Recurring Lesson

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

3 - 5
Lesson Plan Type
Recurring Lesson
Estimated Time
One 30-minute session<br>5- to 10-minute follow-up sessions
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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.

From Theory to Practice

"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.

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. 27–29).

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.

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.

Materials and Technology

  • Clipboards (optional)

  • Paper and pencils

  • Polysyllabic environmental print

  • Whiteboard or chalkboard

  • Writing folders or notebooks


1. Familiarize yourself with the Spelling in Parts (SIP) strategy. You will model the strategy and provide demonstrations as needed. The strategy involves having students:
a. Say and clap a word in syllables.

b. Divide the word into syllables as they pronounce each syllable. (You may check that it is a reasonable division without teaching syllabication rules. For example, the legal division for bucket would be buck-et; buc-ket is acceptable, but not bu-cket)

c. Say a syllable, and spell it; say a syllable, and spell it. (Check that students are saying each phoneme within the syllable as they have marked them.)

d. Circle syllables with difficult spelling patterns.

e. Study circled syllables; possibly think of a mnemonic or analogy to recall the spelling pattern (e.g., the mnemonic to-get-her may require the student to divide the word differently to recall the syllables; a student may recall the spelling of the first syllable in frighten by associating it with light: I was frightened by the light).

f. Cover. Say a syllable and write the syllable. Repeat as necessary until the word is finished.
2. To teach this lesson, you will need a whiteboard and marker or chalkboard and chalk. It is also helpful to have a sheet of paper to cover the words. Students will need paper (preferably on a clipboard) and pencils, individual white boards and markers, or individual chalkboards and chalk. They will also need an eraser if using the whiteboard or chalkboard.

3. The environmental print displayed on word walls, bulletin boards, posters, and calendars in your classroom will likely contain polysyllabic words that can be used in this lesson. If your room does not have environmental print as described, have newspapers or books with polysyllabic words in the titles displayed on the chalk ledge.

4. Although students will be expected to divide words into syllables, no previous knowledge is necessary. In preparing for the lesson, you may find it helpful to review rules for syllabication for your own background knowledge. It is always helpful if you can point out tips about syllable rules while students are in the process of learning or practicing this strategy.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Learn the Spelling in Parts (SIP) strategy by dividing a polysyllabic word into parts, thinking about the spelling patterns of each part, saying each part, and spelling each part

  • Demonstrate the transfer of SIP by explaining how they spell or decode big words when reading and writing

Session 1: Introducing Spelling in Parts (SIP)

1. Gather students for a whole-class lesson. This might be during time allotted for spelling or as a minilesson in writing. Ask students if they would like to be able to spell big words correctly and easily. Invite them to look around the room at the environmental print that is available and pick out some big words to spell. You might suggest the days of the week and months of the year.

2. Write the chosen word, for example January, on the board. Have students clap the four parts of the word. Ask them to say the first part and then draw a vertical line at the end of it: Jan/. Have students say the next part, /û/. Draw a vertical line after the u/. Continue with the next two parts of the word.

3. Ask if the students think any part or parts of the word will be difficult to spell. They may suggest ar and y. Circle these two parts separately. Suggest strategies for remembering the spelling of the circled syllables. For example, one way to remember the ar in January would be to pronounce the word as Jan-u-are-e. Or you might suggest they spell the next-to-last syllable as in are without the e. Another way they might remember is that the final syllable is like the end of baby and really. (This helps students establish visual, sound, or meaning clues to recall the syllable.)

4. Cover the word and have students say the first syllable /Jan/, and write the syllable on their paper, whiteboard, or chalkboard. They should then say the next syllable /û/ and write it. Ask students to pronounce the third syllable. Most will say /air/. Acknowledge their pronunciation and then remind them that for spelling purposes they can say /are/. Suggest they picture the syllable and think how many letters it contains; then have them write the syllable. Students should say and then write the final syllable.

5. Uncover the word and have students check each syllable. Give appropriate praise for all of the syllables they spelled correctly. If they missed a syllable, have them circle the syllable, think of how they will remember the syllable, and repeat the steps above.

6. Repeat the above steps for February pointing out that the final two syllables are the same as in January. Most students probably have not been pronouncing the r in the second syllable. Discuss this as you get to the second syllable.

7. Most students will find March, April, May, June, July, and August easy to spell, although you may need to work separately with some students on the two-syllable months.

8. Suggest to students that they try to spell the word September on their own. Write the word on the board. Ask them to first clap the word; say the first syllable, and then write it: Sep. Have them say the second syllable. Emphasize the short e sound and ask students to pronounce it again then write it. Finally, say and write ber. Cover the word and ask students to cover theirs and write it again using the strategy. Have students check their spelling.

9. Have students try spelling the remaining months with a spelling buddy when they return to their seats. They might also try the days of the week. Have them write their attempts for these words on paper so you can check for assessment purposes. Remind them that they must first clap, then divide the word, then circle difficult syllables.

Session 2: Reviewing the SIP strategy

You can continue to have students apply the SIP strategy during content area or literature vocabulary study. You might also want to add some of the vocabulary words that you feel students will likely use in their writing to the weekly spelling list.

1. Remind students that they can learn to spell polysyllabic words using the SIP strategy.

2. Ask students to share the steps of the strategy. Be certain that you emphasize that they should first say a syllable and then spell the syllable.

3. Have students practice SIP as a whole class or with spelling buddies before working on it independently.


  • Apply SIP to writing: As students are writing or editing and come to a polysyllabic word, encourage them to use the strategy. If the word doesn't look right, ask them to circle the part that doesn't look right. When they look it up in the dictionary, have them study the correct spelling focusing on the part they miscued.

  • Apply SIP to reading: As students' fluency is affected because they can't pronounce polysyllabic words in their reading, remind them to break words down. Ask them to try to think of how the word would likely be broken into parts and say each part.

  • Refer to Spelling Mnemonics to find suggested memory devices for spelling that you can share with your students. (You might have students visit the site and find their favorite mnemonic to share with the class.) For practice of the SIP strategy, you may want to choose words from the 100 Most Often Misspelled Words in English, most of which are polysyllabic.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Check the list of months students wrote during Session 1 for acceptable division of syllables, for difficult syllables circled, and for correct spelling. If there are students who had difficulty with this task, they may need additional practice with you.

  • Observe students during Session 2 to see that they are saying each part of the word before spelling it.

  • Add some polysyllabic words to weekly spelling lists. Look for improvement in spelling polysyllabic words on weekly tests and offer assistance or reminders about the strategy as necessary.

  • Observe for the transfer of SIP to students’ reading and writing. When students misspell a polysyllabic word, ask them to pronounce the word and spell each part. Compare their second attempt to their first to learn if the student is using the strategy when reminded. When students miscue when reading a polysyllabic word, ask them to go back and reread the sentence again thinking about the parts of the big word. Note if a student self-corrects when reminded of the strategy.

  • Ask students to explain how they spell or decode big words when reading and writing. You will be able to assess if a student has internalized the strategy by the fluency of reading and diminished spelling errors of big words.