Visualizing Spelling Choices: Strategies For Spelling Success


It’s been a busy summer in the world of Orton-Gillingham this summer! I am always seeking new books, materials and lesson ideas for using the Orton-Gillingham approach, and today I am back to share some wonderful teaching tips for teaching spelling strategies.

I apologize for the summer hiatus from blogging, but things are picking back up for sure! If you receive my weekly emails, you probably have a pretty good idea about what I’ve been up to and what I have planned. So without further delay, Sarah from Magic Moments Tutoring is going to share some absolutely FABULOUS and PRACTICAL tips that you can implement in your Orton-Gillingham lessons or other reading interventions right away. Please feel free to comment or ask questions at the end of the post. Thank you, Sarah for writing such a valuable post for both me and my readers! 🙂


Visualizing Spelling Choices

Sometimes it seems that the more an O.G. student learns, the harder spelling becomes! When a student only knows a few syllable types, their options for spelling a certain sound are pretty limited and can be figured out on the basis of what type of syllable they hear. It isn’t too long however, before the spelling choices start stacking up and helpful spelling generalizations are only half the story. Students that are proficient at spelling words like tackand takeand playmay run into problems when writing maid, rein and prey.

While we can teach students that certain spellings are used at the beginning or middle of words and others at the end, there are still plenty of tricky choices such as whether to use a-e or ai, oa or o-e? Long e has a dizzying number of possibilities. Spelling that is phonetically correct, but not orthographically correct is still a problem for students in the classroom.

I find that it is helpful to introduce students to the frequency of different spelling patterns. The oe spelling is uncommon and should not be a student’s go-to answer for spelling the long o sound. Using a simple visual graph of frequency of use is a great first step. This graph can easily be made interactive and hands-on by using Velcro, or you can build this with the student, adding spellings as they are introduced.

As new phonograms and spelling generalizations are introduced, I find it is helpful to incorporate specific lessons focusing on spelling choices. After helping students to make wise choices using their knowledge of spelling generalizations and frequency, it seems to be most helpful to develop a repertoire of high use words that they know will fit a specific spelling pattern. Of course, this happens through many exposures to reading and writing these words, but we can also use the student’s imagination, visualization skills and artistic abilities to help.

How to Create Picture Stories for Spelling Choices
1.      Generate a list of common words using a specific spelling pattern in advance.
2.      Read through the list with your student, clarifying words that may have homophones or multiple meanings.
3.      Invite your student to add additional words to the list.
4.      Challenge your student to create a picture story using only words on the list and as many of them as possible. They can add words, but only if they follow the correct spelling pattern. This can be as simple as a quick sketch or an elaborate and colorful poster. Encourage them to be silly and creative to make it more fun.
5.      Have your student share their picture story.
6.      If you see opportunities for including more words, offer suggestions.
7.      Record the words contained in the story somewhere on the drawing.
8.      Revisit this picture often over the course of several lessons as your student becomes more comfortable and is able to visualize their picture and describe it using the target words without it in front of them.

9.      Display or keep in a student’s personal folder for reference.






The great thing about this activity is that the students love it! They will frequently ask when we can do it again after completing one spelling choice picture story. It is multisensory using the kinesthetic drawing activity, auditory for telling the story and visual for looking at the picture and visualizing it later on. It is also easy to adapt to small group or whole class instruction either by working in teams to complete posters or creating individual pictures from a brainstormed shared word list.

This activity is easily adapted to fit your individual schedule by making it as simple as a time limited sketch (2 minutes for thinking and 3 for sketching seems to work well) or as elaborate as a take home family project. It is easily adapted to different ages by incorporating more complex vocabulary. Finally, it allows many students with dyslexia to utilize some of their creative strengths.

Looking for even more tips? 
Read: “What Does An Orton-Gillingham Lesson Look Like?

Thank you! 
Spelling Strategies with The Orton-Gillingham Approach



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