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Spelling Connections to Meaning Connection

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Spelling Connections to Meaning Connection

Lock Pawlick

At the 2018 IDA Conference, Nancy Cushen White ’s presentation entitled, “Phonology + Phonics + Morphology + Etymology = Orthography: Words with Spelling Connections Have Meaning Connections” focused on teaching all the components of words. In her presentation, Ms. White encouraged her audience to support all learners by incorporating knowledge of the origins of words along with phonics, phonology, and morphology for effective reading and spelling instruction.

This comprehensive teaching provides students with the reasons for why words are spelled the way they are, regardless of the phonological shifts that naturally take place when morphemes are added. After all, the pronunciation of morphemes varies from word to word:

  • /heal/ and /unhealthy/

  • /define/ and /definition/

  • /sign/ and /signal/

Ms. White recommends using the website for information about a word’s origin and other related information. Ms. White also included examples of  visual graphics, such as word sums and matrices [], in her presentation to display the connections between morphemes. She suggests that educators use these visuals to provide direct instruction in how spelling connects to meaning.

Examples of both visual aids:

re + sign = resign; as + sign = assign; sign + al = signal; sign + ate/ + ure = signature

Matrix used with permission from Pete Bowers

Matrix used with permission from Pete Bowers

For more information regarding these tools, Ms. White strongly suggested In my own research, I found that Matt Berman ( and Pete Bowers, author of  Teaching How the Written Word Works and were more than willing to assist me with delving deeper into this subject. A special thank you to both for their assistance.