson or section, and then you'll see a callout or box in the text when you get to the point where the card is used. You don't need to drill the cards at other times, though you can occasionally if you'd like (more on that in a moment).

In Essentials 2nd edition, the spelling rule callouts are on the margin, in a green box, like this:

To see this for your self in the Teacher's Guide, look at page 93. You will see that you'll need Spelling Rule Card 11 in that lesson (in the Materials sidebar). Then on page 97 you see where you'll need it: at section 1.3, where it appears at the margin.

Simply hold the card up when you say the rule as a visual reference; you may find it easier to read the rule from the card rather than from the Teacher's Guide. Later in the same lesson, in Day 3, you'll use the card again it when you do your quick review of the rule (as prompted on p. 112).

For those of you using Essentials 1st edition, the spelling rule callouts are in the main text body, in a black box, like this:


Once again, the Teacher's Manual text lets you know at the outset that you will need the the card (for example, on page 1 of Lesson 1) and then prompts you when to use it. The cards are incorporated is a visual reference for the students as you introduce the rule verbally.

These times when it's specifically scripted are the only times you will definitely need the Spelling Rule Flash Cards in the lessons. Beyond that, you can use them as needed for additional practice or reference from time to time. The sample words on the back are a helpful practice tool; students can practice the rules from the back of the cards instead of the front, looking at the sample words to see if they remember what rule applies and then trying to recite the rule from memory. But no, to answer your second question: there is no expectation that students will sit drilling through them to commit them to memory immediately, or go through them every day. The main way that students practice the rules is in Spelling Analysis.

The rules in Spelling Analysis

That brings us to your last question, about how often the rules are repeated in Spelling Analysis, and why, by whom. This is a great question!

The spelling rules should be discussed whenever students learn a word to which they apply, while you are analyzing and marking the word together after you have both written it.

The last few steps of Spelling Analysis, when you discuss the spelling of the word together and mark it, are when you will practice the rules, because this is the best time for it — when you are actually applying them to understand the spelling of a word! You should guide the students, through questions (and support with the answers when needed), in determining what rules are coming into play in the word. Since words are always introduced after the related rules are taught, students will often be able to figure out the applicable rule from a question from you, but you can always prompt them and remind them as needed, and you should say the rule together with them as long as they need your help memorizing it. The goal ultimately is that students will be saying the rule, in response to prompting from you, but you should continue to support them by saying it with them as long as they need you to.

For example, in teaching "black" on page 135 (1st edition: page 16), step 9 of Spelling Analysis would go something like this:

Teacher: How do we mark it?
Student(s): Underline the /k/.
T: Why can we use two-letter /k/ in this word?
T and S together: Because "two-letter /k/ is used only after a single vowel which says its short sound."

If you find it helpful, you can keep the cards for the rules that will be used in that lesson's list handy when you start spelling analysis, especially rules that are still relatively new. Then hold up the card as a reference while you and the students recite the rule. But that is just an optional support, and eventually I think you won't want to or need to do it; Spelling Analysis usually begins to move quite quickly with students who are familiar with how it works.

Similarly, with "frozen" on page 197 (1st edition: page 28):

T: How do we mark it?
S: Put a line over the /ō/. (If the students don't remember, or if this is the first time using a particular marking, you can tell the student instead of asking: "We will put a line over the /ō/ to show that it is saying its long sound.")
T: And why does the /ō/ say its long sound?
S and T together: Because "A, E, O, U usually say their long sounds at the end of a syllable."
T: Why do we usually pronounce this word /frō zən/? Why is the second vowel being lazy?
S and T together: Any vowel may say one of the schwa sounds, /u/ or /i/, in an unstressed syllable or unstressed word.

In this way, you analyze the word together, gain a deeper understanding of how the rules apply and work in words, and commit them to memory over time through meaningful, frequent repetition. Note that the spelling rule numbers are not part of the memorization at all; these are provided only to help you find the right cards and are not needed for success in reading or spelling. Learning the exact wording and application of the rule, on the other hand, is very helpful.

The Spelling Rules listed in the marking notes section of the spelling list, in Step 9 of each Spelling Analysis word, are there to help you remember which rules apply to the spelling of the word. This is particularly helpful for those who are learning the rules as they teach them! Over time, you may find that you rely on the reminder less. But it is there whenever you need it. (In Essentials 1st edition and Foundations, this information is provided in the Spelling Hints column in each spelling list.)

Denise explains and models this in the following video about Spelling Analysis (also called spelling dictation).

For example, she prompts students to recall, apply, and say the rule "English words do not end in V or U" (silent E rule 12.2) for the words give, starting at 3:50, and rescue, starting at 4:46. Again, with the word program, she first guides the student through why the word is spelled the way it is, and then asks "What is the rule?" and repeats it with the student.

As students get increasingly familiar with this process and the spelling rules, they will be able to do more and more of the marking and analyzing themselves, with less and less prompting from you. And in every new word they learn, they will not only be committing the rules to memory but getting more and more adept at applying them on the fly.

Thanks for the great questions!

More information

A note for those using Foundations: In Foundations, the Spelling Rule Flash Cards are not incorporated as a teaching and practice tool until level D, since they are not designed for beginning readers. However, Foundations students practice, apply, and gradually memorize the rules in the same way during Spelling Analysis.

The steps for Spelling Analysis are available on our Spelling Analysis Card and taught in a detailed tutorial in the introduction to the Essentials Teacher's Guide, 2nd edition. (For those using Essentials 1st edition, a guide to spelling analysis is also included in the introduction on pages Intro43-Intro47.)

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