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Primary Education News
News How to teach ... spelling
Learning how to spell is a useful lifelong skill. Use the Guardian Teacher Network's resources this week to help your students get to grips with it
Whether or not last week's introduction of compulsory spelling tests for all key stage 2 pupils in England will improve literacy standards, there are many reasons to crack spelling. The Guardian Teacher Network has resources to help students spell words such as "necessary" with ease and learn a lifelong skill, which they will need when their computer spellcheck malfunctions.
For key stage 2 and beyond, start with 100 most common words spelling journal. One of the most popular resources on the Guardian Teacher Network, the resource is helpfully separated into 10 weeks with 10 words per week. Each week includes word list, practice space, wordsearch and anagrams.
Thanks to English teacher and examiner Roger Smith, the teacher behind Spelling it Right, who is a big fan of the look-think-cover-write-check method of memorising spellings. This resource focuses on how to remember the spelling of new words and there's a worksheet showing a practical example of using the strategy to memorise a complicated word: disestablishmentarianism. Parents can encourage their children to become better spellers with the help of this spelling it right handout.
Retired English teacher Chris Hardwidge has shared contractions spelling for years 3 and 4 to practise spelling in contractions, including the somewhat tricky use of apostrophes. Also find these year 4 tests covering most of the key spelling objectives for year 4, with the words embedded in simple sentences.
Print out and laminate this useful spelling card shared by English teacher Joseph Donovan, listing the most commonly misspelt words – great for those learning English as well as spelling.
The Guardian Teacher Network also has a series of interactive lessons on spelling for all the key stages, written by English teachers to tackle the most common spelling issues.
Spelling long vowel phonemes is a revision lesson for primary focusing on the past tense "ed" verb ending. Spelling strategies introduces a number of strategies to key stage 2 pupils, both for learning spellings and for tackling the spelling of difficult words. Not all strategies are effective every time, but this lesson will help to reinforce these familiar approaches through interactive practice.
Helping students group words into commonly occurring letter strings is another great strategy for the teaching of spelling. This lesson focuses on the word endings -ight, - ious, -ial and -ough.
For a bit of context, looking at the common roots of words and their origins gives children an insight into the way that language has been built up over the centuries and also enables them to begin developing spelling strategies, and to infer the meaning of words new to them.
For students who haven't mastered the basics at primary school, this one-stop-shop interactive on spelling for key stage 3 is very helpful. By the end of this lesson, students should be able to recognise different prefixes and suffixes attached to root words, and use them correctly to form new words, plus recognise the importance of word families. The basic rules are spelt out (and of course the exceptions to each rule).
The only surefire way to improve your spelling is to recognise, understand, correct and record errors –this spelling diary looks at ways to do this with some nice online activities. Creative spelling will help students to devise their own ways of improving their spelling, applying spelling rules and recognising exceptions using dictionaries. Spelling strategies will help students address personal difficulties with words and experiment with different ways of learning and remembering difficult spellings, for example using mnemonics and applying knowledge of word origins.
This interactive on spelling complex words and exceptions will help students to understand how to spell complex polysyllabic words and unfamiliar words that do not conform to regular patterns.
It's never too late to learn to spell, and there's no reason why a weak speller at primary school shouldn't become a fully literate key stage 4 student. Universities complain about bad spelling from even their brightest students. Correct spelling will make a student's work easier to read and understand. This spelling interactive for key stage 4 goes over general spelling rules and gives practice in choosing the correct versions of commonly misspelt words.
It's fascinating for children to discover that the way we spell words is not exactly set in stone and is in fact the result of a series of compromises. Not that long ago, people spelled the same words in any number of ways and students can compare different spellings used in other English-speaking countries. The history of spelling explains more.
There have long been calls to simplify spelling, including an attempt by George Bernard Shaw, and you may be interested to read these teachers' notes on SaypYU (pronounced Sipe-You), the Spell As You Pronounce Universal collaborative project that aims to build a list of words from all languages spelled using a 24-letter alphabet. The letters C, Q and X have been removed and replaced by their phonetic equivalents: K and/or S. The theory goes that the simple spelling of words would make it easier to learn how to read and write, and learn foreign languages. The website http://saypu.com is a lot of fun to explore.
And finally, for serious spelling and grammar fans, do take our grammar, punctuation and spelling quiz, which has been entertaining teachers and other interested adults since we launched it in February this year.
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