Onset and rime

Students spell familiar and unfamiliar words using knowledge of letter–sound correspondence, regular and irregular spelling patterns, spelling rules and a range of other strategies.


Stage 3 students apply Stage 2 strategies as well as spelling most common words accurately, using a variety of strategies to spell less common words.

Activities to support the strategy

When writing, provide a scaffold to assist students to deconstruct words into syllables and highlight particular sound patterns.

An alternative to teaching spelling rules is using onset and rime. Breaking down syllables into onset (the part of the syllable before the vowel) and rimes (the part of the syllable including the vowel onwards) may be useful to help students process syllables. Letter-sound correspondence appear more consistent when students look at rimes than when they look at letters in isolation.

Tracking the types of errors students are making allows the teacher to:

  • identify the sound patterns that are common errors in the class
  • group students with similar needs
  • develop words suited to the needs of the students.

Activity 1: word sort

Provide students with a copy of the following table or have it displayed in your classroom: (Nearly 500 words can be derived from the following 37 rimes)

Table for word sort %asset summary_282038%

Programming and Strategies Handbook (DEC) p74

  • students are given blank cards and using the chart can experiment with writing their own list of words.
  • students compile cards under headings such as words that rhyme/are homonyms/ have similar diphthongs.
  • word Sort Activities such as Snap, Go fish and Memory are useful games to play once students have created lists of words on cards.

Teacher resource (Spelling Patterns Chart) can be found at: www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/lesson_images/lesson1046/patterns_chart.pdf

Activity 2: word hunt

This is useful as a group/whole class activity.

  • using either digital or paper based texts that students are currently reading together, students hunt for further words that will rhyme/ have a similar consonant blend/ vowel patterns/ onset as their own list of current words.
  • use print based thesaurus/or digital ones such as Word central for rhymes, synonyms, definitions or Online dictionary.

Activity 3: scaffolding

Break words into syllables using a scaffold.

Highlight vowel digraphs and less common digraphs when studying words to identify sound patterns after students segment words.

Provide a scaffold where students deconstruct words into syllables and highlight particular sound patterns.

Tracking the types of errors students are making allows the teacher to:

  • identify the sound patterns that are common errors in the class
  • select and teach words suited to the needs of the students.

An example of a proforma with some examples is shown below:

Online resources

Resources for ES1- S1 available from www.phonologicalawareness.org

Student activity websites

  • www.spellingcity.com/Games/hangmouse. HangMouse is a fun, friendly online hangman game for kids. Hangman games are a great way for students to practice their spelling words HangMouse can be played on individual computers or on an interactive whiteboard as a group activity.
  • www.spellingcity.com/missing-letter. Missing Letter is a fun free online game for kids of all ages. Even the youngest learners can practice letter recognition by trying to find the missing letter that completes each spelling or vocabulary word.
  • www.spellingcity.com/letterfall. LetterFall Instructions: Use the left and right arrow keys to move the mouse and help him catch the dripping letters in LetterFall in the correct order to spell the word and earn points. Earn bonus points by catching healthy snacks for the mouse. Missing the correct letter or catching the wrong letter, cat paws, mousetraps, or poison will lose points.Scorers who earn enough points can be ranked on the high score table.
  • www.amblesideprimary.com/ambleweb/lookcover/lookcover. Look cover write check - site to make own spelling lists, spelling patterns, topic words etc.
  • www.learningreviews.com/Vocabulary-Spelling-Websites-for-Kids. Many games and activities for a huge range of needs in exploring orthography.


Australian curriculum reference

ACELA1779: Understand how to use strategies for spelling words, including spelling rules, knowledge of morphemic word families, spelling generalisations, and letter combinations including double letters

NSW syllabus reference

EN2-5A:  uses a range of strategies, including knowledge of letter-sound correspondences and common letter patterns, to spell familiar and some unfamiliar words

NSW literacy continuum reference

PHONIC8M1: Phonics, Cluster 8, Marker 1: Knows common sounds for vowel digraphs and uses syllabification when reading/spelling. PHONIC8M2: Phonics, Cluster 8, Marker 2: Uses knowledge of word identification strategies including blending, segmenting and letter patterns when reading/spelling.

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