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Lesson Plan

Spelling in Parts: Learning to Spell, Write, and Read Polysyllabic Words

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Grades 3 – 5
Lesson Plan Type Recurring Lesson
Estimated Time One 30-minute session
5- to 10-minute follow-up sessions
Lesson Author

Debbie A. Powell, Ed.D.

Wilmington, North Carolina


International Literacy Association



From Theory to Practice



Spelling one-syllable words is no doubt a piece of cake for your students, but what about polysyllabic words? Using a strategy called Spelling in Parts, students learn how to break down a longer word into its individual word parts to aid them in spelling the whole word. In this lesson, polysyllabic words are chosen from spelling and vocabulary lists or from environmental print. The instructor writes one of the words on the board and walks students through the strategy of dividing the word into syllables, verbally spelling each syllable, thinking of a mnemonic device to help remember the spelling, and finally writing down the whole word. Students repeat the process individually or in pairs for additional words. Extensions include having students practice the strategy with commonly misspelled words or make personal spelling lists from books they are reading or from their own writing.

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Powell, D. (2008). Spelling in parts (SIP): A strategy for spelling polysyllabic words. The Reading Teacher, 61(7), 567570. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

"Big" words are motivating for young readers and writers. Extracting words from a familiar context helps students visualize the words and generally provides authentic reasons for them to use the words in their writing.


Powell, D., & Hornsby, D. (1993). Learning Phonics and Spelling in a Whole Language Classroom. New York: Scholastic.

The [SIP] strategy works because children learn to apply sight, sound, and meaning strategies in their spelling. Powell and Hornsby demonstrate how these three strategies are necessary for spellers to be proficient (pp. 2729).


Katzir, T., Kim, Y.S., Wolf, M., Kennedy, B., Lovett, M., & Morris, R. (2006). The relationship of spelling recognition, RAN, and phonological awareness to reading skills in older poor readers and younger reading-matched controls. Reading and Writing, 19, 845872.

As SIP becomes automatic, children will apply the strategy to their decoding in reading. The authors found a significant relationship between students' spelling and their skills in word reading and reading comprehension for both dyslexic and nondyslexic readers. Furthermore, spelling contributed significant variance to reading comprehension in both groups after the effects of phonological awareness, rapid naming, and word-reading proficiency had been accounted for.

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