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Professional Books – Spelling: Connecting the Pieces

Spelling: Connecting the Pieces

by Ruth McQuirter Scott and Sharon Siamon

2004 pb 216 pgs
Item #541
ISBN 0-7715-1868-4

Canadian authors Scott and Siamon place spelling squarely and appropriately in the context of all the literacy modes. Practical advice based on research and anecdotal evidence shows educators how to implement a sound spelling curriculum. With plenty of examples from a range of writers and down-to-earth models for assessing and teaching spellers, this book is designed for the K-8 teacher intent on continually improving every student’s writing and spelling achievement.

This text revisits spelling and provides details about the change that has occurred in the classroom and the need for students to have word study and language skills practice with meaningful writing applications. The book links spelling and other areas of literacy. It also demonstrates that growth in speaking, listening, viewing, and representing impact growth in writing and spelling.

About the Authors

Dr. Ruth McQuirter Scott is a professor in the Faculty of Education at Brock University where she teaches language arts to preservice students and graduate courses on writing. Her freelance work has appeared in major newspapers across Canada and on CBC Radio.

Sharon Siamon has been a primary and ESL teacher. She is also an internationally acclaimed writer of novels for young people.


“I know that spelling should be a part of my word-study program and tied to writing. But I have so many needs in my classroom…that I need advice on bringing all the parts together.” This type of comment by classroom teachers perfectly states the theme of this book. Spelling: Connecting the Pieces offers elementary teachers practical ideas for integrating spelling into their language programs. Drawing on relevant research, the authors provide valuable information about how children learn to spell and how to use this information to assess students’ needs.

The book examines links between spelling and other areas of literacy, and proposes that growth in speaking and listening, viewing and representing, reading and writing leads to growth in spelling. An arsenal of instructional strategies is offered to address spelling in other subject areas and to support the needs of second-language learners, struggling spellers, and skilled spellers.

Table of Contents


Part 1: The Child and the Spelling System 

Chapter 1: Learning to Spell 

Chapter 2: What Does the Research Mean for the

Chapter 3: Spelling Assessment 

Chapter 4: The English Spelling System


Part 2: Spelling In Your Literacy Program

Chapter 5: Listening and Speaking:
                 Oral Language and Spelling

Chapter 6: Viewing and Representing:
                 The Media and Spelling 

Chapter 7: Reading and Spelling 

Chapter 8: Writing and Presenting   

Chapter 9: Integrating Spelling Across
                 the Curriculum


Part 3: Meeting a Range of Student Needs 

Chapter 10: Spelling Strategies and Word Study

Chapter 11: Second-language Learners 

Chapter 12: Supporting Struggling Spellers 

Chapter 13: Challenging Skilled Spellers 

Chapter 14: Home Connections



A Reproducible Pages

B Resources to Support Language Development 

C Frequently Used Words

D Common Spelling Patterns  







Before we began writing this book, we spoke to teachers who had years of experience and had taught many different grade levels. We asked them this question: “What would you like to see in a professional book on the teaching of spelling?” Over and over again, we heard variations of this response: “How do I put it all together? I know that spelling should be a part of my word-study program and tied to writing. But I have so many needs in my classroom and so many curriculum expectations to cover, that I need advice on bringing all the pieces together.” And so, Spelling: Connecting the Pieces was born.


 As a writing team, we share a particular fascination with words and spelling. We join Richard Lederer in being “self-confessed and unrepentant verbivores.” Lederer coined the term verbivore to describe people who devour words. He says, “My whole life I have feasted on words–ogled their appetizing shapes, colours, and textures; swished them around in my mouth…”


Over the past two decades, we have collaborated on over 30 books, and never tire of looking for new ways to share our interest in spelling with teachers and their students. We believe that classrooms should be laboratories where children can explore words and acquire the skills they need to make language a powerful tool for personal expression.


We are delighted when we receive feedback from children who are confident spellers. We know, however, that many children still view spelling as an albatross that damages their self-esteem and prevents them from writing with ease. Even though computer spell checks help mask poor spelling, this is only a temporary solution at best. Our society is still too quick to link poor spelling with a lack of intelligence, and the child who lags behind in spelling is indeed at a disadvantage.


The English spelling system is not easy to master, with its lack of one-sound-one-letter consistency, its preponderance of homophones, and its tendency to borrow words freely from other languages. For most children, learning to spell requires skilled instruction on the part of their teachers. With the many demands on teachers in today’s multi-needs, multi-language classrooms, this is a tall order. The school day has not expanded, but the needs of children and the expectations placed on teachers have.


We believe strongly that the time you and your students spend on spelling must be focused and productive. This does not mean spending a great deal of time on spelling or throwing out everything you have been doing and starting over again. It does mean having a knowledge base about English spelling and acquiring the instructional skills to link spelling with all aspects of the curriculum.


This book provides a framework for understanding spelling, both forms the perspective of children who are learning to spell and teachers who are vital links in the process. As the title of the book suggests, spelling does not exist in isolation from the other areas of language. It is vitally connected to reading, speaking, listening, viewing, representing, and writing. Spelling needs to be addressed in all areas of the curriculum, so the puzzle becomes even more complex. Our goal in writing this book is to help you, the classroom teacher, put the pieces of the spelling puzzle together in a way that meets the unique needs of your classroom setting.


How Is the Book Organized?

We have structured the book in three sections. Part 1 provides the background information needed by teachers to understand how children learn to spell, the implications of current research for the classroom, and how to use this knowledge to assess student deeds. The section concludes with a brief description of the English spelling system, and the features that make English spelling rich in patterns while at the same time challenging in its inconsistencies.


Part 2 examines the links between spelling and other aspects of your literacy program: listening and speaking, viewing and representing, reading and writing. We argue that growth in each of these areas can lead to growth in spelling but also that as children become more proficient spellers, they often use this knowledge of language to become more effective speakers, readers, and writers. These language skills must then be applied throughout the school day, both in what is traditionally considered language time and every other subject area.


Part 3 explores the range of spelling needs within the typical classroom and provides a wealth of practical suggestions for accommodating each student, whether the struggling speller, the second-language learner, or the skilled speller. Families are a crucial source of background information, as well as vital partners in providing support to your classroom program. We present a number of ways to share your spelling program with the parents/guardians of your students.


Special Features

While there is a logical progression from Parts 1 to 3, you may find you prefer to explore the contents of the book in your own way. We have built into each chapter features that will help you to navigate through the book. The key points of each chapter are summarized, and a quick reference is provided to related chapters.


The appendixes contain resources in the form of lists of recommended books, reproducible pages, and word lists, as well as a glossary of terms. The extensive bibliography contains over 100 references to research studies and professional texts in the field of spelling.


Whether you read this book on your own as part of your personal professional development, or study it in the context of a professional learning community, the section in each chapter entitled “Reflective Thinking” will help you to relate the contents of the book to your own teaching environment.


Throughout the book, we acknowledge the importance of providing instruction that meets the needs of a variety of learning styles. We try to model this principle in the design features to the book. Not every reader likes to read a chapter from start to finish, so the summaries will help those through the use of charts, graphic organizers, and cartoons that relate to the text.


Teachers who convey a love of language and who understand the role spelling plays in language development give their students a priceless gift–the ability to make sense of their world through writing, and to share those thoughts with accuracy and confidence. We hope that this book will play a part in making that happen in your classroom.