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Becoming spelling conscious

29 May 2014

Becoming spelling conscious

Schofield & Sims author Carol Matchett looks at some of the different ways to help raise spelling awareness in your school.

Everyone is aware that spelling matters – and that being a confident speller aids composition. But to become truly spelling conscious teachers and pupils need both to understand the importance of learning to spell and to ensure that all that has been learned is applied in writing.

The spelling conscious classroom
In the spelling conscious classroom, teachers consciously plan and teach spelling, checking that learning transfers into writing. Spelling conscious teachers and their pupils have positive attitudes to spelling. The pupils are word curious and interested in the idiosyncrasies of English spelling. Remembering spellings, patterns and guidelines is a challenge and pupils are keen to ‘get it right’ when writing.

The points below describe some key features of spelling awareness. They will help you and your pupils to become more spelling conscious.

The 12 habits of spelling conscious teachers

1. Devise a whole-school plan – for developing word curiosity. Decide which patterns, rules and conventions to introduce, and when and how to introduce them (for example, in weekly sessions).

2. Link spelling to developing vocabulary – for example, focus on ous spellings while exploring adjectives. Start with familiar words (for example, fa-bu-lous), then explore synonyms (tremendous, marvellous), antonyms (monstrous, horrendous) and other intriguing ous adjectives.

3. Show pupils that learning to spell is cumulative – spelling does not consist solely of learning lists of words. Link new learning to what is known. Develop strategies and build knowledge (for example, adding vowel suffixes builds on adding ed).

4. Revisit–reinforce–remind (the 3Rs) – or repeat–revise–remember for your pupils. Consciously reinforce guidelines and spellings until they are embedded in the long-term memory and become automatic.

5. Provide individual spelling books – for carrying out practice activities, noting rules and examples and recording ‘tricky words’ to learn. Keep everything together and encourage pupils to refer to it when writing and proof reading.

6. Incorporate a range of spelling strategies – in practice activities. Strategies will include looking closely at words (visual), saying and listening to words (auditory), repeatedly writing words (kinaesthetic), applying rules (using the mind/thinking) and using focus words.

7. Encourage self-marking – which teaches pupils to look carefully at words, aids self-correction and helps pupils to take responsibility for monitoring their own spelling.

8. Set spelling targets – showing that spelling is about applying spelling in writing, not gaining marks in a test. Involve pupils in tracking their own progress, for example, proving they have mastered a rule by highlighting correctly spelt words their own work.

9. Apply spelling in writing across the curriculum – identifying opportunities to, for example, add ed when writing stories, add ly for stage directions in scripts (for example, angrily, gently), add s or es in lists and find and use homophones in other subjects (for example, isle, alter and profit are homonyms of the RE words aisle, altar and prophet).

10. Embed spelling in grammar work – for example, use nouns with recently learnt spelling patterns when expanding noun phrases: chef becomes the crazy French chef with the curly moustache.

12. Use dictation for regular weekly assessment – rather than conventional spelling tests. Dictation shows pupils that spelling when writing is important. Include recently learnt words and words learnt previously.

13. Be aware of spelling in all your marking – and tackle any problems you find. For example, you may notice errors caused by poor enunciation, unstressed vowels or endings. Teach strategies to help deal with these problems (for example, Say it to spell it).

Share these ideas with your colleagues, and let us know about other ideas that have worked successfully in your classroom in the Comments section below.

Carol Matchett is an experienced teacher and author of the Schofield & Sims Spelling, Sound Phonics, Understanding English and English Skills series.

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