[Spelling Progress Bulletin, Summer 1983, pp6,7]
[Note: this page is set to display International Phonetic Alphabet characters. If your browser over-rides this setting, by default or by choice, the IPA characters may not show.]
[Emmett Betts: see Anthology, Bulletins.]

Learning Word-Perception Skills,

by Emmett A. Betts, Ph.D.

(1) Category Learning.

Spelling Patterns.

A spelling pattern is a sequence of letters that represent a sequence of speech sounds, as fat represents /'fat/ and fate represents /'fāt/. In the word fat, the sequence of speech sounds is signalled by the consonant-vowel-consonant f a t sequence of letters. In the word fate, the sequence of speech sounds is signalled by c-v-c- plus final e signalling the sound /ā/ for the vowel.

Basic Spelling Patterns.

From this writer's studies, 25 to 30% of about 800 commonest monosyllables may be classified in these categories:

1. /a/ at-tap-bag.
2. /i/ it-him-big.
3. /e/ bet-fed-pen
4. /a/ top-got-box
5. /ə/ but-fun-mud
(consonant)-vowel-consonant plus final e
6. /ā/ same-take-tale
7. /e/ these-scene
8. /ī/ mice-hive-kite
9. /ō/ nose-hope-whole
10. /yü/ use-cute-fume
11. /ā/ pain-wait-mail
12. /ē/ feet-seem-bleed
13. /ō/ oat-road-soap
14. /ē/ eat east-feat-beat-heat

Minor Spelling Patterns.

Minor spelling patterns with few words in each one include:

1. he, we, she, be, me
2. my, by, try, cry, spy, shy, sky, why
3. say, day, may, hay, play, way
4. no, go, so

Variant Spelling Patterns.

Variant spelling patterns are mostly exceptions to basic spelling patterns and, therefore, with few words in each one:

/əd, ud/
walk, talk, stalk
ball, call, fall, tall
caught, taught, haughty
saw, paw, law, jaw, draw
few, pew
chew, flew, crew
light, night, right, tight
old, cold, bold, sold, told, gold
long, song, wrong
could, should, would

(1) Category Learning.

Vowel plus r. Vowel plus r situations are very common.

fair, stairs, pair
dwarf, wharf, ward, wart
arm, cart, farm, harm, charm
fare, snare, rare, mare
earth, heard, learn
wear, swear, bear
ear, dear, hear, near, clear
deer, cheer, steer, jeer
her, herd, jerk, verb
there, where
bird, dirt, third
tire, fire, spire, wire
boar, board, oar, roar
poor, moor
floor, door
corn, born, cork, horn
sword, fort, forth
shore, more, core, chore
four, pour
flour, ours, sour
burn, hurt, turn, church
sure, lure
pure, cure
word, work, worm, world

Learning Spelling Patterns.

Learning spelling patterns is underemphasized when the pupils are given no systematic instruction in strategies for identifying words. This situation exists when they are given beginning reading materials with a diversity of spelling patterns - regular (e.g. him, sit, did), variant (e.g., ball, call, tall), and irregular (e.g., (c)ap, (c)ent, or night, height). Learning categories (spelling patterns) or learning other ways to identify words is defaulted by the use of the sight method which is in reality a tell-the-child-the-word procedure.

Learning spelling patterns is overemphasized when the pupils are taught no other techniques (e.g., the cue oi /oi/ in noise, voice, and other final e words of this type). After all, there is a preponderance of words which are not spelled regularly. Furthermore, spelling patterns can be overemphasized in the case of unstressed function words (e.g., to, can, or, for), because intonation patterns are violated and word-by-word reading becomes the standard.

The process of categorizing, or patterning, word forma contributes to the learning of word-perception skills:

1. Studying the spelling patterns of words emphasizes the alphabetic principle - the relationships between sequences of letters, as in at-rat, ate-mate, boat-goat.

2. Studying spelling patterns leads to the use of effective strategies for the identification of words. (Use of spelling patterns, of course, is only one type of strategy; other types of strategies are required for identifying words with variant spellings, as heard, wand, since.

3. Learning categories of word forms (e.g., at-hat versus ate-hate) encourages selective responses (e.g., is it at or ate?) to relevant stimuli (e.g., cat-cap-tap in which the vowel /a/ is followed by a consonant).

4. Learning spelling patterns of written words which have a fairly high relationship to the sounds of spoken words contributes to word perception as an organizing process. This learning of categories is far more effective than memorizing phonic rules.

5. Learning categories of spelling makes use of analogies or similarities between word forms, which tends to reduce possible perceptual jungles of letters to some reasonable order. This learning of like features tends to simplify word perception.

6. Learning to identify somewhat consistently spelled words: (e.g. beat-feat versus: have-come-want) contributes to the identification of structurally meaningful relationships between spellings and sequences of sounds: represented by them.

7. Learning spelling patterns gives needed emphasis to the consonant boundary of a syllable, (e.g., teach, sky, eat) as well as to the vowel nucleus. This situation is in contrast to vowel generalizations: (rules) which direct attention primarily to the vowels; neglecting the consonant boundaries which require equal attention.

Categorizing, or patterning, word forms simplifies the learning of word perception skills, e.g., learning that ate-made-make-take-same-gave-cage-safe-save-tale-cave are in the same (consonant)-vowel-consonant-plus: final e pattern helps the pupil to see the new situations as old categories. (This category of word forms, referred to above, is called the final e rule or pattern.)

9. Categorizing word forms reduces the need for learning: Learning the (consonant)-vowel-consonant pattern at-hat-cap-ran reveals the identity of more than one-third of the commonest "short" vowel-plus-consonant words such as cat, bag, and ask.

10. Studying the spelling patterns of monosyllabic words (e.g., it-sit) facilitates the identification of stressed syllables - embedded in multisyllablic words (e.g., situation). These patterns tend to be valid for both primary stressed syllables (e.g., slug and sluggish /'sləg-ish/) and secondary stressed syllables (e.g., ten and tender-hearted /ten-dər-'härt-əd/).

11. Categorizing spelling reinforces the learning of word perception skills.
a. Learning, for example, that at and cap are in the same spelling pattern increases the probability that cat will be more easily identified as a member of that category.

b. The making of decisions regarding the inclusion of additional words in a category - e.g., from like and time to wife to life to while - increases the preciseness with which the likenesses are discriminated.

c. Contrasting spelling patterns, for example; at-ate and mad-made, increases the probability of correct identification of words in each category.
12. Learning to respond to words of a category (e.g., late-made-safe) tends to produce similar responses to words that are similar in one respect (e.g., shake and flake). This: is called stimulus generalization.

Embedded Spelling Patterns.

Learning categories of fairly consistent spellings of monosyllables prepares learners to identify them in stressed syllables of multisyllabic words. The mile-file-tile spelling pattern, for example, includes the last (strongly stressed) syllables of beside, arrive, revile /re-'vīl/, re-vise /ri-'vīz/ and divide. The mate-fade-rate spelling pattern includes the last (medium stressed) syllable of exhilarate /ig-'zil-a-,rāt/ and deviate/' dē-vē-,āt/. In general, the basic spelling patterns tend to function in the pronunciation of syllables that are stressed - strong or medium.

The following words illustrate embedded spelling patterns;

1. /a/ happy /'hap-e/ inhabit /in-'hab-ət/
2. /e/ welcome /'wel-kəm/ invent /in-'vent/
3. /i/ pillow /'pil-ō/ inflict /in-'flikt/
4. /o/ rocket /'räk-ət/ promise /'prām-əs/
5. /u/ tunnel /'tən-l/ reluctant /ri-'lək-tənt/
(consonant)-vowel-consonant plus final e
6. /ā/ became /bi-kām/ escape /is-kāp/
7. /ē/ stampede /stam-'pēd/ complete /kəm-'plēt/
8. /ī/ arrive /ə-'rīv/ surprise /sər-'prīz/
9. /ō/ suppose /sə-'pōz/ telephone /'tel-ə-,fon/
10. /yü/ uniform /'yü-nə-,form/ amuse /ə-myüz/
11. /ā/ stately /'stāt-lë/ female /'fē-,māl/
12. /ē/ season /'sēz-n/ repeat /ri-'pēt/
/e/ greedy /'grēd-ē/ speeding /'spēd-ing/
13. /o/ floated /'flōt-əd/ approach /ə-prōch/
Minor spelling patterns, too, are embedded as stressed syllables:

1. me / 'mē/ recipe /'res-ə-pē/
2. my /'mī/ notify /'nōt-ə-,fī/
3. may /'ma/ mayor /'ma-ər/
What spelling patterns are embedded as stressed (strong or medium) syllables in each of these words?
habit _____________________
familiarize _________________
acqueduct _________________
arbitrate ___________________
invade ____________________
stepladder _________________
validate ___________________
Back to the top.