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Overcome The Challenge Of Alternative Spellings

Alternative spellings of the same sound can be frustrating for kids, so I like to keep practice positive and fun with these two tools and activities.
Alternative spellings of the same sound can be frustrating for kids, so I like to keep practice positive and fun with these two tools and activities.

Do your students ever get confused with alternative spellings of the same sound? Just think about how many different ways there are to spell the long a sound: ay, ea, a-e, ai, a, eigh, ei … or the er sound: er, ir, or, ur, ear  … or the oo sound: oo, ew, ue, u-e, ui. And those are just a few of the alternative spellings your students will encounter. All the long vowel sounds have alternative spellings for students to learn.

Keep it positive when you introduce new sounds. Start with a word list, and ask students what sounds they hear in common. For example, say these words: mouse, brown, cloud, owl, bound, crown, loud, growl, count, now, pouch, frown stressing the /ow/.

Ask your students what sound they hear in all the words. If they don’t recognize the common, /ow/ sound, tell them that sound is shared. Then repeat the words.

Next, introduce the spellings. As you say each of the first few words, write them on the board. Underline the /ow/ sound in each word. Explain that you can spell /ow/ as ou or ow. For the next word, say the word and write everything but the /ow/ sound. Ask students what they think the correct spelling is.

For example, say crown and write C R ____ N. Ask students to complete the word. Then write the correct spelling in the space: C R OW N.

Keep alternative spellings practice fun

These can be frustrating for kids, so I like to keep practice positive and fun. Two tools I love are cootie catchers and the Spin-Read-Write game.

Cootie Catchers

After introducing different ways of spelling the /ow/ sound, give students a chance to practice with cootie catchers.

Students can work in pairs. They’ll need a:

  • Cootie catcher
  • Whiteboard or paper with the spellings of the practice sound listed across the top
  • Whiteboard marker or pencil

Alternative spellings of the same sound can be frustrating for kids, so I like to keep practice positive and fun with these two tools and activities.

Demonstrate how to work the cootie catchers.

  • Choose a picture. (Example: owl)
  • Segment the word, opening the cootie catcher for each sound. (Example: OW-L)
  • Then choose a word from the inner part of the cootie catcher. (Example: crown)
  • Segment the sounds again, opening the cootie catcher once for each sound (Example: C-R-OW-N)
  • Choose another word (Example: pouch)
  • Open the flap for this word, and think of a word with the spelling of the /ow/ sound shown. (If students get stuck, the cootie catcher has examples.)
  • Write the word under the correct spelling of the /ow/ sound, segmenting the sounds as you write it down.
  • Then underline the spelling of the /ow/ sound.

Cootie catchers are always popular with my students and can be used for any alternate spelling sounds.

Spin-Read-Write

Spin-read-write is a game that lets students practice both reading and writing words with alternate spellings of a sound.

Students need a grid game board, a spinner with words with the target sounds, and two different colored pens or narrow markers.

Alternative spellings of the same sound can be frustrating for kids, so I like to keep practice positive and fun with these two tools and activities.

Students take turns spinning the spinner, reading the word it lands on, and then writing the word anywhere on the grid. The student who fills a row anywhere on the board wins.

Get more alternative spelling practice ideas

Cootie catchers and Spin-Read-Write provide great practice for those tricky alternative spellings. I’ve used them with the full class divided into pairs, at a literacy station, and even as homework to consolidate learning.

To make it easy for you, I’ve created downloads for several versions of both of these activities. You can get them individually—or better yet, as part of the Complete Phonics Kit. With the kit, you get:

  • 2 sets of cootie catchers (over 50 cootie catchers in all) along with instructions for folding and using them in your class.
  • 3 Spin-Read-Write game sets (120 games in all, covering 15 different sets of alternative spelling sounds)
  • Long Vowel Activities separate packs for each long vowel
  • Writing prompts with a phonics focus

And that’s just the alternative spelling activities! You also get tons of activities for:

  • CVC words
  • Consonant blends
  • Digraphs

In all, you get over 1100 pages of phonics activities that are appropriate for students aged 5 to 12 years. Save yourself time and set yourself up with plenty of activities for a fun year of phonics.

Get your Complete Phonics Kit now.

Do your students ever get confused with alternative spellings of the same sound? Just think about how many different ways there are to spell the long a sound: ay, ea, a-e, ai, a, eigh, ei. And those a just a few of the alternative spellings your students will encounter. These can be frustrating for kids, so I like to keep practice positive and fun with these two tools and activities. #learninggames #classroomgames #literacy #reading #spelling #phonics #kindergarten #FirstGrade

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