Compare SPELL-Links with Seeing Stars ®

How does SPELL-Links to Reading & Writing compare with Seeing Stars®? We’re glad you asked! 

SPELL-Links to Reading & Writing has many features in common with Seeing Stars—symbol imagery, multi-linguistic, multi-modal—and its companion program Lindamood Phoneme Sequencing LiPS®—explicit focus on articulatory feedback, intensive work on development of phoneme awareness and phoneme discrimination. 

​​SPELL-Links to Reading & Writing also has a distinctive program methodology that provides numerous advantages for learners. These advantages are highlighted in the table below.​

“I used Seeing Stars for many years because I knew how important the visual imagery piece is for our students, but found I had to supplement with other programs and activities to meet all of my students’ needs…then I found SPELL-Links…everything I need to address the entire process is here in one place! It's a powerful spelling, reading, word study program!"

Seeing Stars®

Program Focus

Symbol Imagery
Used to develop phonemic awareness, sight word memory, and spelling, students receive instruction to develop symbol imagery (visualization of the letters of words) and practice with activities that apply symbol imagery to reading and spelling.

Multi-Linguistic, Meta-Linguistic Word Study

Speech to print word study instruction is used to teach and develop phonological awareness, phonics, decoding, spelling, vocabulary, mental images of words, and automatic word recognition. Students engage in a variety of structured literacy and meta-cognitive activities to develop multi-linguistic skills, robust orthographic images of words, and meta-cognitive strategies. They also practice and apply word study knowledge, skills and strategies to spelling, reading, and writing.

Instruction Model

Multi-Linguistic Model
Articulatory and auditory phonological awareness, and visual memory for letters are integrated across program levels.

5-Block Multi-Linguistic Model

Articulatory and auditory phonological awareness, orthographic knowledge and processing, vocabulary/semantics knowledge, morphological awareness and knowledge, and word imaging are integrated throughout the program and across all grades.

Instruction Direction and Organization

Print to Speech
Beginning with letters, the teacher instructs students to say the corresponding sound for each letter or letter group (digraph).

Instruction is organized by number of sounds, moving from individual sounds and their corresponding letters or digraphs, to one syllable words (with progression from simple to more complex sound structures), to multi-syllable words

Speech to Print

Beginning with sounds, the student receives repeated exposure to and discovers common and alternative allowable spellings for each phoneme.

Instruction is organized by sounds, letters, and meanings of words, gradually progressing from patterns that are linguistically most simple to those that are most complex based on a combination of phonological, orthographic, and morphological properties.

Instruction Entry Points

​Entry points are typically limited with the same instructional program and sequence for all; differentiation occurs in the pacing of presentation.


​Using the SPELL-Links diagnostic prescriptive assessment (SPELL-3), specific lessons and entry points within each lesson are uniquely prescribed for each student, providing differentiated instruction and pacing through targeted intervention plans.

Phonemic Awareness

Sound manipulation activities are typically completed mentally during visualization of the written word; recommendation is given to combine Seeing Stars® with LiPS®, especially for students with severe weakness in phonemic awareness.


Spoken syllable and phoneme segmentation activities immediately connected with written letters are used to foster visual-auditory connections.

Explicit Focus on Articulatory Feedback

Not Included
Focus on sensory input from the mouth is provided in the companion LiPS® program (sold separately)


Focus on sensory input from the mouth is integrated throughout the program and across all grades as needed.

Phoneme Discrimination & Identification

Not a Core Component
Suggestions are provided for adding or incorporating the companion LiPS® program (sold separately).

Core Component

Explicit phoneme discrimination and identification instruction, critical for struggling readers and writers and ELL students, is provided.

Prosodic Awareness

Not Included


Explicit phoneme discrimination and prosodic awareness instruction, critical for struggling readers and writers and ELL students, is integrated with visual support.


Not a Core Component
Program does not explicitly nor systematically teach letter-sound correspondences; suggestions are provided for incorporating Seeing Stars® into an existing phonics program.

Core Component

Program explicitly and systematically develops sound-letter and letter-sound correspondences. SPELL-Links to Reading & Writing can replace an existing phonics program.​

Letter Patterns & Spelling Rules

Letter-Based Rules are Taught
The instructor teaches letter-based rules using a set of print-based rules including “final e,” “two vowels go walking,” and “open vowels.” While some phonics rules are taught, the focus is on activating and integrating auditory, visual, and language systems.

Sound-Based and Letter-Based Rules are Actively Discovered by Student

Letter-based rules, those that have a limited number of exceptions, are introduced; focus is on activating and integrating the phonological, orthographic, semantic, morphological, and imaging processes.

Syllable Divisions

Man-Made Conventions for Printed Words
Print-based: Students are taught to divide syllables based on visual letter patterns (e.g., divide a word between double letters).

Biologically-Inherent Syllable Separations of Spoken Language

Speech-based: Students engage in direct mapping of spoken syllables to their corresponding letters; words are broken into syllables based on the natural syllable separations of spoken language.


Separate vocabulary lessons for “star words” are provided within “Catch a Star®” workbooks.

Fully Integrated Intsruction

Vocabulary-building activities, including homophones and Tier 2 vocabulary, are built into the program across all grades.


Not a Core Component
Students practice imagery for a limited set of common affixes

Core Component

Students are explicitly and systematically taught letter-meaning relationships of prefixes, suffixes, and word roots; they develop derivational vocabulary skills and apply morphological knowledge and strategies to reading and spelling.


Students develop and use phonemic awareness and word images to correctly spell words.

Fully Integrated Intsruction

Spelling (encoding) is a gateway through which students develop and use phonemic awareness, orthographic, vocabulary, morphological knowledge and word images to correctly spell and read words. Students are explicitly taught 14 encoding strategies that they apply to improve spelling skills.


The decoding program includes sentences and stories with target orthographic patterns for decoding practice.

Fully Integrated Instruction

Pattern loaded sentences and stories are included for each targeted pattern, and 14 decoding strategies are explicitly taught and practiced to improve decoding skills.​​

"Sight" Words

Taught Separately
A “star words” list includes the high frequency words in English, some of which follow common orthographic patterns and some of which contain irregular spelling patterns. These “sight” words are included as a separate step within the program.

Integrated Instruction

Words that contain irregular spelling patterns are layered within lessons to fully connect the spelling of a word with its sounds and meaning.

Nonsense Words

Integrated Instruction; Used for Imagery
Nonsense words are practiced with target syllable patterns to give students practice for developing imagery of sequences of letters.

Integrated Instruction; Used for Problem Solving and Demonstration of Learning

Nonsense words are used by students and combined with think alouds to develop meta-linguistic skills and to demonstrate internalized learning and problem-solving methods for encoding and decoding words.


Analyze, Visualize, Say & Write
Students analyze a syllable pattern and letters (presented either visually or auditorily), write the word (progressing from air writing to finger writing to writing with a pencil), visualize the word, and then mentally manipulate the word (for example, “What letters do you picture in the word “plup?” Now take out the /l/ sound. What word do you see now?”)

Say & Write, Analyze, Evaluate

Students learn to focus on the phonological structure of a word as they say the word aloud, and simultaneously write with a pencil the corresponding letters as they say the sounds, to think about orthographic principles, the meaning of the word, and letter-meaning relationships to spell a word, and to apply meta-linguistic strategies to check their spelling of the word.

Monitoring & Self-Correction

Core Component, Using PA and Images of Words
Students are provided explicit instruction in phonemic awareness and word imagery and practice self-monitoring and self-correction when reading and spelling words.

Core Component, Using Sounds, Letters, Meanings, and Images of Words

Students are provided explicit instruction in sounds, letters, meanings, mental orthographic images and practice self-monitoring and self-correction when reading and spelling words.

Oral Language Expression

Not a Core Component
Oral language expression activities not included.

Core component

Activities provide students with structured practice restating and formulating sentences using target pattern vocabulary words.

Motoric Writing Component

Air Writing, Finger Writing, Writing with a Pencil
Children progress from writing in the air, to tracing their finger on a paper, to writing words with a pencil in order to help them visualize letter combinations.

Writing with a Pencil

Students learn and extensively practice saying sounds and syllables as they simultaneously write corresponding letters to foster development of neural functional connectivity and to strengthen motor memory for authentic writing.

Meta-Cognitive and Executive Function Components

Two Core Strategies
Instruction typically emphasizes breaking printed words into syllables and then creating mental images of letter patterns.​

14 Strategies

Instruction emphasizes using multiple strategies—phonological, orthographic, semantic, morphological, and visualizing—to foster independent problem solving when spelling and reading unfamiliar words.


The manipulatves include syllable boards, colored felts, consonant and vowel cards, and prefix/suffix cards. Using syllable chains, students are asked to manipulate letters in their minds.

Used in Activities

SPELL-Links activities engage students in manipulation of a variety of common objects and letter tiles to represent sounds and syllables in spoken words and to assist with mapping sounds with letters. While not included, the common objects such as coins and beads are easily acquired; letter tiles are included with the program.

Small Group & Classroom Instruction

Activities can be adapted for group instruction; suggestions are provided for each activity.

Specific suggestions for group adaptation are provided for each activity.


Materials include letter, syllable, and affix cards; syllable board; decoding workbooks; words and sentences and decodable and leveled-texts for target orthographic pattern.

Materials include word cards; plastic letter tiles; reproducible templates for activities; Home-Link activities; strategy stickers and labels; and pattern-loaded sentences and stories for reading and writing activities with target patterns.


Seeing Stars ® Bundle: $774.90 + Lindamood Phoneme Sequencing Program LiPS®: $444.95; total cost = $1219.85

SPELL-Links to Reading & Writing™ (complete core program): $439.00

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