Teaching Spelling in 5th Grade

Updated March 27, 2020
Teaching Spelling in 5th Grade
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As fifth graders move into upper elementary and middle school curricula, it is important not to forget fundamentals like spelling words. Even though computer word processing software now provides spelling and grammar checks, students should still be learning the fundamentals of spelling in school. Reading and writing skills are enhanced by the application of spelling knowledge.

Appropriate Spelling Objectives

Fifth grade students should have mastered basic one syllable words and memorizing simple rules such as "i before e, except after c." With the increase in difficulty of their overall curriculum, so too should the spelling curriculum become increasingly challenging. Spelling skills work in conjunction with the following areas of Language Arts, according to Time 4 Learning:

  • Phonics
  • Reading comprehension
  • Vocabulary
  • Reading fluency
  • Grammar

More Complex Spelling Rules to Memorize

This grade level is also the perfect time to introduce more complex rules for memorization. While earlier grade levels may have focused on strictly memorizing word groups, patterns, and syllable combinations, the fifth grade is the perfect time to introduce more complex spelling rules.

Spelling rules are described in the following articles:

  • Spelling: A Lost Art: This article argues that students should no longer memorize words, but rather the 29 rules for spelling along with 70 spellings of 44 speech sounds.
  • English Spelling Rules: Short and Long Vowels: Over ten spelling rules are covered in detail, including short and long vowels, letter sounds, endings, and spelling by word meaning.

Upper elementary students may have a hard time memorizing every rule, so teachers should choose the most appropriate rules for the kids in their classroom. Emphasis should be geared towards mistakes the teacher finds students commonly making when it comes to spelling. Diane Snowball outlines six strategies for teaching spelling rules in her article Spelling Strategies: Guiding Kids to "Discover" Spelling Rules.


Creating Fifth Grade Word Lists

Spelling word lists are often still given out in fifth grade, even if rules are being taught. Students are expected to apply the rules throughout their general writing, but schools will usually have words they expect students to spell by the fifth grade. These word lists are generated from a variety of sources, including:

  • Current reading literature
  • Words from other subjects (math, science, social studies)
  • Mistakes students commonly make
  • Lists of frequently misspelled words
  • Word groups with the same spelling pattern or rules
  • Workbooks or curriculum designed for spelling in the fifth grade

The words are often more difficult and may include any of the following:

  • Multiple syllables
  • Contractions
  • Prefixes and suffixes
  • Alternate word endings
  • Root words
  • Consonant blends (for example, "ch")
  • Plurals
  • Rule "exceptions"

Strategies for Learning Fifth Grade Spelling Words

Word lists are often sent home with kids or posted on the classroom page online. To help their children learn the spelling words, parents can do the following at home:

  • Review the spelling rule that applies to each word
  • Have the child write each word several times in succession
  • Create flashcards
  • Write word jumbles and have the child unscramble them

Students who need additional help with spelling may find attending a tutoring program helpful. If that is not possible, additional spelling help can be found online at these places:

Fifth graders who have trouble with spelling may find it helpful to have a list of their most commonly misspelled words. Start their list with YourDictionary's 100 Most Often Misspelled Words in English and add to it when you find words your child misspells on a consistent basis.