Spelling at home
Supporting Your Child with Spelling
This information is intended to help parents to understand the main skills involved in spelling and provide guidance on how to help children at home. At the end of this section are some useful resources.
What makes spelling in English so challenging?
'Learning to spell involves the integration of several skills. These include knowledge of phonological representations, grammatical and semantic knowledge as well as the formulation of connections with words in visual memory and the knowledge of rues and conventions’ (Lennox and Siegel)
This means that being able to spell involves several different strategies:
- Patterns and Visual Memory
- Spelling rules and conventions – a sense of probability
There is a lot to know!
26 letters of the alphabet
44 sounds or ‘phonemes’
19 vowel sounds
25 consonant sounds
Sounds can be represented by more than one letter, e.g. sh o p
One sound can be represented in a variety of ways, e.g. sh op, ch ef, s ug ar, ti ss ue
One spelling can represent a variety of sounds e.g. m oo n, b oo k.
Reading and Spelling
Reading has a positive impact on the ability to spell: attentive and regular reading will enhance accurate and confident spelling. However, some children who are fluent and regular readers may have a poor visual memory and this makes spelling more of a challenge: they need practice, support and strategies to help them overcome this.
All of us make mistakes. This is how we learn. Encourage a growth mindset in your child by praising them for their effort and recognising their mistakes and trying to fix them. Remember, there is no such thing as a ‘good speller’ or a ‘bad speller’ our intelligence and ability is not fixed, but can be developed and grow over time. This takes effort and understanding of how we learn - as well as resilience!
Try to praise the process: the effort, strategies, perseverance.e.g.
“I’m impressed with how hard you have tried.”
“This is what you wrote….. Can you spot anything wrong with that?”
“This may take some time and effort. You can improve so keep trying.”
Remember the power of “yet” ––“We can’t spell this yet, but we will if we keep trying.”
Try using these questions to support your child’s learning:
What part of the word can you spell?
What part of the word do you find hardest?
Why? What is the common mistake you make?
Let’s just focus on these tricky letters. How could we learn them?
Create a quiet, relaxing environment for spelling practice.
- Provide encouragement and use your parental judgement. Does your child need more or less adult support? Can they spell the words and need to be extended? Do they need fewer or easier words?
- Children might need support with choosing the most appropriate strategies (the strategies that reflect how they learn best and the strategies that are most appropriate for that word).
Strategies to try:
Writing words – action memory
- Write the word very large and trace over.
- Write the words three times – small. medium, large
- Look at the words, cover them up and try to write them again. Look back and check
Hearing words -sound memory
- Say it as it sounds – mispronounce the tricky word e.g. bus – i ness. Now look at how it's actually spelled to identify the tricky part.
- Say the word in a rhythm
Seeing words -visual memory
- Colour bloc the letters exactly as they want. It doesn’t have to be by sounds or syllables. It should be as they see the word.
- Write the word and develop it as a picture
Discuss the words with them
- Help children identify what part of the word they can spell (we can almost always spell some letters) and celebrate success!
- Help children identify what part(s) they find tricky. Discuss why they find these particular letters harder - is it that they often write them in the wrong order, or that they miss out a letter, or add in extra letters.
- Come up with strategies together to help remember these specific, tricky letters, e.g. highlight them, draw a picture around them, write those letters bigger, shout those letters as they say the word aloud.