Elementary Spelling

Improve your child's spelling

Spelling is a core skill for children at all grade levels, but many learners struggle with it throughout elementary school and beyond. Building strong spelling skills at an early age will help your child in both their academic and everyday life.

We know how challenging encouraging your child to improve their spelling can be. This section of our website explains all you need to know about the spelling standards expected of elementary students from first grade all the way to sixth grade, and how you can help your child attain them. You’ll find activities that will keep your child engaged and interested in working on their spelling skills, including printable word lists and spelling worksheets to work through. Keep reading for more information about elementary spelling, or select your child’s grade level above to start learning!

Spelling lesson series on Nightzookeeper.com on laptop screen.

What is elementary spelling?

Spelling at elementary school level is all about helping your child to develop their understanding of essential spelling principles.

In first grade and second grade, learners are expected to use their phonic knowledge to recognize common spelling patterns, vowels and consonants, sight words, and learn to spell a selection of prefixes and suffixes. In third grade and fourth grade, children should be confident in the skills built in earlier grade levels and leverage them to establish a general understanding of spelling techniques and principles, such as ending rules, and how to correctly spell commonly confused words, also known as homophones. By fifth grade and sixth grade, learners should be competent spellers, and have a growing vocabulary of prefixes, suffixes, word families, and more.

What are the 7 basic elementary spelling skills?

At elementary school level, there are seven main spelling skills children will develop:

  1. Understanding phonics - knowing sound spellings.
  2. Sight Words & High Frequency Words
  3. Adding suffixes to base words.
  4. Syllable Patterns (there are 7 syllable types students are taught that support spelling)
  5. Ending Rules - for example changing y to ies carry > carries
  6. Word Families - help > helping, helper, helpful, unhelpful, ...
  7. Position-based spellings - for example i before e except after c

Our elementary spelling guide identifies grade-specific content and offers free resources for spelling practice. Activities include grade-appropriate spelling lists, step-by-step instructions, word searches, and more!

You can access the Dolch sight word list via our first grade and second grade reading pages.

By what grade should a child be spelling fluently?

Children will start spelling words in first grade, but most learners tend to have a basic understanding of spelling rules by second grade, or between the ages of 7 and 8. From then, it’s all about refining and building confidence in key elementary spelling skills, such as the ones listed above.

Having said this, please keep in mind that every child is unique and learns at their own pace, so it’s normal if your child takes slightly longer (or less time) to develop their spelling skills. Keep in mind that literacy skills are crucial for your child’s later academic success and professional development, so be sure not to rush the learning process - gaining the necessary skills is the most important thing!

Suffix lesson on Nightzookeeper.com on laptop screen.

How do you teach elementary spelling?

Teaching spelling can be a tricky task to achieve on your own, but we’re here to help!

Night Zookeeper logo, displayed on tablet screen.

Our language arts program for kids includes thousands of research-based elementary spelling resources to boost your child’s skills in a fantastically fun way! It uses gamification to teach language arts, which ensures children remain engaged, focused, and entertained as they develop reading and writing skills.

Our award-winning content has been created by experienced educators, and includes everything learners need to develop their spelling skills, from word games about phonics, to interactive lessons about nouns and consonant digraphs, and even challenges on proofreading!

Night Zookeeper is a fully adjustable education program, which means that you can adapt the content your child has access to based on grade level, age, or current learning ability! You can also decide the type of content your child has access to, to ensure that they get exactly what they need out of the program. For more information on the program features, please visit our user guide.

These features also help to make our program very inclusive and accessible for as many learners as possible. Night Zookeeper has been proven to work well for SEN schooling, including many success stories from children with dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, amongst many other special educational needs (SEN).

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