Spelling By Numbers

By Catherine Eagleson

The traditional way of learning to spell is essentially by sounding out the letters, as well as studying them to memorise them.  Essentially we have learned to spell (and read) by sight and rote  We all remember the old adages such as “I before E, except after C”.  Well at Clue Detective, we think we have found a far more scientific approach to spelling by using phonics and numbers. 

Introducing Spelling By Numbers

We are very excited to launch our Spelling By Numbers series.  It teaches students the basics behind each vowel sound in engaging, easy to follow booklets, which will also assist tutors, teachers and parents.  Furthermore, it is guaranteed to boost vocabulary, which will in  greatly assist them in their reading, as well as solve crosswords and codeword puzzles, ie put these skills to good use.

Purchase Spelling By Numbers here

Numerical spelling bees

As an English teacher/tutor you can give your students exercises in a variety of formats.  It is very easy to create the puzzles because the values are constant – A is always 1 and Z is always 26.  You can be as creative as you like, and students will very quickly start to build their vocabulary.

There are a number of ways to teach kids to spell by numbers.  It’s a lot of fun, and it will make them feel like codebreakers and detectives.

Have fun making up coded messages

– Write the numerical sequence on the blackboard and get the students to solve it as a class.
– Use the blackboard to have them write the code down and then decode it individually.  It will help their retention.
– You can also provide them with an exercise consisting of a list of words for them to decipher, either in class or as a homework exercise.  

Start off with words that have similar letter pattern. They will begin to see the structure of the words with the help of the numbers.  Then as students get used to using the code make the words more imaginative. You do this by choosing ‘sesquipedalian‘ words, those with a larger number of syllables. The longer the word, the more interesting it is for them to decode.

– Allow student to choose the words.  Get them to think of a topic and write down a list of words associated with it.  Have them play a couple of rounds of The Teacher’s Cat, and encode the words they think of. This helps reinforce spelling  

The alphabet is the code!




























A sample decoding exercise

It is also good to include some interesting consonants – eg. C, F, P, Q, X and Z, or 3, 6, 16, 17, 24 and 26!

1. 5-24-3-5-12-12-5-14-20
2. 7-15-22-5-18-14-13-5-14-20
3. 22-5-14-20-18-9-12-15-17-21-9-19-20
4. 5-14-20-18-1-14-3-5
5. 1-3-3-9-4-5-14-20-1-12
6. 16-12-1-3-5-12-5-14-20
7. 1-13-1-26-5-13-5-14-20
8. 19-5-14-20-9-13-5-14-20-1-12
9. 13-5-18-18-9-13-5-14-20
10. 20-5-14-20-1-20-9-22-5

Spelling Step By Step

Understandably, primary school children are only starting to build their vocabulary.  With a
Spelling By Numbers codebreaker puzzle booklet, the activities include: reading, writing learning how to (actively) spell the words, as well as analyse letters and their sounds. Each Spelling by Numbers puzzling booklet focuses on a particular vowel and its various digraph sounds. Before they can work with the words, students need to know how to read and spell them.

Using a puzzle, students work through the following steps:

Step 1 – Decode the list of words according to their numerical values within the alphabet – 1=A, 2=B, 26=Z.  This shows them not only how the words are spelt, but how they are structured.  For example a word may have the same sound but different spelling.  For example two words with the sound /ar/ CAR (3-1-18) and GUARD (7-21-1-18-4).

Step 2 – Revising the words they have learned by locating them in a word find puzzle.

Step 3 – Sorting the words according to the number of letters, by writing them down

Step 4 – Solving the codebreaker puzzle.  

This is where the real fun begins – the (random) codebreaking part.  Instead of the alphabetical values, the letters and their corresponding values are scrambled.  A might be 25 and L might be 7.  In each puzzle the code is always random.  It is up to the puzzler to interpret the numerical patterns to crack the code. Puzzlers are a given a coded grid with all the words that have appeared in the word search puzzle, together with letters that make up the vowel digraphs.   As we all know every word in the English language contains a vowel.  For example, if the ‘focus vowel’ was O, the grid might show words containing /o/, /or/ /oi/, /oo/, /ow/, /ot/, /ou/, /on/  which gives them other letters and they have to fit the rest of the words in the grid, like a jigsaw puzzle only with words.

They will know when they have cracked the code when they have matched all the letters correctly with their number.  The other huge benefit is that by the time they have finished the puzzle, they will have learned/revised all the words in the puzzle grid (several times) and have added them to their vocabulary. The activity is wrapped up with a vocabulary quiz, to help them test what they have learned.

Step 5 – Wrap up (vocabulary) quiz about the sounds in the puzzle which gives students the opportunity to revise what they have learned.

Don’t forget, it always pays for them to keep a dictionary handy!

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