How to improve and learn spelling using letter patterns and word families.

It's important to start 'really' seeing words, noticing patterns and thinking about words that are linked by a letter pattern and meaning (but not the sound). Good spellers see these patterns, links and understand relationships between words.


These relationships in spelling help us to understand the meaning of words much more than the pronunciation does - Noam Chomsky


The purpose of English spelling isn't about the sound but the visual links between words - Vivian Cook


English spelling is often for the eye rather than the ear, and focussing on visual links can help us work out difficult words like homophones, silent letter and word order like two - Johanna Stirling (check out her Teaching Spelling to English Language Learners.)

Let's have a look at some word families - words that are linked by a letter pattern and meaning.


sign - Latin signum to mark, indicate, a symbol sign -- signal- signpost - signature -design-resign assign-significant

sign word family


real - reality, realise, really, unrealistic

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ped = from Latin for foot pedicure, pedestrian, pedal, expedition

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terr = from Latin terra for earth, land, ground - terrain, territory, subterranean, Mediterranean, extraterrestrial

terr - terrain

rupt (from Latin for broken) - rupture, interrupt, disruption, eruption, bankrupt, corrupt, abrupt


ject (from Latin- throw) - reject (throw away!), rejection, projection (to throw light on something!), projectile, dejection, objection, adjective (to throw light on nouns!)


miss (send)- submission dismissal permission mission


val (related to worth or strength from Latin valere) - value, equivalent, interval, invalidate, evaluate


here or hear? ear with your hear - ear, hear, hears, hearing, heard

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there, they're or their? We'll look at there for place. We've got the word here-- there -- where - everywhere -- nowhere - thereabouts

If you'd like to improve your spelling through letter patterns & word families then check out my Spelling Rules, Patterns and Strategies Masterclass - click here for more info