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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: Spelling Connections to Meaning Connection” focused on teaching the “whole” word. In her presentation, Ms. White encouraged her audience to support all learners by incorporating where words originate from, along with phonics, phonology, and morphemes for effective reading and spelling instruction. 

“For when students look closer, they discover the ‘golden nuggets’ of our language”  — Nancy Cushen White.

This comprehensive teaching provides students with the “big picture” of why words are constructed the way they are, regardless of the phonological shifts that naturally take place when morphemes are added. After all, the pronunciation of morphemes vary due to their placement within a word. Examples are: <ea> in heal and unhealthy, <i> in define and definition, and <g> in sign and signal. Ms. White recommends using the website This website provides information about a word’s origin and other related information. Ms. White also included visual graphics such as, word sums and matrices, in her presentation to display the connection between morphemes. She suggests that educators use these visuals to provide direct instruction of how spelling connects to meaning.

Examples of both visual aids:

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

Screen Shot 2019-03-04 at 5.49.31 PM.png

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, from,  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.