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Seeing Stars®


Symbol Imagery for Phonemic Awareness, Sight Words and Spelling
Nanci Bell

Princeton Speech-Language and Learning Center uses Nanci Bell’s Seeing Stars® program. This program is based on Bell’s research-supported theory that those who are good spellers have good symbol imagery. Bell’s research has shown a high correlation between symbol imagery, phonemic awareness and spelling ability.

Phonemic awareness is the ability to perceive the identity, number and order of sounds within words (e.g. “I know that the word “boat” has 3 sounds, 4 letters, 1 syllable, and that the sound are in this order: b-oa-t”). Symbol imagery is the ability to visualize letters in words. Phonemic awareness is the foundation skill necessary for reading and spelling, while symbol imagery is the glue that makes this foundation stick in memory. For example, an individual may be able to sound out the word “boat” when they see it in print (demonstrating intact phonemic awareness), but be unable to spell the word from memory (demonstrating weak symbol imagery). When strong spellers attempt to spell from memory, they have an “image” in their minds of what the word looks like. Individuals who have trouble spelling from memory do not have this image in their minds, and consequently, tend to spell in the more laborious manner of sounding the word out. Given the fact that the English language provides many different spelling patterns and rule exceptions, sounding out a word to spell it, rather than having an image of the word, will not always result in successful spelling. In addition, in order to identify and correct errors in reading and spelling, an individual must be able to hold an “image” of the two words (the correct and incorrect word) in their mind to compare. This ability involves holding an image in memory. Without this ability to hold the image in memory, it is difficult for an individual to self-correct errors in reading and spelling.

The Seeing Stars® program uses a multisensory approach to teach symbol imagery, beginning with imaging letters and progressing through to imaging multisyllable words, while incorporating these techniques into reading and spelling activities.

The sensory system works as a unit, a whole, especially for the development of what we have labeled phonemic awareness. If there is weakness in perceiving sounds within words, developing phonemic awareness through the LiPS® program is the first step, and developing symbol imagery through the Seeing Stars® program is the last step. The Seeing Stars® program can also be easily incorporated into the LiPS® program to increase efficiency of progress and ensure that the concepts learned are retained.

Developing symbol imagery through the Seeing Stars® program assists individuals with improving the following:

  • Automaticity in phonological processing, to hasten word attack skills and the ability to self-correct
  • The ability to remember sequences of letters, to develop sight word recognition
  • Fluency in contextual reading (through increasing speed of phonetic processing and developing sight words)
  • The ability to remember words for spelling


Princeton Speech-Language and Learning Center is NOT Lindamood-Bell® learning Processes nor is it affiliated with, certified, endorsed, licensed, monitored, or sponsored by Lindamood-Bell®, Nanci Bell, Phyllis Lindamood or Pat Lindamood. Lindamood-Bell® - an international organization creating and implementing unique instructional methods and programs for quality intervention to advance language and literacy skills - in no way endorses or monitors the services provided by Princeton Speech-Language and Learning Center.


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