Guided Spelling Research

The Guided Spelling program integrates elements from four researched principles—developmental stages of spelling, word frequency, basal spelling instruction, and explicit instruction.

Developmental Stages of Spelling¹

The sequence of concepts in the program is based on the development stages that students naturally follow when learning to spell:

  • Alphabetic: Consonants, short vowels, segmentation
  • Patterns: Multiple spellings for single sounds (e.g. see, sea, theme)
  • Joining word parts: Polysyllabic words, prefixes, and suffixes
  • Meaning: Spelling from known words, for example, compete, competition

Word Frequency²

Students study words from the highest-frequency words in school materials, taken from two studies that analyzed more than 22 million words from 6,000 curricular materials to identify the highest-frequency words encountered by students.

Traditional Approach³

The Guided Spelling program includes the following familiar features from traditional basal spelling instruction:

  • A weekly word list to study
  • Daily practice with the words
  • A weekly test
  • Frequent review
  • Instruction in study methods

Direct Instruction⁴

Based on the principles of systematic, explicit instruction, the lessons include:

  • Presentation of material in small steps
  • Modeling
  • Guided student practice
  • Detailed explanations
  • Regular feedback and correction


  1. Henderson, E. H. 1990. Teaching Spelling. 2nd ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  2. Zeno, S. M., S. H. Ivens, R. T. Millard, and R. Duvvuri. 1995. Educator’s Word Frequency Guide. Touchstone Applied Science Associates, Inc.
    Carroll, J. B., P. Davies, and B. Richman. 1971. Word Frequency Book. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  3. Schlagal, B. 2002. “Classroom Spelling Instruction: History, Research, and Practice.” Reading Research and Instruction 42: 44–57.
  4. Rosenshine, B. 1995. “Advances in research on instruction.” Journal of Educational Research 88: 262–68.