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Brabyns Preparatory School
Spelling Blog

The man decided to desert his dessert in the desert.

To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.

The wind was too strong to wind the sail around the mast.

Upon seeing the tear in her painting she shed a tear.

It is often said that English is one of the hardest languages to learn. One of the most difficult things about English is that although there are rules, there are lots of exceptions to those rules. Do you know the rule ‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’? That is used when the sound is ‘ee’.  However exceptions are: protein, caffeine and seize. When there is no ‘c’, words are generally spelled ‘i’ before ‘e’.There has been recent talk, in the press, of schools not teaching the ‘i’ before ‘e’ rule anymore as it is confusing - so is spelling!

What about this rule?  Do you know this one?

I went to netball practice to practise my shooting skills.

The teacher devised a plan for sharing the electronic devices in the class.

Having gained their licences, the class were now licensed to write in pen.

‘c’ for a noun and ‘s’ for a verb. Even the adults in school are challenged by this!

We become more effective writers if we can spell easily. Spelling is only one aspect of writing but people can make judgements about our literacy and even intelligence based on our spelling.

The English language is not regular, it is patterned. Working out patterns makes you a better speller.

Good spellers take responsibility and check their own words and use dictionaries.

Learning to spell is a developmental process of learning to apply different strategies


What makes a good speller?

Children who struggle with spelling usually have no strategies up their sleeve when they get stuck on a word.  Ask any weak spellers the question, ‘What do you do when you can not spell a word?’ They will have, at best, one strategy. But it is most likely that they guess. To help them become better spellers they need to acquire a range of different approaches to (help - different synonym) them. (Pie Corbett)

Here are some skills the children need to help them spell:

Children with dyslexia and other challenges may find some of the aspects above difficult, we use multi-sensory approaches in school but are also looking forward to our staff training in February about creating dyslexia friendly classrooms which will benefit all children at Brabyns. 

Good spelling teaching must give you the power to spell words you have never seen before.

How do we teach spellings at Brabyns?

It all starts as soon as our youngest children join us at the age of two ...a language rich environment that promotes listening for sounds.  Moving on through our rigorous phonics program to identify and write phonemes, including those pesky ‘tricky words’ that can’t be sounded out and we just need to learn e.g. said.

As the children move further through school they start to learn weekly ‘spelling rules’, alongside 300 high frequency words (KS1) and statutory word lists.

At the start of each week, the children are given a spelling test and introduced to the new rule. Each day, they will be involved in a number of activities to identify words which use the same rule, use the words in context, look for patterns, chunk and spell words using the rule. We do not send home a list of spelling rule words to learn by rote as this means the child may spell those words but not others with the same rule and they won't be able to apply the rule when spelling in the course of their own writing. We ‘actively teach’ spellings.  At the end of the week, they are retested to see if they have improved. 

It's all about what did I know then and what do I know now? It is not about getting 10 out of 10, it's about progress...a little progress every day adds up to big results! Ultimately, we want the children to have automaticity in their spelling and especially in the spelling of the ‘most used’ words. These words can be learnt at home: see ‘How can I help my child at home’ section below.

As part of our ongoing staff development we were lucky to have some training with Rachel Ingham, who is co-director of Understanding and Supporting Learning (US-L) delivering training in Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD) nationally and internationally. She works closely with several organisations including the National Education Union, Patoss; Local Dyslexia Associations and the British Dyslexia Association, writing and delivering SEND training. Rachel has extensive experience of working in the education sector, as a teaching assistant, teacher, SENDCo and university lecturer. 

Rachel was able to really support our staff in building on the already great work happening day in and day out by really focusing on…..

How can I help my child at home?

Have a look at Useful Spelling wordssome great ideas along with this Multisensory strategies for spelling. We hope that you find some of these ideas useful!  

Useful glossary of spelling terminology

etymology: a word’s history, many words in English come from Greek, Latin and French

morphology: a word’s internal make-up in terms of root words, suffixes and prefixes

prefix: added at the beginning of a word to turn it into another word (disappear, impossible, illiterate)

suffix: added to the end of a word to turn it into another word (jumping, helpless, beautiful)

root word: a word which stands alone, it cannot be shortened (play, ground, house, light)

compound word: made from two or more root words (playground, lighthouse)

syllable: sounds like a beat in a word (cat has 1, jumper has 2) every syllable has a vowel: a e i o u or a part time vowel: y

antonym: opposite meaning

synonym: same meaning

digraph: a type of grapheme where two letters represent one phoneme

grapheme: a letter or combination of letters that correspond to a single phoneme in a word.

phoneme: the smallest unit of sound - there are around 44 phonemes in English: the exact number depends on regional accents (cat has 3 phonemes)

grapheme phoneme correspondences (GPCs) - the link between letters (graphemes) and the speech sounds (phonemes) that they represent

homonym:  two different words that look and sound exactly the same when pronounced (bark/bark)

homophone: two or more different words sounding exactly the same (here/hear)

What a year! Thank you everyone

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