Spelling – When to Start

Last week, I shared several components of Joyful Heart Spelling Skills.

JHSS Cover

Spelling – Bible Copywork and Dictation
Spelling – A Rules Based Approach
Spelling – Build It
Spelling – Write It a Different Way
Spelling – Making it Varied

Now that you have a feel for what Joyful Heart Spelling Skills looks like, you might be asking –

Would Joyful Heart Spelling Skills be a good fit for my child?


From Phonics to Spelling

For many years, at Hubbard’s Cupboard, I have had the privilege of sharing many secular and Bible based literacy resources for early childhood and kindergarten aged children.  The Joyful Heart Spelling Skills curriculum builds from these previous years of experience and resources.

The following are my personal suggestions for what to use leading up to the start of Joyful Heart Spelling Skills:

  1. Joyful Heart Bible and Rhyme (This is a free chronological study of Bible stories, rhyming, phonemic awareness, and  letter/sound correspondences for 3-5 year olds –3 days of learning per week stretched out over 38 weeks.)
    Bible and Rhyme1  lettersorts
  2. Joyful Heart Character (This is a free study of Biblical character traits and sequential early reading activities for 4-6 year olds – 4 days of learning per week stretched out over 38 weeks.  The literacy learning focuses on phonemic awareness, word families, reading sight words, reading 3-4 letter words in and out of context, and learning correct formation of letters.)
    Word Swatter Listen and Tracesightwordpractice
  3. Phonics practice: such as is found in the Explode the Code Series (levels 1-3), lots of hands on CVC word building and manipulation, as well as Word Family, CVC, Silent e, and Vowel Team Word Work
    word family work Word Family Word Sort
    CVC words Boggle Jr ExplodetheCode
  4. Lots of listening to stories being read aloud (beyond their reading level) and many opportunities to read leveled readers and real books aloud to someone!
    reading practice readingpractice2

The literacy activities, above, prepare children to take the step from phonics (learning the sounds each letter makes and how to combine the sounds to form words; translating written words into spoken sounds (reading/decoding) )  TO  spelling (applying phonics skills to writing sounds that one hears (writing/encoding) ).

Obviously, you don’t have to use the resources that I mention above, but as a Christian educator I would encourage you to look for curriculum or materials that have similar characteristics…

  • materials that incorporate God’s Word with learning
  • phonemic awareness activities
  • experience with word families/ rhyming
  • sequentially taught phonics lessons for learning to read
  • read alouds
  • lots of practice and enjoyment of real books/readers that progress in difficulty with the child’s growing competence in mastering reading


So, when would I recommend starting Joyful Heart Spelling Skills?

I designed this spelling curriculum to be ideal for 1st-3rd graders (as well as some 4th graders who have experienced difficulty/frustration with spelling in the past).

Children entering Joyful Heart Spelling Skills should be developing a greater attention span, have a firm grasp of how to correctly form letters, be able to read longer words quickly and easily (fluent), have some experience with copying words/phrases or short sentences, and spell 3 letter CVC words without difficulty.

Although there are many aspects of this curriculum that might appeal to children earlier than first grade, the component of Joyful Heart Spelling Skills that needs to be considered when determining if a younger child is ready for beginning this curriculum is the copywork and dictation.  Copywork and dictation are used generously in Joyful Heart Spelling Skills and requires a great deal of fine motor control.  Some advanced kindergarten children may be able to use a portion of the materials (especially the ‘Cut It! Sort It’, ‘Build a Word’, and ‘Write It a Different Way’ portions.)  However, I would be hesitant to use this curriculum with a child under first grade age due to the copywork/dictation aspect that is a vital part of learning and practicing the spelling skills. So, although there are hands on learning opportunities within Joyful Heart Spelling Skills, I would not advise using this curriculum with younger children as I believe that it would not be developmentally appropriate AND there are so many other skills that those younger learners need to grasp first =) .

My advice – consider my above recommendations and PRAY.

Spelling – Making it Varied

spelling samplerYou may have noticed that there are a LOT of pages in the Joyful Heart Spelling Skills download!  For each rule/skill lesson, the same style of sheets are used.  Please remember that with a printable download, you can choose which sheets to print for your child.  If you detect that the amount of writing is too much, pare it down a little.  If you desire for your child to complete a lesser amount of worksheets, alternate which sheets he/she does for each rule/skill.  If you recognize that your child needs more hands on or kinesthetic practice with the skill, choose an activity from the ‘Optional Spelling Practice Ideas’ sheets to do instead of a worksheet.  That is part of the joy in homeschooling – being able to tailor what we do to match our students’ learning styles and needs.


What are learning styles?  Learning styles are various approaches or ways of learning.  Children use all of the learning modalities to learn new information, but individuals may have a preference or more dominant way in their approach to learning.  Below is a brief definition of each learning style and some ways Joyful Heart Spelling Skills (JHSS) addresses them.


Visual Learners tend to learn best through seeing.  They may think in pictures and learn best through visual charts, displays, videos, and written work.

JHSS – paying attention to details of how words are spelled and noting spelling patterns, copywork and prepared dictation


words in the word

Tactile Learners tend to learn best by touching.  They are more inclined to need a hands on approach and the opportunity to explore and manipulate objects (fine motor).

JHSS– manipulating letters and words, forming words using different materials, writing words in a different medium




Kinesthetic Learners tend to learn best by moving and doing.  They are apt to need to have the chance to move as they are learning (gross motor).

JHSS– writing words using larger arm movements  (Strategies to address this way of learning can be found on the ‘Optional Spelling Practice Ideas’ sheet – two of which are shown below.)

tossandspellToss and Spell

hopandspellJump and Spell

Auditory Learners tend to learn best by listening. They are more likely to need the opportunity to talk through things and listen.  Reading aloud and using a voice recorder is often beneficial.

JHSS– orally saying and spelling words aloud, dictation



The ‘Optional Spelling Practice Ideas’ sheets, included in the Joyful Heart Spelling Skills teacher guide, have activities listed that fit each of these learning styles as well.


Each learning style is addressed within the study of Joyful Heart Spelling Skills – providing increased learning opportunities!


Joyful Heart Spelling Skills

JHSS Part 1 Cover

Spelling – Write it a Different Way

So far, in our look into the Joyful Heart Spelling Skills (JHSS) curriculum, we have learned…


JHSS has a Biblical emphasis and implements copywork and dictation of God’s living Word.

JHSS introduces children to spelling rules in a step by step progression.

JHSS gives children daily practice in order to further learn and apply spelling rules.


Another way of practicing our spelling skills is by using the ‘Write It – a Different Way’ sheet.  One day for each spelling rule/skill within Joyful Heart Spelling Skills, children are given a sheet that contains a variety of enjoyable and engaging ways to practice spelling skills.  What child wouldn’t want to write their words in shaving cream, paint their words with water on the sidewalk, or form their words with small blocks?  Just shade the diamond next to the mode of practice you wish your child to use to practice the new spelling rule/skill, provide the materials, and let them have fun learning their spelling words!  They need to say each word aloud, spell it orally, and then write it in the way noted on the sheet. Next, they check their word formation letter by letter and then place a checkmark on the sheet before continuing to the next word.


Writing words in

sand, flour, cornmeal, rice, or shaving cream.




Writing words on

a dry erase board, a chalkboard, a magna doodle, a window with a window marker, or the sidewalk with water and a paintbrush.





Forming words with

Wiki Stix, playdough, beans, small blocks, etc.  Children can get creative and use other items that you may have on hand as well (toothpicks, paperclips, sequins, etc.)!  Let them have fun!





My children look forward to ‘Write it – a Different Way’ day!


Please come back tomorrow as I’ll be wrapping up our week-long peek into Joyful Heart Spelling Skills by pointing out how multiple learning styles are addressed.



Joyful Heart Spelling Skills

JHSS Part 1 Cover

Spelling – Build It!

Once the foundation of a Biblical emphasis found in the copywork and dictation portions of Joyful Heart Spelling Skills and the rules based approach of focusing on spelling rules are in place, daily practice in applying the rules is necessary in order for spelling skills to increase.

Today, I want to share with you just one simple way this is implemented.


‘Build It!’ is a fun, hands on step used in Joyful Heart Spelling Skills that involves manipulating cut apart letters to form the list words for each rule/skill lesson. Children cut apart the letters from the top portion of their sheet, rearrange the letters inside of the ‘Build It!’ box to form a word constructed from the skill being focused on, and then write the word in the ‘Write It’ section of the chart.

If time allows, you could then use the bottom chart to play Spelling Skills bingo. You call out a word. They find it on their chart, spell it aloud, and then place a small marker on the word. Once a child has 4 corners and the middle or 5 in one column, they call out Spelling Bingo!

An alternative to using the cut apart letters would be to have your child search through magnetic letters to find the same ones as is shown on their sheet. They would then build the word on a magnetic board and write the word on their sheet or on a dry erase board. This would work well for skill lessons in which there are no duplicate letters.


Join me next time as I share another hands-on method for children to practice and grow in their spelling skills!

Joyful Heart Spelling Skills

Spelling – A Rules Based Approach

In describing Joyful Heart Spelling Skills, I like to say it is

A Rules Based Spelling Approach with a Biblical Emphasis.

Yesterday, I shared how the Bible is an integral part of this spelling curriculum and the importance of copywork and dictation.  Children get to practice and review spelling skills within the context of God’s Word.  Herein lies the ‘Biblical Emphasis.’

Today, I want to share what is meant by ‘A Rules Based Spelling Approach.’  Simply, children are presented with the basic rules of spelling.  They develop valuable spelling skills as they learn and apply the rules in a step by step progression.  Joyful Heart Spelling Skills focuses on 73 spelling rules/skills, starting with three letter CVC words (closed vowel sounds) and gradually builds with more difficult skills.   The list words and Bible verses used for copywork/dictation were carefully chosen in order to build upon previous spelling skills.

Take a look at some ways spelling rules are stressed
in the Joyful Heart Spelling Skills lessons…


Skill Cards

Similar to the Bible Verse Study sheet, a Skill Card is also available for each focused spelling rule/skill that is intended to be acquired.  Each Skill Card is ready to print onto regular paper or reduced and printed onto an index card.

skill card


Skill To Drill

After students have been introduced to the new spelling rule/skill, they will be presented with their list of words for the week.  Each Skill to Drill sheet has three sections.
1) say, look, and spell
2) copy and spell
3) cover, write, and spell.
Children will work with one word at a time, completing all three sections for the word before moving to the next word.

Say, Look, Spell
For the first section, children simply say the word aloud, look carefully at the word (with the teacher using questions from the Teacher’s Guide), and then orally spell the word, touching each letter as they do so.

Copy & Spell
During the second section, children carefully copy each letter to form the whole word, spelling the word aloud as they are writing it. The checkmark indicates that they are to check their copying of the word. They should check each letter going between the original word and their own written word. Then, they place a checkmark in the box.

copy and spellskill to drill check

Cover, Write, & Spell
For the third section, children must cover the typed word and their written word, either with their hand or a separate sheet of paper. Then, they attempt to write the word from memory, spelling the word aloud letter by letter as they write. Finally, they check each letter in the word, just as before. If they happen to spell it incorrectly, erase and have them copy the word correctly.

cover and spell


Cut It! – Sort It!

After reviewing the week’s Skill Card, have students cut apart all of the ‘Cut It! Sort It!’ word cards.cut it1 Guide them in looking closely at the each word, looking for similarities and differences. wordsLet them sort the words by the current skill, vowel sound, rhyming words, beginning letter blends, etc.  Stress how the current skill applies to each of the words.  Sorting and categorizing the word cards helps children to pay close attention to details and to recognize spelling patterns.  Suggested ways to sort are listed on each week’s skill lesson Teach Sheet.

sort3  sort4



Sight Words

Where do sight words fit into a ‘rules based spelling approach’?

You’ve probably heard that ‘sight words’ are words that can not be sounded out and are most easily learned by ‘sight’ and by memorizing how to read and spell them.  There are numerous lists of these words.  Two most popular lists are the Dolch Sight Words and Fry’s High Frequency Words.  Many early elementary educators, like myself, call these popcorn words (words that pop up frequently in reading and writing), heart words (words to know by heart), or word wall words (words that are displayed on the classroom wall for easy reference).

As I was researching the best way to teach the spelling of these words, I began to notice that most of the words on these lists actually do follow basic phonics and spelling rules and could fit within a spelling skill list.  So, that is where you will find the sight words in the Joyful Heart Spelling Skills curriculum!  All 220 Dolch Sight Words and the first 300 High Frequency Words are studied during the course of the entire curriculum.  Most of these sight words have been categorized within a spelling skill or rule.   Those that have not been included on a list are introduced through the Bible verses.   Using the Scripture copywork and dictation aspect of Joyful Heart Spelling Skills allows for frequent review of sight words in context as well.

sight words

(Shown above are samples of a Take Home Study Sheet and Teach Sheet
in which the sight words are marked with an asterisk.)

Spelling rules clearly defined on the ‘Skill Cards’, the method of study on the ‘Skill to Drill’ sheets, sorting words and talking about the patterns noticed and rules used in the ‘Cut It! – Sort It!’ activity, and integrating sight words into the focused skill lists help to illustrate how Joyful Heart Spelling Skills is a rules based spelling approach.


Joyful Heart Spelling Skills

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