Teaching spelling – homophones

seven stepsWe are blessed with a language that contains many homophones. I did read somewhere that it was a sign of the sophistication of our language but I can’t find the quote so it may be something I made up to convince someone they were a good thing. They can certainly be the basis of word play.


The seriously chased are seldom chaste for long. The seriously chaste are seldom chased for long.

The 2014 National Curriculum does demand that we teach children how to spell a large number of homophones, some of which are near homophones but are seriously challenging. How many adults know when to use affect or effect?

I recently worked with  a couple of NQTs teaching in Yr6 who wanted to know how to teach the difference between affect and effect.  We generated a long list of ideas and then tried to categorise and generalise the ideas behind the activities and came up with a seven step plan. Of course, we then realised that it could be used to teach the spellings of any homophones.

You can find our seven step plan here.  You do not always need all seven steps and nor do you always need to do them in the order that we have listed here.

Do you have any good resources you could share to teach children how to make choices about the homophones they use?

Christmas Writing

I have to say that it is a bumper year for great christmas adverts .  I am in love with Mog and his christmas calamity and think it beats the John Lewis advert hands down. I do think that the John Lewis advert and Baboon on the Moon are very similar.
Here is my list of favourite christmas adverts that would be great to use to support writing and as a little present, there are three teaching sequences now available to go with them – one for Yr1/2, one for Yr3/4 and one for Yr5/6.

mogThis is such a fun story where a chain of events lead to Mog escaping quickly from the kitchen, which is in ruins.  I love the expressions on Mog’s face as he moves through the catastrophe.  We have a sequence for Yrs 3 and 4 based on this advert.


mononthemoonThis is a great advert, which if Mog wasn’t around would be my favourite this year.  It tells the story of a man (grandpa) far away and his loneliness.  The little girl goes to endless trouble to get in contact with him and because this is Christmas, she manages it. We have a sequence for Yrs1 and 2 based on this advert and Baboon on themoon . Although the sequence moves onto invented writing, you could stop at the end of the innovate stage. Download the sequence at www.babcock-education.co.uk/ldp/literacy .

spanishlotto My third favourite christmas ad is the spanish lottery advert which tells about a man who goes to work every day in a rather boring job and the things he does to pass the time. The staff then win the lottery and he thinks he is not included. But it’s christmas so I am sure you can guess the ending.  We have  a sequence for Yrs5 and 6 based on this advert at www.babcock-education.co.uk/ldp/literacy


kwikfitMy final ad is one from KwikFit  just for the joy of Christmas and the magic of Santa Claus for children. I love the reindeer nose peeking out at the end. www.babcock-education.co.uk/ldp/literacy is where it can be found.



Do you have a favourite Christmas ad to support writing that we should know about?




KS1 Assessment and reporting arrangements

The assessment and reporting arrangements (ARA) are now out for KS1 here. They are in a very different format and if you are not familiar with the ARA then it will be difficult to know what to search for. Below I have summarised what is in each section so that at the very least you can search for a section and read everything about , missing nothing!

Section 1 Introduction – how to use the format that the manual is in.

Section 2 – Key changes. This is a very brief overview of the changes to the tests in 2016.

Section 3 Key dates.

Section 4 National curriculum tests. In this section you will find more detail about the tests, sample materials, test frameworks, test orders, modified materials and delivery of test materials.

section 5 Participation in tests. This section is interesting because on the video released by the STA it states that all pupils should have access to paper 2 in reading but here it states that pupils who are working below the standards of the test do not need to take it.  It suggests that a sample paper is used to inform decisions about working below the test standard. Headteachers will need to write a report about any pupil not taking the test, explaining why, refering to actions to support the pupils, identify procedures used to analyse and monitor the pupil’s needs, indicate where the information is recorded and identify whether this is a long or short term circumstance.

Section 6 Test administration. Schools can undertake the tests anytime in May. Details are included about pupils who move school during May.

Section 7 Phonics screening check.

Section 8 Teacher assessment. Moderation information is still not available yet so there will be updates to this document once this has been finalised. This section also details pupils working below the standard of the national curriuclum, what happens when pupils change schools and reporting results at the end of KS1.

Section 9 Reporting to parents. This details what reports must contain and detail about RE.

Section 10 Keeping and maintaining records.

Section 11 Legal requirements and responsibilities. Of particular interest will be the reponsibilities of Heads, teachers and governors.

There will be a PDF version available in October.

Happy reading.

Testing – very testing!

We live in a new world as far as assessment goes and for many this is a very unsettling time. Over the last few months we have been asked frequently about which tests we would recommend. This is an almost impossible question to answer because it depends on so many things. Instead, here is a list of questions that should be asked in order to get the right test for each situation.

  1. What do you want the test to tell you? Do you want to know about a child’s decoding, comprehension, reading age, progress in relation to the curriculum, spelling age, single word spelling, spelling in context etc.
  2. Can you find this information out any other way? Is testing the best/only way of finding out this information?
  3. Are there easy-to-use analysis tools that come with the test?
  4.  Are you concerned about the reliability of the test?
  5. How often do you want to test?
  6. How much are you prepared to spend on testing each year?

The answers to these should help guide you through the wide and varied range of tests available.

Are you using any tests? Are they doing what you want them to do?

Effective teaching of spelling

A lot of schools are now focusing on their teaching of spelling.  To be honest, it has not generally been taught well in KS2 for a while but the new grammar, punctuation and spelling test has ensured that we pay more attention to it.  At present two of the projects that I am involved in are focusing on the teaching of spelling and children with disadvantage. Currently we are grappling with what constitutes effective teaching of spelling and have come up with some ideas.  We ae drawing heavily on what we know works in phonics to help us with this list:

  • systematic and consistent teaching of spelling.  We know that fidelity to a pathway has an impact on the effectiveness of phonics teaching and learning and I see no reason why this is not so in spelling.  It helps us to follow the expectations of progress and to ensure that we cover everything that we need to do so.  There are many spelling programmes out there, most of which have to be paid for but ours are free!
  • we know that in phonics children need to blend and segment 20-30 times in a phonics session. This helps to establish the neural pathways for this way of working. It stands to reason then, that the more the children use the convention/rule with words and write the words, the more effective it will be.  Writing the word once will not support learning.
  • this means that one off lessons will not work for those who do not have deep neural pathways for looking at words.  Working on the idea of revise, teach, practise and apply will help to secure this work, Although in phonics, this structure would happen in one session, we use these over a series of sessions; the first being teach, second practise and third apply.
  • in order that children apply what we are teaching in spelling sessions we need a strategy to support this transference.  We use have-a-go sheets. (the next post will focus on these)
  • in the teach, practise and apply sequence, the practise session needs to have a greater degree of independence than the teach session.
  • spelling work must involve writing the words in a stream of words (sentences). In phonics we always finish off the session with reading or writing sentences. It is our experience that children can often read or write individual words but sometimes struggle when doing so in sentences.  Surely the ultimate is that children spell words corrctly when writing in sentences. if this is so, we must practise it!
  • all children need access to age-related teaching with additional work for catch up if they are behind. Our mantra is ‘as well as not instead of’.  This is a fundamental principle and is often one that needs some changes in how things are organised in order that it happens.
  • children need to learn strategies to learn spellings.  This is a routine and can be developed and refined over the years in KS2.

What do you think is important in the teaching and learning of spelling?

Yr2 spelling in the new curriculum

Some of you might have guessed that Becca and I are still working.  We will stop on Friday but here is tonight’s offering.  Spelling in Yr2.

With the new curriculum we have come to realise that phase 6 (in Letters and Sounds) is probably no longer relevant. Our current advice is that Yr1 pupils need to secure phase 5 and then Yr2 need to start a spelling programme.  And so with that in mind we have written a session by session plan.  It starts off with daily spelling and moves in the summer term to spelling 5 times over a fortnight to come in to line with Yr3 and KS2. However, if your cohort is not great at spelling you might need to continue daily spelling all year and Yr3 might need to start with daily spelling in the first term and then reduce the amount.

We have updated the spelling pathway to include Yr2

You will find the overview and what to teach each session available here.

Small school spelling programme

We have had our spelling programme on the website for a couple of terms now for individual and mixed age classes.  However, like all large rural counties, we have a significant number of whole KS2 classes in schools.  So just for you, we have written a two year rolling programme for whole KS2 classes. To start off with there is a pathway through the programme. This is then followed by a session by session overview.

Year 1 is made up of Yr3 and 5 spelling programme and year 2 consists of Yr4 and 6.  Over the four years you will teach year 1, year 2, year 1 and year 2.  We have planned it like this because schools will get new children in at some point during the four years so if you do a four year programme there could be gaps for those children.

What you will need to do is make notes about which parts the children do really well and which will need more emphasis when you repeat the year again.  For all years you will need to differentiate the sessions by the words that you use with groups of children.  For instance, we have given you a range of homophones to choose from.  Some children will only have a few of the more common ones and others will  be working with those that have more challenging spellings.

Find the pathway and session overviews here.

Assessing without levels

As we move towards a life without levels, all sorts of providers are moving to offer you the solution to this challenge. However, there are a few things which we need to bear in mind when deciding how we will assess in the future.  These can be summarised as:

  1. Whatever we adopt now will need to change in the future when the performance descriptors become available for KS1 in the autumn term and KS2 later on.
  2. Overtime we will develop an understanding of expectations for year groups that are not end of KS in order to make judgements about whether children are on track or not to achieve end of KS expectations.  Again systems will need to be flexible enough to allow this to happen.
  3. We don’t know what language will be used to report at the end of key stages and some systems may want to report this at the end of each year.  This will develop over time.
  4. Tracking is not the same as assessing.  It will be easier to sort your assessment and then find a tracking system rather than choosing a tracking system which determines your assessment.
  5. We  need a range of ways of assessing.  The report into reading in Stoke on Trent, Ready to Read?, talks about triangulating data/evidence and many schools will want to use a range of data to come to a judgement.  I think there is a real danger in using only one system at the beginning stages of new systems. They are all so untried and no one wants to find that their assessment does not align with the new expectations.

So we too must throw our hats into the ring and say that we have developed a system for assessing reading and writing.  It is a very draft set of documents because we do not have all the information that we need to complete the work.  We have taken statements from the NAHT key performance indicators, test frameworks for KS1 and 2 and a few things from APP that are still relevant.

The documents operate in an APP style in that they are for periodic assessment and are designed to be used with a range of evidence.  We would really welcome feedback from those who have used them in their classrooms.  We will write more about them nearer the start of the new term.

Resources for writing persuasive texts

We are frequently asked for good texts to use as models for persuasive writing.  We don’t have any books on our list of texts that teach which are persuasive because that is not the form that these texts come in.  However, this morning I received two different types of persuasive texts through the post.  The first is from the British Legion asking for money using  the 70th annniversary of D-Day as a focus.


There is a letter with the ‘call to action’ explaining how you can donate money and why.  There is a leaflet which contains four stories of unsurpassed bravery.  Making an emotional link with people is a very powerful persuasive device and this leaflet does it really well. Finally there is a small union jack leaflet which has space on the back for you write a message of thanks to the D-Day heroes.  This is returned in the envelope provided with your donation.  This pack would make a great model for Yr6 pupils to create their own around something that they feel strongly about.

The second is a brochure for cars from BMW and how easily they can be purchased for just a small amount each month. It would suit Yrs 3 and 4 where they could create a persuasive leaflet about pets, toys or  new PE equipment they would like in school.



There are also some good resources online.  Here are some of the ones that I have used recently:

What are your favourite resources for persuasion?