Spelling Using Think, Pair, Share

Grade Levels: K - 5

Lesson Summary

Students use the think, pair, share strategy to explore spelling patterns. This lesson uses the /a/ (short-a) sound, although any spelling pattern could be used, including words that include "qu," homophones, and compound words. Allowing students to think about the words that follow a pattern lets them become more invested in the lesson. It also results in a richer list of words than does the process of presenting students with a pre-made list of words that follow a given pattern.


  • paper
  • pencils


  • Students will think about word patterns as they relate to spelling.

  • Students will brainstorm a list of words that include the short-a sound.

Key Understandings

Many words fit the short-a spelling pattern.

Not every word that contains the letter a makes the short-a sound.

Driving Question

Which words contain the short-a sound?



Tell students that you are going to be asking them a question about words and that you don't want them to call out their answers or raise their hands to respond. Instead, you would like them to take a few minutes to think about the question independently and write down their thoughts on a piece of scrap paper.

Ask students to think of words that have the short-a sound then to write down the words. You may want to provide a few examples of these words, such as alligator or bat, and explain which sound is the short-a sound. Exaggerate your pronunciation or write the word on the chalkboard and circle the letter a.

Once you are sure that students understand the question, give them three to five minutes to make their lists, circulating among students to help or redirect them as necessary.

After the allotted time has ended, ask students to work with a partner and share their short-a list. Pair students yourself, or allow students to choose their partners.

Paired students should be given five minutes to talk about their lists. Encourage students to continue to brainstorm with their partners and to add to their lists as they think of additional short-a words.

Once all partners have discussed their lists, or when the allotted time has ended, begin the whole group discussion. Ask, "Which words contain the short-a sound?"

Allow partners to report their ideas to the class. Record their answers. You might find it helpful to record each word separately on a piece of sentence-strip paper and then place these word strips in a pocket chart. This method allows students to see the whole spelling list within the chart and provides easy access to the words in case a student wants to bring one of the words to his or her desk to check his or her spelling within a piece of writing. This also allows the words to be easily rearranged to explore alphabetical order, syllable count, and other forms of word study.

If duplicate responses are given, request that groups not report words that have already been mentioned or place check marks next to words to indicate the number of times they were suggested. Using the check-mark method allows for a possible extension of the lesson, considering the question of which words might be most common or why students think a certain word was suggested more or less often than another.

Responses that do not fit the pattern, such as the words that contain the letter a but not the short-a sound, provide an opportunity to discuss other sounds that the letter a can make. Reinforce the idea that not every word that contains an a necessarily contains the short-a sound.

Once the list is complete, look for patterns within the words that have been suggested. For instance, if there is a set of words that all end with -at such as bat, rat, and cat, you could ask, "What other words do you know that would fit into this set?"


One way to assess any spelling study is to look for the application of the spelling pattern in students' writing. For instance, are students correctly spelling short-a words more frequently?

If you are accustomed to giving regular spelling tests, you can make use of the student-generated list in a variety of ways. For instance, choose a number of words from your students' list, and use those for the spelling test. Another method is to divide students into groups. Test each group using a subset of the student-generated list, choosing words for each group that are appropriate to their level of understanding of the word pattern.

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