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In the Classroom

Dysorthographia: Spelling Disorder


Dysorthographia is related to dyslexia.  According to the International Dyslexia Association, dyslexia is "a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”


Understanding Dysorthographia


Teaching Strategies that Work


Spelling Remediation

The International Dyslexia association states that poor spellers have trouble remembering the letters in words "because they have trouble noticing, remembering, and recalling the features of language that those letters represent. Most commonly, poor spellers have weaknesses in underlying language skills including the ability to analyze and remember the individual sounds (phonemes) in the words..."  This means that spelling problems are happening for dyslexic students because of the same auditory processing disorder (which causes an phonemic awareness deficit) that causes them to have trouble learning to read.  For this reason, if we are to improve spelling, we must resolve phonemic awareness problems first.

Often, dyslexic students who float along in the mainstream at school without being given a proven remediation program will learn to read to some degree, but their writing will not progress.  The reason for this is that when a person reads, they have the rest of the sentence to help them figure out what an unknown word means.  For example, a student who does not know the sound that goes with the letter "l" might be able to read the word "help" in a story.  They would have no way to spell the word though because when we spell, there is no story context to aid us.  Instead, it is a simple matter of attaching symbols to symbols (which is only simple once a student knows all the sounds and symbols). 

The Orton-Gillingham teaching method is a multisensory approach to teaching reading and writing.  When a student completes a reading remediation program that is based on the Orton-Gillingham teaching method, they learn to spell as well as to read.  Each lesson follows the following format:

Review Drills - 15 minutes

sight word study method

phonemic awareness drill

visual drill

auditory drill

blending or syllable card drill

New Content/Reading -15 minutes

multisensory tool

reading single words from list

reading connect text

Writing - 15 minutes

multisensory tool

writing single words

writing connect text

Review key concepts - 5 minutes


How can classroom teachers or parents help kids to learn how to spell?  

Tip #1  Teach English Using Syllable Types

English spelling makes a great deal of sense when taught using syllable types.  All of the rules of spelling fall into one of the seven syllable types.  


Tip #2 Teach Sight Words

Sight words are the most common words used in English and/or ones that don't play fair by the phonics rules.

Tip #3 Use Multisensory Teaching Tools

The idea is that you want to use a strong kinesthetic brain pathway to ensure that the information that you are sending is able to be received by the student.

Tip #4 Teach Phonemic Awareness

Tip #5 Use Structured Word Inquiry

This is a great way to get students spelling larger words.  I created the Rockpile Spelling Game using the concepts of structured word inquiry.

Works Cited

Audet, Shawna, director. How to Use Puppets to Teach Phonemic Awareness. YouTube, Flying Cat Academy, 6 Feb. 2021, Accessed 1 Jan. 2022.

Audet, Shawna, director. O-G Lesson Structure. YouTube, YouTube, 24 Feb. 2021, Accessed 1 Jan. 2022.

Audet, Shawna, director. Phonemic Awareness. YouTube, YouTube, 26 July 2021, Accessed 1 Jan. 2022.

Audet, Shawna. “Rockpile Spelling.” YouTube, YouTube, 29 Jan. 2019,

Crawford, Elizabeth. “Teaching All Students to Read: Practices from Reading First Schools with Strong Intervention Outcomes.” Reading Rockets, WETA, 7 Nov. 2013,

Ellis, Edwin S. “How Now Brown Cow: Phoneme Awareness Activities.” Reading Rockets, WETA, 2 July 2019,

IDA Board of Directors. “Definition of Dyslexia.” International Dyslexia Association, International Dyslexia Association, 16 July 2018,

Olsen, Jan. “Handwriting without Tears.” Learning Without Tears, Learning Without Tears, 30 June 2021,

RRFTS, director. 44 Phonemes. YouTube, Rollins Center for Language, 7 Nov. 2017, Accessed 1 Jan. 2022.

Shaywitz, Sally E.  Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Reading Problems at Any Level.  New York: A.A. Knopf, 2004. Print.

“What Is Jollyphonics?” Jolly Phonics, Jollyphonics Technologies, 2020,

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