ESL Spelling Development

Instructor: Sarah Mills

Sarah is an educational freelance writer and has taught English and ESL in grades k-12 and college. She has a master's degree in both Literacy and TESOL.

In this lesson, teachers will learn strategies for helping English as a Second Language (ESL) students develop spelling skills. These strategies can be adapted for a variety of age and grade levels.

Teaching Spelling to ESL Students

Consider typical classroom spelling instruction. The teacher provides students with a list of words to memorize on Monday. On Friday, students take a spelling test. As the teacher reads each word aloud, students write the correct spelling down on their paper. For most students, this method of spelling instruction may be sufficient, but how effective is it for students with limited English proficiency?

Many teachers wonder how to approach spelling instruction with their ESL students. When these students are struggling with reading comprehension, oral language development, and basic English literacy, teachers may wonder if spelling development should even be a priority.

The reality is that spelling development and other language acquisition skills go hand-in-hand. Reading comprehension and writing skills are significantly affected by poor spelling awareness.

Let's take a look at some strategies that you can use with your ESL students to help them with spelling development.

Word Sorts

With a word sort activity, students are provided with words that they sort into categories. The teacher can provide the categories, which is often referred to as a closed word sort, or students can complete an open word sort by creating their own categories.

For a closed sort, the teacher can give students a graphic organizer with labeled columns. Students can either write the words in the appropriate column, or they can use small note cards with the words written on them. This will allow them to physically place the word in the appropriate column.

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