Primary Spelling

Towers of Tomorrow


Today I spent time with some friends at a lego display at the Ipswich Art Gallery. It was an amazing display as you can see from the photos. Children loved it and so did the dads and mums who accompanied them. But the most important observation was that the children were relaxed and enjoyed the interaction with friends and strangers as well as spending time to build some amazing  creations.
I sat down next to the little people and just loved the relaxed feeling that came over me as I created the ugliest tree ever created with lego. No one seemed to mind as each person was absorbed in his own creation. The structures went on display following the session. Naturally, I crashed mine so as NOT to be seen as deficited.

Together we play!

I came home and thought about how this relaxing activity could be related to primary spelling. I had previously seen some words on Pinterest being spelt with lego. So, here is an activity where you can teach your child diagraphs with a fun activity using lego.
This is an activity that can be introduced once the child has learnt the sounds of the diagraphs; sh, th, wh and ch. I find that students can say the diagraph sounds when the letter combinations are in front of them but they have difficulty pulling these letters from memory when it is time to spell. In the next blog I will present ideas to support the child until he can eventually pull the diagraph sounds automatically from his memory.
In the meantime let me explain how to use the lego blocks for spelling. At this stage of spelling the child is only learning how to spell one syllable words. For older students you can add prefixes and suffixes to the one syllable words. The larger the lego blocks the better, especially for children who may have fine motor difficulties.
Write the alphabet letters on the individual lego blocks and write the vowels on red blocks. Writing the vowels on the red, lego blocks will ensure that the child uses a vowel in every syllable. No other letter of the alphabet appears on a red tile. Throughout the blogs, I will use red as the vowel colour.

The diagraphs at this level are; sh,th,ch & wh. To begin the session, start with phonological awareness.  We will clap the syllables and stretch out the words, that we are going to spell, into their individual sounds. I have provided a list of words to work through.

that, math, with, shop, when, much, ship, thud, what, them, thin, shin, chip, shed, moth. You can find extra words by researching on Google-words that start with sh, th, ch, wh.

When stretching out words use the rocks or blocks, similar to the ones shown below, to identify the number of sounds in the word.   The number of sounds in the word, shop, is displayed with rocks above.
Following this activity, stretch the words individually and match the lego block letters to the sounds of the word.

                                   Matching letters to sounds

Remember that diagraphs only have one block because they make only one sound.

Finally, join all the letters together to make the word, shop.

Once all the words have been made with the rocks and the child is capable of recognising the sounds of the letters marked on the  lego blocks and matching the sounds with the letters, the child can then move into writing.

If the above step is premature, or needing extra practise, use the cards. I have made a set of cards that will include the diagraphs on the weekend.

Finally, I want you to be aware that there are better ways to learn spelling then by memorizing for a Friday’s test.

The mat below is a proforma for a desk mat that I am developing. It is beneficial as a cheat sheet while the child continues to consolidate the sounds of the diagraphs . Every group of sounds will be accompanied by a mat that will display the letters of the sounds that the child is learning. The child uses the space below the alphabet letters to make the words with the tiles. He also uses the diagraphs above so that he isn’t reliant on his memory in the early days of learning the diagraphs. Once the child has become proficient using the blocks, he can then write the spelling words in the space below the alphabetic letters using the surrounding cards as a cheat sheet.

                Diagraph Desk Mat

Please leave a comment below in the comments box if you would like more blogs related to the early steps of spelling.  Let me know if a commercial version of the chart on the right would be beneficial for spelling with your child.

Alternatively, please leave a question if you require further information.                




Ann Foster tutors children who have difficulties in reading, writing and spelling.

Contact Ann on 0414340883 or email


Ann holds the following qualifications:

Diploma of Teaching

Bachelor of Educational Studies

Master of Education ( Special Needs)

Master of Education (Counselling & Guidance)