It doesn’t take many words to demonstrate how tricky the English language is when it comes to spelling – try: accommodate, commitment, bureaucracy, diarrhoea , psychologist for starters.
Then there are all the words with similar sounds spelled in different ways for example, the ‘eez’ sound (breeze, cheese, knees, fleas, tease, these, seize) and the words spelled the same way but sounding different, for example the ‘ough’ letter combination (bough, cough, dough, enough, though, through).
Spelling is not just a case of identifying sounds in a word and being able to relate them to letters, though this is a big help in many cases.
So what skills are needed to be a good speller?
- being able to break words into component parts and writing each one correctly
- remembering some spelling rules
- being able to see the word in your head and ‘read it off’
- learning some ‘word families’
- having good visual recall and being able to tell if it ‘looks right’
There are many ways to help children learn to spell (and we’ll look at some techniques in future posts) but here are our top ten tips:
- encourage them to ‘have a go’ (espcially if it is a regular word)
- support them to build up the word as appropriate; the middle bit is often the tricky part − fill in this part for them if necessary
- praise them for trying ‘that’s nearly right, well done’
- provide the word straight away if its irregular and can’t be sounded out eg ‘two’
- give a visual model of the word rather than just spelling it out verbally to help them remember the word next time
- encourage children to look at words carefully − notice its shape and any double consonants, or any small words inside the bigger word – word jigsaws are good to help with this
- say it aloud − using a mnemonic for tricky words can help
- identify word families; for example, fight, light, might, night, sight, tight
- make use of word banks, use a (spelling) dictionary / word book or other dictionary and look it up
- play word games for example, hangman, wordsearches, crosswords or games such as Pass the Word