Spelling and reading are mutually reinforcing activities; both rely upon referencing the sound/symbol relationship of the English alphabet. Spelling is not, as often commonly believed, a process primarily of memorizing the spelling of words, just as decoding is not a process of recognizing words from sight memory. Instead research has established that both activities of reading (decoding) and spelling (encoding) are inextricably interwoven and mutually-reinforcing of the other. Decoding or sounding out a word requires that a student associate a sound with each letter or letter team within the word and then requires that a student blend those sounds together in order to pronounce the word. Spelling reverses this process and requires that a student become aware of the individual, discrete sounds within a word and then associate a letter or letter team with each sound in the word to spell the word. To use an analogy, the activities of reading and spelling are the heads and tails of the same coin.
The lessons in the We All Can Read Program alternate between decoding (reading) and encoding (spelling) activities; half of the instructional activity in this program consists of students spelling words using the process described in the above paragraph. A major purpose in our spelling dictation lessons is to establish for the student an awareness of the existence of discrete sounds found in all words (phonemic awareness), and the direct and consistent relationship in English between letters and their sounds.
Spelling is not arbitrary. Researchers have identified that half of the words in the English language are 100% phonetically consistent. In other words in half of all English words there exists a perfect match between letters used to spell the words and the sounds those letters represent for pronouncing those words. Another 34% of English words are predictable except for one sound in the word. A total of 84% of English words are either completely predictable or mostly predictable. The key to being a good speller is to identify the individual sounds in a word and then to match those sounds with the letters that represent them. The activity of spelling reverses the process of sounding out or decoding words.
Teaching decoding and encoding skills using the alphabetic code of English as the underlying organizing principle is essential. When you teach reading and spelling by referencing the English phonetic code, you mutually reinforce each of the two skill strands because they are two parts of the same whole.