July 21, 2019

Lesson Plan: Basic Spelling and English Terms for ESL or Beginning Readers

Understanding the very fundamentals behind speech is a step most forgotten. Yet, it is a basic building block when teaching any language to a child or adult alike.

This is the first lesson I put together for my ESL students this summer. It was a precursor to teaching spelling fundamentals. I hope you find it useful for your students or children.

Go over the following definitions with the students. Have them give creative examples for each word after you present the definition. I did this as a “Word Walk and Soccer Talk.” I created these games/discussion classes personally. I created them to wake up my ESL students first thing in the morning and taking advantage of the beautiful weather Organ has in the summer.

A Word Walk is a discussion class whereby I take the students on a walk discussing these definitions and finding examples of them along the walk.

A Soccer Talk brings into play kicking a soccer ball back and forth while doing the same basic thing. How you kick it and take-turns is up to you.

Once again, credit for most of the definitions goes to the wonderful curriculum crew at The Delphian School in Oregon.

SOUND – Sound is a noise, something that you hear.

SPEECH – The sounds a person makes when a person uses his voice to talk to another person.

LETTER – A written mark that makes a sound.

ALPHABET – In English it is 26 letters, used to write about 40 speech sounds.

QUESTION: How many letters in each of your languages?

The alphabet is a tool for writing down the sounds. Each letter in the alphabet stands for at least one speech sound.

Some letters can stand for more than one speech sound and some are used in pairs to stand for other speech sounds. This way the 26 letters can write all 40 sounds.

WORDS – words are a group of letters than means the idea you want to talk or write about. Give Examples.

There are two kinds of words, spoken words and written words.

A SPOKEN WORD is a group of speech sounds that carries a meaning. Example Dog

A WRITTEN WORD is a group of letters that carriers a meaning. Example D-o-g

Drill: Say the words C-A-R out loud. A word is a group of speech sounds that communicate an idea. Tell you buddy 5 English words you know.

Drill: Write the word CAR. A word is also a group of letters that communicate an idea. Write down 5 English words you know.

SPELLING – Spelling is turning a spoken word into a written word by writing down the right letters in the same order as the speech sounds in the spoken word.

Example: Elephant – try “alipunt” (doesn’t really communicate).

A words is SPELLED when it has the right letters in the right order.

A word is MISSPELLED when it does not have the right letters in the right order.

YOUR PURPOSE: The main reason to learn to spell is so you can write and other people can read it. We can read in any language because each word is always spelled the same. If you had to figure out what the other person was trying to say, reading would take forever!

EXAMPLE: You want to write, “The yellow cat climbed the tree” but instead you write “Da yeahlo katt klimd a tre” Now what if someone else tries to read it?

Question: Ask the student why he or she wants to learn to spell? It is very important they come up with their own reason for learning this subject; do not enforce your ideas onto them. Most of my 5- and 6-year-olds answer with, “So I can pass the test to drive a car!”

TWO KINDS OF SOUNDS: All 40 speech sounds and all 26 letters divide into two kinds. They are either Vowels or Consonants.

VOWELS: A spoken vowel is kind of a speech sound made mainly using your voice and an open mouth, let your breath go out without stopping it.  

Example: “A” speech sound that goes with the letter “a” is a spoken vowel. DAY, ALL, LAP

The speech sound that goes with the letter “b” is not a spoken sound because you have to close your lips to make it and that stops your breath. EXAMPLE: Bed, Blue, Boy

WRITTEN VOWEL: A letter that stands for a vowel sound; a,e,i,o and u. EXAMPLE: The letter A in game is a written vowel. It stands for the “ay” sound. The letter “I” in “fire” is a written vowel. It stands for the “I” sound.

Y is a letter that is sometimes used to stand for a vowel sound. Example: In the word baby, Y stands for he “e” sound at the end.  This makes the “y” a written vowel because it stands for a vowel sound. “Fly”

There are 6 vowel letters and they have to stand for 15 different vowel sounds.

Example: the letter “a” can sand for the vowel sound in 1. make 2. all and 3. lap. The vowel letter “e” can stand for the vowel sounds in 4. we and 5. bed.

15 Spoken Vowels:

  1. day                  11. mud
  2. all                     12. use
  3. lap                   13. put
  4. we                   14. out
  5. bed                  15.boy
  6. time
  7. it
  8. no
  9. hot

10.  blue


A spoken consonant is a kind of speech sound made using some parts of your mouth (which can include teeth, tongue, roof of the mouth and lips used together in different combos) to stop or “squeeze” the breath coming out when you speak. You might use your voice or you might not. Like “B”  is voice but “f” in FAT is not.

Con means – strike, hit

-sonant comes from a word that means “having sound” or “say a sound”

All speech sounds that aren’t vowels are consonants. There are 24 spoken consonants used to build ALL the spoken words in our language.

A written consonant is a letter used to write a consonant sound. There are 21 of these in English alphabet.

Y” is a consonant letter when it stands for a consonant sound, like (yet, yellow, and yesterday).

24 Consonant Sounds

  1. bag                  11. poke          20. chin
  2. call                   12. quit            21. ship
  3. dad                  13. run             22. thin
  4. far                    14. sit               23. that
  5. go                    15. top             24. when
  6. hot                   16. van
  7. jar                    17. win
  8. lip                     18. yes
  9. man                 19. Zoo

10.  nap

DRILL: Have them repeat back to you in a loud voice all examples of 24 consonant sounds.



The 15 different vowel sounds we use in English.

15 Spoken Vowels:

  1. day                  11. mud
  2. all                     12. use
  3. lap                   13. put
  4. we                   14. out
  5. bed                  15.boy
  6. time
  7. it
  8. no
  9. hot

10.  blue

There are 6 Long vowel sounds (vowel says the letter’s name)

Drill: Have the students repeat after you in a loud voice all 6 long vowel sounds.

Long Vowel Sounds


  1. The sound of A as in may, day, lake, came, gate, brave
  2. The sound of E as in we, feel need, seem, read, team
  3. The sound of I as in time, fine, like, ripe, fly, dry
  4. The sound of O as in hope, globe, tone, tote, coat
  5. The sound of U as in flute, true, crew, cool, boot
  6. 6.    The sound of U as in use, cute, few, mew, you

Short Vowel Sound is said in a shorter amount of time. The vowel in am is short.

There are 7 short Vowel sounds.

Drill: Have the students repeat after you in a loud voice all 7 short vowel sounds.

7 Short Vowel Sounds

The sound of A in am, jam, lap, sad, bag, tack

The sound of A in all, ball, want, draw, salt, yawn

The sound of E in bed, cent, wet, left, fell, deaf

The sound of I in it, pin, dig, lift, tick, kit

The sound of O in hot, pot, hop, doll, job, knot

The sound of U in bug, mud, tub, jump, stuff

The sound of U in put, full, bull, bush, foot, book

GAMES: Play Hangman or Bananagrams using only Long Vowel sound words or Short Vowel Sound words. I found the I-Pad or a Dry Erase board to work well for Hangman.



  1. I love the gradient approach to teaching here and I can see how one would learn fast if taught in such a way. The knowledge builds on previous things learned, rather than by rote or by plunging a person into the subject with a “sink or swim” type approach.

    This is obviously on the subject of verbal and written speech, but it can be similarly applied to anything.

    Thanks for this!

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