How to Teach Students to Spell Words with Ease

In today’s post, I’ll be sharing simple strategies for teaching students to spell words. Seriously, it’s simple, effective, and will keep your students engaged. Let’s go!

Work on phonemic awareness first

In order to spell words, you must first have phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate sounds (phonemes). It’s important to note that phonemic awareness is all auditory. There is absolutely no letter-sound association, and no spelling, writing, or reading words. However, phonemic awareness is absolutely necessary for mapping speech to print. That’s why it’s so important to have a strong knowledge of sounds.

We can practice phonemic awareness by isolating sounds in words, blending sounds to make words, and segmenting sounds in words. You’re probably familiar with tapping the sounds in a word, or or using sound boxes to track the sounds. Teachers will often incorporate engaging tools into these activities, like tap lights, bingo daubers or play dough. [Grab a set of free sound boxes at the bottom of this post]

Simple strategies to teach students to spell words in kindergarten and first grade. Download a free 25-page activity printable, too!

Learning to spell CVC words

Let’s walk through an easy way to teach your students to spell words that starts with phonemic awareness. It’s very practical and involves very little prep. Perfect for the busy teacher!

First, draw a few pictures to represent CVC words. You don’t need to be a fancy artist, just do your best! I chose cat, hat, rug, and pot. Guide your students to name each picture aloud.

Next, draw a circle to represent each sound as you segment the word aloud with your class. For example, as you segment cat “/c/ /a/ /t/” you draw a circle each time you articulate a sound.

Now it’s time to spell, or encode, the word. As you segment the word a second time, you will write the corresponding letter in each circle. Complete the first word together as a class, so that you can model this method for your students. Then, have student volunteers help spell the remaining sounds or words. I chose to use blue marker to represent the consonants and red to represent the vowels since that’s how students often see the letter tiles or magnetic letters in the classroom.

Simple strategies to teach students to spell words in kindergarten and first grade. Download a free 25-page activity printable, too!

To wrap up this mini-lesson, repeat each word aloud by running your finger beneath the letters and articulating the sounds. Blend the sounds together to produce the complete word.

The Importance of Using CVC Words

As you can see, I chose words that followed the CVC (consonant – vowel – consonant) pattern. That’s because CVC words are typically straight-forward to spell. There are three letters and three sounds in each word. There may be some confusion between c and k or g and j, but don’t sweat it. Phonetic spelling is completely acceptable and commendable in kindergarten and first grade. Your students will also be familiar with many CVC words in their vocabulary, which makes it easier to connect to their learning.

You can easily transfer this whole group activity to small group work or intervention activities, too. Grab a stack of CVC flashcards (like those found here) and they can mimic this activity in their notebooks or on scratch paper.

Addition Spelling Practice

Phonics-based activities should be a part of your literacy block every single day. Consistent instruction will provide your students plenty of opportunities to practice how to spell words. The activity featured below can be used for phonemic awareness, spelling CVC words, or both! Also, you can get the 25-page set for FREE!

YES, give me the free set of CVC practice pages!

You can use these activities for small group, morning work, intervention, and more! All of the pictures are provided, along with a picture key. (I find this helpful for teachers and parents when they might not immediately recognize a picture.) Remember, if you solely want to work on phonemic awareness, omit the spelling and writing component. Simply use bingo daubers, mini erasers, dry erase markers, or play dough to work on segmenting the words instead.

Simple strategies to teach students to spell words in kindergarten and first grade. Download a free 25-page activity printable, too!

I hope this post has given you some insight on how to teach your students to spell words easily and effectively. Don’t forget to grab your free download!


Abby is a former kindergarten and first grade teacher who channels her passion for education into creating engaging activities and resources for the kindergarten and first grade classroom. When not dreaming up or working on her next project, you’ll find her enjoying her family – most likely in her minivan on the way to a soccer field.


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Hi, I'm Abby

Hi, I’m Abby! Thanks for stopping by. I love supporting kindergarten and first grade teachers with engaging, skill-based activities that are easy to use in their classrooms. Let me help you be the best teacher you can be!
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Free Phonics Activity

Help your students build their phonemic awareness with this simple segmenting activity. Get 25 FREE practice pages sent to your inbox today.

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