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Some good strategies for use with older students who need to improve their spelling skills include focusing on high-frequency and commonly misspelled words and also reviewing/memorizing common spelling rules. 

1. High-Frequency Words

What are High-Frequency Words and why are they important?

Did you know that the number of words in the English language is approximately 1,013,913!  This is the estimate by the Global Language Monitor on January 1, 2012. A new English word is created every 98 minutes and about 15 new words are created every day. That is a LOT of words to learn how to spell, but luckily we can focus on the most commonly encountered words. There are many lists of high-frequency words, but the two that I most use are Sitton 1200 High-Frequency Words and Fry's 1000 Instant Words.

Sitton 1200 High-Frequency Words

At the bottom of this page you can download and print off the word bank of the 1200 Sitton High-Frequency writing words.

From the document:

"The words in this word bank are listed in the order of their frequency of use in everyday writing. Since “the” is the most frequently used word in our language, it is number one in the word bank. The first 25 words are used in 33% of everyday writing, the first 100 words appear in 50% of adult and student writing, and the first 1,000 words are used in 89% of everyday writing."

The Core Words in the Rebecca Sitton program are divided by grade levels. They are the seeds from which this spelling program grows and develops. They provide a foundation for each grade level to begin spelling exploration and are a springboard for the study of hundreds of additional words.


Grade 1       word frequencies 1-30

Grade 2       word frequencies 31-130

Grade 3       word frequencies 131-265

Grade 4       word frequencies 266-400

Grade 5       word frequencies 401-600 and beyond

I would suggest that any student who struggles with spelling begin with the grade 1 word list. This will serve as a good review and also help build spelling confidence. I will add activities that go along with the Sitton Spelling word lists throughout the year so be sure to check back often.

Fry's 1000 Instant Words

Another well known list is the "Fry 1000 Instant Words" which includes the most common words used for teaching reading, writing and spelling. A student looking at the words on this list should be able to instantly recognize/read the word.  Dr. Edward Fry expanded on the well known "Dolch Sight Word Lists" to create his word bank. In his research Dr. Fry found the following results:

  • 25 words make up approximately 1/3 of all English words found in print.
  • 100 words make up approximately 1/2 of all English words found in publications.
  • 300 words make up approximately 65% of all written material.

Over 50% of every English language textbook and novel is composed of the first 300 Instant Words. That is why it is critical that all students be able to read the first 300 Instant Words without any hesitation or stumbling. After a student has mastered reading the Fry Instant Words at each level they should then learn how to spell these words.




You will be able to download Fry's 1000 Instant Word list and Flashcards at the bottom of this page. Each set includes: 100 numbered flashcards, numbered list of 100 Fry Instant Words, Assessment page to keep track of your student's date and score, the 100 words divided into five groups for your student to work on (I would suggest one group a week) or if your student really struggles with spelling the 100 words divided into groups of ten words (I would suggest one group a week) These lists and flashcards were created by Heidi McDonald creator of Unique Teaching Resources.

We have a page filled with flashcards and other activities to practice High-Frequency Words:

2. Commonly Misspelled Words

There is a group of words that students misspell most often. If we can get our learner to focus on these words and memorize how to spell them we would see a huge improvement in their writing.

Click here to go to our Spelling Flashcard page:

----->Spelling Flashcards<-----

3. Some Common Spelling Rules

  •  i before e, except after c or when sounds like "ay" as in neighbor and weigh.
  • "Silent e helps a vowel say its name." This means that when a word ends with a vowel followed by a consonant and then silent e, the vowel has a long sound. That's the difference between rate and rat, hide and hid, and cube and cub.
  • "When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking. When there are two vowels in a row, the first usually has a long sound and the second is silent. That's why it's team, not taem; coat, not caot; and wait, not wiat. Remembering this rule will help you to put vowels in the right order.
  • Spelling plural nouns:

    • Most nouns become plural by adding "s" at the end. Examples: book = books, cup = cups, sprout = sprouts

    • Most nouns that end in -ch, -sh, s, x, or z become plural by adding "es" on the end. Examples: box = boxes, bus = buses, prize = prizes.
    • Most nouns that end in a vowel and "y" become plural by adding "s" on the end. Examples: boy = boys, day = days, key = keys.
    • Most nouns that end in a consonant and "y" become plural by changing the "y" to an "i" and adding "es" on the end.  Examples: baby = babies, country = countries, spy = spies

    • Most nouns that end in "f" or "fe" become plural by changing the "f" to a "v" and adding "es" on the end. Examples: elf = elves, loaf = loaves, thief = thieves
    • Most nouns that end in "O" become plural by adding "s" to the end of the word. Examples: kangaroo = kangaroos, piano = pianos, video = videos.
    • Certain nouns that end in a consonant and an "O" become plural by adding "es" to the end. Examples: hero = heroes, potato = potatoes, volcano = volcanoes.

Related Files

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Mrs. H's Middle School English