Learn One Spelling Rule and Unlock 9,000 words

Note: The following guest post comes to us from Julie Bradley. She has been an educator for more than 30 years. Her expertise has taken her to outback Australia and around the world presenting to educators and parents on spelling and foundational skills. Mrs Bradley is Managing Director of Smart Achievers, a worldwide distributor for Smart Words Spelling, Reading and Perceptual Motor Programs.

There are 30 rules that govern the spelling of English words.

By learning just one spelling rule, you can spell 9,000 words. Learning the rule for words that start with a hard ‘c’ or ‘k’ gives the knowledge to use the /k/ sound.

Are you confident teaching this rule?

Over the years, the traditional teaching method requiring kids to learn lists of words hasn’t been effective. Perhaps that’s the method our teachers used with us when we were kids or how we were instructed to teach. But this method doesn’t work.

Here’s why. For a student to learn a list of words, they have to memories them. Every week they have to learn new words.

But get this:

• The human memory can cope with approximately 2000 sight sound symbols.
• The English dictionary has 2 million+ words.
• The average adult has 40,000 to 60,000 words in their working vocabulary.
• Well educated people know about 200,000 words.
• The average six year old knows 10,000 words.

This means, to be ‘average’, students need to learn 4,000 new words a year.

That is 11 words per day.

To learn 200,000 words by the time a student turns 26 they must learn 27 words a day, 365 days a year. You are not going to make the grade if you’re learning to memorize a list of 20 words per week.

It’s possible that many people, teachers included, fall significantly short of this mark. Kids tend to memorize their list of words, often without knowing why words are spelled the way they are. The added dilemma for many students is they have to do this without memory training, so they will soon be overloaded.

Considering an estimated 98% of English words follow the 30 Rules of Spelling – it’s very important that we teach our students those rules. But the most important thing is for teachers to also know the associated rules so they can refer to them and explain them simply to students.

To tackle these issues, Smart Words is designed to teach you the rules so you can apply them with ease. Smart Words aims to help you improve your kids spelling accuracy, quality of writing and ability to read words.

When a student is able to read and write with confidence, it then frees up thinking space so they can think about the Science or the Maths they’re trying to understand. It gives them thinking space to make their writing interesting by adding adjectives and adverbs.

It is reassuring to acknowledge that the Australian Curriculum emphasizes that competency with Literacy be prioritized above other subject areas as success in other subjects is often dependent on a child’s success with reading and writing.

How are your students going with their spelling? Do you have students who don’t apply their spelling list words to their writing? Let me know in the comments. I would love to hear what strategies have worked.

Choose your Reaction!
  • I was an educator for 30 years and have never read this trick — very innovative. I think any “shortcuts” that open the door to learning in other areas are definitely welcome.

  • Well, where was this advice when I was in elementary school?? These are the types of things I really appreciate as a young teacher. Thanks for the advice!

  • My kids are doing well with spelling, but I do think the 30 rules of spelling is a great concept that would help teachers best read their students. I agree with your point, too; reading and writing are essential for success.

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