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Spelling Jeopardy- What Are The Questions I Should Be Asking?

Updated: May 19


One of the teachers I mentor was reviewing her student’s written assignment and the question she asked was, “When do I tell my student the correct spelling of a word? When do I expect him to think through the process? How do I guide him to the correct answer?”

Spelling is a complicated dance. There are layers of ideas which influence the spelling of a simple word, like the word, pieces. As the educator, we need to analyze words that we ask our students to spell and then decide when do we tell them how to spell a word and when we walk through the linguistic thinking with them.


Let’s go through that process with the word, pieces.


My questioning revolves around these questions:

How many syllables are in this word?

How many morphemes are in this word?

How many sounds are in each syllable?

What spelling patterns do we have to consider?

We drew a thick line for each syllable and thinner lines for each sound in the word.

The word, pieces, is a two-syllable word and it has numerous phonological and orthographic ideas that need to be talked and thought through.

Syllables & Morphemes


______________________ ________________

Base word (piece) Inflectional ending – plural (es)


Letters & their Sounds


___ ___ ___ ___ ____

______________________ ________________

Base word Inflectional ending

Then we mapped the letters onto the sounds in each syllable and talked about the possible ways to spell each sound and the probable ways to spell each sound.

_/p/__ _/ee/__ _/s/__ _/i/__ _/z/___

______________________ ________________

_/p/__ _/ee/__ _/s/__ _/i/__ _/z/___

______________________ ________________

P EE SS ES

EA SE

IE CE

/P/– there is only one way to spell the sound /p/


/ee/ - in the middle of a word, there are several ways to spell /ee/. EE, EA, EI

The most common way to spell this sound is EE, the next less common way is to use EA and the very least common way is IE.

I have to tell me student that in this word, the sound of /ee/ is spelled this least common way, EI. There is no way that he can possibly know this without me telling him.


/s/ - at the end of a word can be spelled several ways depending on the vowels in the base word, whether the /s/ is the plural morpheme, SS, SE, CE. If the vowel in the base word is a single, weak vowel, the /s/ is spelled with SS. It can also be spelled with SE or CE – the meaning and word origin come into play with telling the difference. In this word the spelling of the /s/ is CE.


Because the last sound in the base word is /s/, the plural morpheme is spelled with -ES.


Because the base word ends in an E, when adding the plural suffix, we take off the E and add the inflectional suffix.

So this is how the letters map onto the sounds.


_p_ ie__ _ce__ __ es___

_______________ ________________

Base word Inflectional ending

And the spelling of this word is, pieces.


Who knew that the word, pieces, could be so complicated and rich.

Obviously, this is a multi-lesson word!!!


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