Spelling By Numbers

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”.

At Clue Detective, we believe we have discovered a more scientific approach to spelling by using phonics (sounds) and numbers. We call it Spelling By Numbers.

We are currently rolling out a ongoing series of spelling activities which will be part of the Clue Detective puzzle portal subscription. These will assist students learn the basics of word structure by studying and decoding numerical sequences which turn into sounds and ultimately words.

Unlike the more complex codeword puzzle, where the values are always random, with Spelling by Numbers the code is the alphabet so it doesn’t change; 1 is always A and Z is always 26. Students are given the opportunity to work through easy to follow activities that are designed to sharpen their reading, writing and spelling.  Over time it will also help them to solve crosswords and codeword puzzles, which is an excellent way of putting these skills to practical use.  

The alphabet is the code!


2=B 3=C 4=D 5=E 6=F 7=G 8=H


10=J 11=K 12=L 13=M 14=N 15=O 16=P 17=Q


19=S 20=T 21=U 22=V 23=W 24=X 25=Y 26=Z


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. 3-8-9-13-14-5-25
7. 1-13-1-26-5-13-5-14-20
8. 19-5-14-20-9-13-5-14-20-1-12
9. 5-14-10-15-25-13-5-14-20
10. 20-5-14-20-1-20-9-22-5

Clue Detective Spelling By Numbers activities will fall into several categories: 

  1. Interesting Word Builder 
  2. Common Word Builder 
  3. Words Beginning With the <Letter>
  4. Words on a Theme (chemical elements, place names, flowers, fruit, vegetables)
  5. Frequently Misspelt Word Builder 
  6. Vowel Sound Focus
  7. Consonant (Blend) Sound Focus

We also warmly welcome your suggestions.

Get your students passing coded messages using Spelling by Numbers

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.  Add an air of mystery and intrigue to you English class. Write the numerical sequence on the blackboard and get the students to solve it as a group. Alternatively, they can use the blackboard to have them write the code down and then decode it individually.  It will help their retention.  As homework, 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. It’s best to start off with words that have similar letter pattern; perhaps focusing on a particular vowel sound. They will begin to see the structure of the words with the help of the numbers.

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 Tutor’s Cat, and encode the words they think of. This helps reinforce spelling.   

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