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How analytical spelling helps kids become fluent readers

To become fluent readers, students must recognize words instantly and

accurately. Instant, effortless word recognition is only possible when students have proficient phonemic awareness/analysis skills. In other words, they must have a strong ability to mentally manipulate individual and unitized phonemic sounds and have a deep reservoir of oral vocabulary stored in their phonological lexicons.


Students with a rich oral vocabulary and strong phonemic awareness/analysis skills can discern and analyze the phonemic sequences that comprise the words they've heard and remembered. Then, they can map the phonemic sequences of the words stored in their oral-mental lexicons to printed words whose letters represent those phonemic sequences in the correct order. Mapping stored phonemic sequences to letter sequences helps students anchor those printed words as meaningful representations of the sequences of sounds already in their minds. This process, called orthographic mapping, leads to rapid and accurate word recognition, which is the very definition of fluency in reading.


So, how do we help students develop a rich oral vocabulary where words are already matched to symbols? We must train them to think analytically about spoken words so that they can learn to hear the words they see. We must train them to hear the sound sequences of spoken words so that they can match those sequences to the order of letters in printed words, and the most superior way of doing this is to teach them the sound sequence and the letter matching sequence simultaneously. This process is called structured oral spelling.

Spelling requires students to see what they hear, which enables them to hear what they see. To spell unknown words correctly, students must match letter symbols to sounds. They must match graphemes to phonemes, and they must do this mentally.


Spelling is the best discipline for developing phonemic awareness since it facilitates advanced phonemic analysis. Teaching students to spell phonemes and sound strings, such as simple syllables, along with words that follow common syllabic patterns, is the best way to teach students how to read and remember printed words.

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