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A Phonics Mini Lesson on the Rules for Spelling Phonetically

By Pamela Martin

Help your students learn the rules of phonics with this mini lesson plan. Even students for whom phonics is not the easiest strategy to use will find help with these teaching ideas.

Most teachers include phonics instruction as a part of their reading curriculum. The use of sound-letter associations is an important Learning Latin decoding skill; however, those same skills are invaluable for students who struggle with spelling. This phonics mini lesson will help students recall the phonics “rules” in a useful way. We'll also go over how to give your students a better understanding of blends and digraphs.

Blends and Digraphs


Students will recognize the difference between consonant blends and consonant digraphs and remember that consonant combinations with “h” are usually digraphs.


Ask students what would happen if they painted one line of red paint and then added a second line of blue paint. (Each color would still be visible.) Point out that this is like consonant blends: when pronounced, each letter’s sound is still heard. Generate a brainstorming list of words containing consonant blend in different positions in words. “Seed” the list with plate, flag, string, apple, waffle, castle, first, or clasp.

Now ask students what happens when you mix the red and blue paints together before making lines on the page. (A new color--purple--is created.) Help students recognize that this is what happens with digraphs: two or more consonants are written together to make a new sound in which you do not hear the individual sounds of the letters. Again, generate a list of examples, using shout, thing, chat, phone, or where as starting points. Point out that, when the second of a consonant pair is an “h,” the set is usually a digraph.

Practice and Assessment:

Provide students with a mixed list of words that include blends or digraphs. Students cut the words out and paste them into columns on a table to indicate whether the word contains a blend or a digraph.


Extend the lesson by asking students to write poems or songs to explain blends or digraphs by using examples of each.

How Do I Spell…?


Students will recognize common phonics rules and apply them to spelling in their writing with this phonics mini lesson.


Review these rules with students, brainstorming examples lists for each.

  • Every word must have at least one vowel; the vowels are a, e, I, o, and u. (Discuss “y” as a vowel only if students are solid on these five.)
  • Short vowel sounds are a as in apple, e as in elephant, I as in igloo, o as in ostrich, and u as in umbrella. Long vowel sounds are the same as the name of the vowel letter.
  • When a word is short and has only one vowel, the vowel will usually have the short sound.
  • If two vowels appear together in a word, there is usually only one sound heard. Generally, the first vowel sounds the long version of the vowel and the second is silent. (“When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking and tells its name, while the second one listens silently.”)
  • If a word has two vowels and the second is an “e” as the last letter of the word, the first vowel usually has the long sound and the “e” is usually silent.

Practice and Assessment:

After reviewing these, students create illustrated layered step books with these rules, some examples of words for each, and a graphic that will help the student remember the rule. Allow students to use the “cheat sheets” during any writing experiences.


For more activities and games related to blends, digraphs and spelling rules, check out these sites:

BogglesWorldsI, Consonant Digraph Worksheets and Teacher Resources.

TampaReads, Consonant Digraph Weaknesses

FirstYearSchools, Consonant Digraphs

With this phonics mini lesson on digraphs and one on phonics spelling rules, your students will be ready to read and write for new challenges.