LITHBTH Educational Services
Spell to Write and Read

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The purpose of this page is to describe the Spell to Write and Read program and explain how we teach spelling and reading.

The following chart provides an overview of the methodology of Spell to Write and Read for teaching beginning spelling and reading. As with all good teaching, we build from the known to the unknown. Rather than push a student to read quickly, we concentrate on building a solid foundation for long-term reading and writing success. Although these procedures are modified for the advanced student (see second chart), they still explain the foundational steps of the program.

SWR with a Beginning Reader

The Foundation = Sounds of Speech

  • Our foundation is what the child already knows, his own language. The average first grader has a vocabulary of 2,000-10,000 words.
  • The challenge is to teach him to read and write what he can already hear and say.

Written Symbol for Sounds = Phonograms

  • Words are made up of sounds. The first step is to teach the child to recognize and reproduce from memory the written symbols for these sounds.
  • We must teach more than the 26 letters of the alphabet as English has 45 sounds spelled in over 70 basic ways!
  • Legible handwriting is taught along with the 70 basic phonograms. They are taught in isolation, without any picture cues as we don't interfere with the direct response between symbol and sound.
  • The phonogram sounds for the alphabet are taught before moving to the next step. After that point, we continue to introduce phonograms made of more than one letter (e.g. sh, th, ee, er).

Combine Sounds Into Spelling

  • Next, we teach the child how to combine the sounds to spell words. The term "encoding" describes this well as we're teaching the child to put the language into the written code.
  • We start with the most frequently used words in our language and group them according to spelling difficulty.
  • The student hears the word, and then, together with the teacher, builds the word by phonogram sounds.
  • Included in this process is the blending of these written letters into words. This is termed "decoding" as we're training the child how to take the language out of the written code.
  • At first, the student needs help mastering the trick of blending the letter-sounds smoothly enough to recognize the word. Soon he begins to recognize common words by sight, simply because he has sounded them out successfully enough times in the past to instantly recognize them.
  • The student learns to see each word as a sequential grouping of sounds rather than merely a meaningless string of unrelated letters.
  • The spelling words taught cover practically every pattern of English spelling and speaking. Wanda Sanseri says, "The student who masters the basic elements of these words knows the English phonetic code and spelling rules so well that he can readily decipher almost any new English word he may hear or read."

Teach 28 Spelling Rules As Needed

  • We begin to teach the 28 spelling rules as they come up in the spelling words and as they coordinate with the phonograms.
  • The teacher does not need to know all these rules before teaching the program. She can be learning them along with the student.
  • During this process we also stimulate logical thinking as the child learns to use a marking system with the spelling words according to reinforce the spelling rules. Our markings teach the student to think, and not guess.
  • When we teach the 70 phonograms and the 28 rules, we can account for the spelling of 93-97% of the most frequently used words in our language.

Compose Oral Sentences

  • The student orally composes his own original sentences as he reads the words he has written.
  • The student learns that the words he can now read and write can be used to build sentences which express his ideas and thoughts.

Write Original Sentences

  • The student then uses the skills he's learned to write (encode) these words into his own original sentences.
  • After the student has mastered 150 spelling words, he is ready to write his own sentences.
  • Teaching grammar is a natural part of this process of writing.

Read Original Sentences

  • The student proceeds to read back what he has written.
  • Reading happens as an outworking of the other instruction.
  • Dr. Harvey Wiener, in his excellent book, Any Child Can Write says, "There is a close relationship between [writing and reading] especially in the initial learning stages... Part of the ability to recognize a word develops from the ability to write the word and to read it back; for many people, including adults, the tactile aspect of writing is an indispensable feature of the learning process. When I teach reading, I try, wherever possible, to use the student's writings to help me teach the skills. When the context is part of their own lives, students' paragraphs are fertile grounds for building knowledge in reading... Practice in writing is a vital part of practice in reading... Certainly, the youngster needs to read at some time what others write, but in the early stages of language awareness the writing activity is an integral part of reading."

Read Simple Books

  • The natural progression is then to read what others have written, starting with simple books.
  • When the student can read his spelling words fluently, he is ready to read from books.
  • We continue to strengthen both spelling and reading. The skills build upon each other.
  • A student who can read and spell well can work independently for much of his subsequent education.
  • A student of this program can read "living" books and interesting materials from the beginning; he is not limited to boring basal readers.

The following chart provides an overview of the steps in Spell to Write and Read for working with a student who has some reading and writing experience. When students are taught to read before developing consistent spelling skills, they will likely have holes in their language foundation. SWR works to successfully fill in the gaps for these students and enable them to strengthen their understanding and usage of the English language.

SWR with an Advanced Student

Assess Student Skills

  • SWR provides the diagnostic tools necessary to document the mastery of previously taught material and to measure the student's application of spelling concepts to words not yet taught.
  • Suggested resources compliment the SWR system to measure reading comprehension.
  • Assessments provide a benchmark for measuring future progress.
  • A determination is made as to where in the WISE Spelling List the student should be placed for spelling instruction. This placement indicates the level at which the student's understanding of the English phonetic code begins to falter. Student interest is piqued when he is placed at a level that not only builds much-needed skills, but also challenges him.

Written Symbol for Sounds = Phonograms

  • We begin to teach the 70 basic phonograms which represent the 45 sounds of the English language.
  • For most students, teaching the phonogram sounds for the alphabet is accomplished quickly. When we begin introducing the multiletter phonogram patterns, many students' understanding of the phonetic code blossoms dramatically.

Teach 28 Spelling Rules As Needed

  • We begin to teach the 28 spelling rules as they coordinate with the phonograms and by building Reference Pages in the Spelling Notebook.
  • The first Reference Pages to be built illustrate the most common spelling rules used in the language, from beginning readers all the way up to graduate level texts. These pages also lay the foundation for the first spelling list the student will use, as determined by the diagnostic testing.
  • The student continues to learn spelling rules and build Reference Pages as he makes progress through the WISE Spelling List.

Begin Spelling Instruction

  • The student hears the word, and then, together with the teacher, builds the word by phonogram sounds. The student learns to see each word as a sequential grouping of sounds rather than merely a meaningless string of unrelated letters.
  • The student uses logical thinking while using our marking system to reinforce the phonogram patterns and the spelling rules.
  • The student progresses through the WISE Spelling List at a pace that encourages both mastery of the material while providing him with the "big picture" of the consistencies within our language.

Enrichment Activities Develop Other Language Arts Skills

The weekly spelling words become the springboard for a myriad of enrichment activities that build other language arts skills such as grammar concepts, compound words, prefixes & suffixes, verb conjugations, plurals, punctuation, beginning composition skills, building derivatives, higher level thinking such as analogies, learning Greek and Latin roots, and more!

Develop Improved Writing Skills

  • Again, instruction in both penmanship and composition skills are geared to meet the individual needs of the student.
  • Instruction is provided for teaching the student how to transition from manuscript to cursive penmanship.
  • Students learn to write good sentences to reinforce spelling words.
  • Skills in powerful composition are introduced, laying an excellent foundation for a more structured writing curriculum in the future.
  • Students are exposed to quotes from classic literature, history, the Bible, and poetry to enrich their learning experience and whet their appetites for further research.

Strengthen Reading Skills

  • Through the work done on improving spelling skills and the enrichment activities branching off these foundational efforts, the student's reading abilities are strengthened.
  • Students are given the skills to read rich literature, the "living" books that build character, and books that change lives like the Bible.
  • Recommended supplemental resources provide the tools for consistently teaching and assessing reading comprehension skills.


The system in Spell to Write and Read for teaching Reading and Spelling is . . .

* RELIABLE...We teach systematic phonics instead of look-say. Reading instruction is rooted in the sound-symbol system, not limited to visual memory.

* EFFICIENT...With only 70 phonograms and a few spelling rules we can phonetically explain 93-97% of the most frequently used words in our language. We find that English is highly consistent and not full of the many exceptions we were taught!

* LOGICAL...We teach children to think with logic, not to guess!

* INTEGRATED...We integrate all aspects of language arts. For example, we teach the sounds the letters make while teaching penmanship. SWR will cover penmanship, phonics, spelling, reading, beginning grammar, beginning composition, and vocabulary development--all in one!

* MULTI-SENSORY...We use a multi-sensory presentation (using all four senses simultaneously; seeing, hearing, saying and writing) thereby teaching to all learning types.

* BALANCED...This foundation is carefully presented in such a way as to not overload with too much to confuse, or to leave with too little. The child is able to experience real life success.

* ECONOMICAL...The program is unbelievably inexpensive. The Core Kit of Teacher's Materials will last for as many students as you will teach and for the duration of their instruction with this method. There is no need to buy costly consumable workbooks or teacher's manuals every year. All your student will need is a simple spelling notebook (see Materials) and reading materials you provide. Basal readers are not needed or recommended. The first reader can be the Bible!

* ADAPTABLE...The system can be used equally well with one-on-one tutoring or group instruction.

* EFFECTIVE...Students properly taught with SWR excel.

* FAR REACHING...SWR can be effectively used in any teaching situation whether it be homeschooling, tutoring, classroom, or teaching ESL. The Teacher's Manuals are written in a way any teacher-- whether credentialed or just starting to homeschool--can understand and put into use.


In February 2001, Wanda Sanseri made a presentation before the Oregon State Senate entitled, "Literacy Today: What is Wrong and How Can We Fix It?" Her speech explains how and why SWR equips students with the tools to be successful at reading and spelling the English language. A transcript of this presentation can be found on the Senate Speech page and in Appendix A of Spell to Write and Read.


Would you like to see samples from
Spell to Write and Read and The Wise Guide?


What are people saying about Spell to Write and Read?

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine


Classical Christian Homeschooling Online

Britta's Blog

Does SWR Work for Wiggly Willys?


Check out the FAQ's Page to learn more about Spell to Write and Read!


Check out the Materials Page to learn more about what you need to implement Spell to Write and Read!


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