Orton Gillingham Coaching: Consonant Sound Spelling Tools & Strategies

What Is Sound Reading and Sound Spelling?

Sound Reading asks, what does this letter say? Sometimes it says one sound and sometimes it says multiple sounds.


What does S say? S says, /s/ and /z/ as in sun and rose

What does F say? F says /f/ as in fan

Sound Spelling asks, what letter or letter combinations make this sound?


What letters say, /s/? The letters S and C say /s/, as in sun and city, and more advanced, SC, keyword scissors and PS, keyword psychic (or psalm)

What letters say, /f/? The letters that say /f/ are f and ph, as in fan and phone, and more advanced, -lf, keyword calf, and gh, keyword laugh.

How do we drill sound spelling?

Keep in mind what the objective is: these are phonemes, units of sound that letters make, and we are asking the student to recognize sounds made by letters and letter combinations and, ultimately, put the phonemes into print.

Activity #1

One thing you can do is group cards. Ask, what letter or letter make the sound? You start with letters that make only one sound. Then move to a more advanced. Very important – never give a student a sound you have not covered.

For example, line up three cards F, D, M – ask, what card or cards say, /m/ — student pulls off the M.

More advanced – line up 5 cards J, -GE, G, TH, R – ask, which cards say /j/ — student pulls off the J, -GE, and G.  

Activity #2

Charts are the best way I have found to show and learn both consonant and vowel sound spelling. You have a chart, and you ask the student to fill it in.

Even with charts, you would make the lesson multi-sensory. Discuss the number of ways to make a certain sound. Have students say each sound out loud before writing the letter or letters that make the sound. Discuss keywords that go with each letter.

Activity #3

Dictation. You say, what letters make the sound /f/ and they write down f and ph, and if advanced they include, gh and -lf. Have the student say the sound out loud while writing the letter or letters that make the sound.

I don’t know that I would do dictation with younger students. I stick to charts and phoneme manipulation before doing sound spelling dictation. But, older students would benefit from dictation.

Make sure the student(s) know what you want. The letters that make the sound (spelling), as opposed to the sound the letters make (reading). Be very clear you are looking for the letters that make the sound.

Charting Consonant Sounds
Final Word

Sound spelling is not something learned all at once. It’s a process, learned over time. It would take a student a long time to know that /m/ can be spelled with -mb and -mn because those are covered in a section called “silent letters,” and silent letters are taught much further down in the Scope & Sequence.

Sound spelling is a layered process. For example, knowing R says /r/ (reading the consonant), then learning (slowly, over time) that the sound /r/ can be made three ways (spelling the consonant), r as in ring, rh as in rhino or wr as in write.

Ultimately, teaching from both perspectives is done through your lesson plans.

Having these layers of teaching is what makes Orton Gillingham a thorough approach. When a student is taught using this approach, they can see the English language from multiple perspectives. It’s deep learning.

I have loved learning this way of seeing the English language, and I see great benefit in teaching others using Orton Gillingham.

Want more? Visit the Workbook Store for all products or check out the Sound Spelling Checklist Packet.

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