Buzzing about spelling

Root for your spelling hero this week during the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Learning Stages

By Shelby Moore


Shelby Moore is a kindergarten teacher at an inner-city school in Houston and was recently awarded as one of the East Region's Campus Teachers of the Year.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee takes place every year at the end of May. Kids from all around the country, of all ages, come to compete for the big prize. There are even kids as young as six years old competing.

Most six-year-olds have spelling skills that are far from Spelling Bee worthy. When you are just learning to read, as many six-year-olds are, spelling is inventive spelling (simply phonetic) and thus far from correct. For example, children that are just figuring out how to read and write may be able to read the word drink, but when they spell it by listening to how they say drink they may write it like this: jrink. Or how about the word train? Children often say the word differently and so spellings may look like chran or chrane.

Did you know, as children become better readers they also become better spellers and vice versa? 

Reading and writing go hand-in-hand and spelling is a key component to the writing process; however, spelling seems at risk of becoming a lost skill now that all our technological devices are equipped with built-in spell check. As you continue reinforcing reading and writing skills at home with your kindergartner, keep these reading/writing strategies in mind and please don’t dismiss the importance of spelling!

Here are strategies that good readers and writers should do:

Good Readers and Writers . . .

  • Look at the pictures, or draw pictures to match their written words.
  • Get their mouths ready to make the sounds.
  • Skip hard words and then go back to them, inserting a word that makes sense in the context.
  • Use context clues & think: What makes sense with the story? Does that word I just read make sense? Does it sound right?
  • “Chunk It”: Look or listen for smaller words you know hiding inside larger words.
  • Try a different vowel sound. If the short vowel sound doesn’t sound right try the long vowel sound.
  • Think of a rhyming word they know. If I know c-a-t is cat, then I know h-a-t must be hat! (helps with both reading and spelling skills).
  • Spell out loud the word that is giving you trouble. Write it down for further practice.
  • Ask questions.
  • Make predictions before and during reading.
  • Visualize—make a mind movie.
  • Never stop practicing. Go back, go back, go back and re-read!


The benefits of spelling and spelling bees go beyond helping children become better readers and writers. Spelling also allows children to explore new languages as they learn about word origins, and it helps develop necessary study skills.

Keep in mind, with the Scripps National Spelling Bee as one of the top educational highlights this month, let's focus on the benefits of spelling. Encourage your children to give spelling a try no matter their age!